One thing I’ve learned over the years is that fishing and family fishing are two different things. Now that school is out and fish are biting, there is no better time to introduce the youngsters in your life to the sport.
Several local venues are available. With declining flows, the lower Yakima River is worth a try for smallmouth bass. Convenient bank access is afforded near Duportail Road, downstream of Horn Rapids Dam and at Horn Rapids Park. Most bass this time of year are 8 to 10 inches long, but scrappy and abundant enough to keep your youngster occupied. Small spinners, such as Roostertail or Mepps, and curly-tail jigs cast into shallow riffles work well. A bobber-and-worm setup drifted through pools can also provide action.
Backwaters of the lower Snake and Columbia rivers near Burbank, such as Casey and Cargill ponds, are full of panfish like bluegill, yellow perch and black crappie. Bring out the red-and-white bobber and tip your jig with a piece of worm. If nearshore areas don’t yield a bite, then extend your leader length and toss out farther. There are no minimum size limits for most panfish, except those self-imposed by your patience and skill with a filet knife.
Farther afield, Scootenay Reservoir is loaded with walleye, bass, yellow perch and bullhead catfish. In other words, you never know what you might reel in. Most fish will be found on the bottom, where water temperature is cooler. Suspend a worm off a bobber or attach a small split shot and prop your rod on a forked stick. Scootenay has a nice boat launch with a dock near the RV campground and recreation area. It also has a picnic area and roped swimming area. Both features help maintain good family karma when fishing action slows.
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Remind your offspring that line snarls and snagged lures happen to everyone. In other words, fix their mess and let them fish.
With Blue Mountain streams, such as the Tucannon and Touchet rivers, dropping and clearing, it’s time to introduce your family to fly fishing. It’s not as difficult as you might think. Park your child at the head of a pool and let them swing their fly in the current. Or tie a fly on two feet of leader behind a casting bubble, toss it into the current and retrieve slowly. Standard patterns such as Renegade, Adams, Stimulator, and Royal Wulff are bound to attract a hungry trout.
If fly fishing is not your forte, then there is always PowerBait fished off the bottom of a scenic, tree-lined mountain lake. Blue, Rainbow, Spring, Watson and Curl lakes were each planted with several hundred catchable-sized rainbow trout in mid-June. Getting there is a two-hour drive that puts you in cooler conifer country.
Have you got a boat or know someone who does? If so, shad fishing is a great family activity. I introduced my grandchildren to the sport when they were 6 years old. They have a blast reeling in and netting their own fish. Shad migrate up the Columbia and Snake rivers in large numbers, peaking in local waters in early July. They can generally be found close to shore at depths from 6 to 20 feet. Anchor your boat on a current seam, put your jig or Dick Nite spoon within a few feet of the bottom, and wait for a strike. Shad are a schooling fish, so if you miss a strike, leave your lure in place because another is likely to be in the vicinity.
Throw the fundamentals out the window if your instructions complicate. Remind your offspring that line snarls and snagged lures happen to everyone. In other words, fix their mess and let them fish. Acknowledge their skill, whether it’s from enticing the strike of a 3-incher or landing a humongous “trash” fish. Make sure you release fish carefully unless you decide to eat them. Gather at the sink to clean their catch, describe the “guts” and guess what the fish ate.
What’s important about family fishing is to have a good time. This brings up the topic of a backup plan. Catching tadpoles and crayfish, swimming, building mud pies and stacking rocks are all viable diversions. The importance of plenty of snacks and drinks cannot be overstated. Nothing hits the spot like a handful of M&Ms washed down with a Capri Sun fruit drink.
Keep these guidelines in mind, and you will be guaranteed to have a good time. You might even catch a fish or two. More important, fishing with your children lays the foundation for an angling future, one that involves a greater understanding of conservation and appreciation for the sport.
Dennis Dauble is a retired fisheries scientist, adjunct professor at Washington State University Tri-Cities, and author. He can be contacted at his website, DennisDauble.com.