[twitter]That video above is from the summer of 2011, when Zacharie caught his first fish. I thought it would be so easy to take my kids fishing. I had no idea how hard it would be.
Over the past couple of years, as I have tried to re-learn how to go fishing with my boys, Zacharie and I have had a bet: whomever catches a fish, the other has to eat it.
Part of this bet was to get Zacharie to try and eat new foods, the other part of this bet was just silly competitive spirit to pass the time while we didn’t catch any fish. For 2 summers we didn’t catch any fish as I took the boys to ponds that had been fished out, or used bad bait, or well, just didn’t know what I was doing.
This year started off the same as any other with two failed attempts at catching anything. That changed last weekend, though, when I finally got a bite and landed our first rainbow trout in 3 years at Grotto Pond.
Our bobbers had disappeared before, but usually due to wind or impatient reeling. This time, however, my line was tight, my bobber gone, I had a fish on!
“Ohh, I got one, Zacharie!” I exclaimed as I started to reel him in. “Get the net!”
And as I brought the little guy in, Zacharie scooped him up in the net and we high fived at the success of our teamwork.
“You have to eat him now!” I egged on, confirming the bet of the past few years.
And that’s when Zacharie’s bubble burst. He was thrilled with the chase. He liked the sportsmanship of fishing. He was incredibly patient sitting in the stiff mountain breeze, but now he couldn’t handle what was about to happen.
The fish had swallowed the hook, he was bleeding through the gills, and as I tugged on the hook in the fish’s gullet, Zacharie wept at my side. (Check out these fishing knives)
I laid the fish and the net down in the shallow water near the bank and went to console my son. “I don’t want to kill him, Daddy. I want him to go back to nature.”
“But he’s hurt pretty badly, bunny,” I explained pointing to the fish lying belly up near the shore. “If we put him back in the water, he’ll just die.”
“Well we should just put him in the water so another animal can eat him and he can still be a part of nature.”
I went back to the fish to try and get the hook out and I was struggling terribly. After all, I do wear the title of World’s Worst Fisherman, and I was doing everything I could to earn it on this day. An older man came by to see what we were up to and offered to help me get the hook out.
Eventually it was freed, and I turned to fine Zacharie sulking in the long grass. He just wasn’t doing well.
I offered to try again to set him free, and this time the fish flipped right side round and slowly swam off into the weeds.
“See, Daddy! He’s happy now!” he beamed. “Now let’s go home, I don’t want to fish anymore.”
In the days since, I’ve been pinching off the barbs on our fishing hooks in the tackle box. Landing a trout will be even tougher for our sad sack team, but letting them go will be easier. Mother nature, and my empathetic animal loving fisherman like it better that way.