May 9, 2012

Outer Banks Angling: Take a kid fishing


Taking children fishing is a great way to promote the sport and a nice way to spend some time with a kid. In fact, it can be a lot of fun.

The child may be yours, a friend’s, a relative’s, or maybe a kid from the local Big Brothers/Sisters program.

Promoting fishing to a child can help to ensure future generations will enjoy this sport by building interest and the future supporters needed to fight for sportsmen’s rights.

I recently had a chance to take my 11-year-old stepdaughter, Maddy, on her first offshore trip on a friend’s private boat.

We met up with Jon Worthington and his 14-year-old son, Jake, at a Hatteras marina on Saturday to board their 25-foot Parker center console.

Also on this trip was another friend, Mike Hayes.

I’ve fished beside Mike for many a year now and I’ve learned a great deal from him.

A Virginia native, who now resides on the Outer Banks, Mike has a plethora of knowledge and experience when it comes to pier, boat, and surf fishing on the Outer Banks after a lifetime of fishing the area. When fishing around guys like Mike, I feel as if I am the kid and I am eager to listen and learn some of his knowledge.

We headed out and began our trip.

Within five minutes of leaving the dock the current dangers of navigating Hatteras Inlet became apparent as we approached three boats stranded on a sandbar just beside the channel. Two of the boats were professional charters – so, yes, that’s a little scary.

We even managed to run our props aground briefly, directly in the middle of the marked channel, but were able to break free quickly. After wiping the sweat from our brow, we continued to head out into the great Atlantic.

The weather forecast had called for a mild day on the water, but at 7 a.m., there was very little mild about it.

There was sufficient wind and wave action to make it quite rough for a 25-foot boat -- or any size boat, for that matter.

I was fearful that these conditions might be a little much for an 11-year-old girl, but she was a trooper and never complained or showed any discomfort.

While we headed out, young Jake stepped up and began to rig the boat for a day of trolling. I was amazed at this boy’s knowledge, energy, and enthusiasm.

He buzzed around the boat, focused and on a mission. He prepared baits, rigged daisy chains, and got the boat ready to pull a spread like you expect from a professional mate.

Jon looked at me and said, “Jake didn’t learn any of this from me. He learned by reading books, watching videos, and by watching professional mates on hired offshore trips.”

I could easily see that Jake represented the future of this sport. I had fished with Jake from piers and in the surf, and he was an accomplished angler from both. Seeing him at work on the boat was an experience itself.

As we continued to head out, a few porpoise joined us.

Maddy had seen these sea creatures from the end of a pier and the shores of area beaches, but had never seen them up close and personal. She was captivated by the porpoises as they got just feet off the bow and began to race the boat.

She was smiling ea- to-ear and was talking a hundred miles an hour after watching this escapade.

After the porpoise turned and went off about their business, Maddy retrieved a drink and a sandwich from the cooler. Only moments into enjoying her snack, a wave broke across the bow and soaked her thoroughly.

She turned to face us with her hair soaked and saltwater dripping from her brow, sunglasses, and even her sandwich. She was smiling profusely. It seemed fitting that her T-shirt read “ Life is good.”

We eventually made it to the fishing grounds and Jake deployed the spread.

We trolled for sometime before we had our first mahi hooked up. Jake immediately hollered out for Maddy to jump in the chair.

Maddy only cranked for a few seconds, before the fish came off. These things happen, so we continued on.

It was some time before we had a another bite.

This time a pair of mahi rushed into the spread and they were both hooked up.

Once again Jake hollered for Maddy to grab a road, and Jon took the second rod.

Mike held the heavy rod upright for Maddy as she reeled. Maddy grunted, groaned, and made some funny faces, but never asked for help with the reeling.

She got the fish all the way to the boat, only to have her stepfather (me) slip on the deck as I was gaffing and knock the hook out of the fish’s mouth. A few seconds earlier, Jon’s fish was cut off by another line in the spread.

We lost both fish. These things happen, so we continued on.

As it got later in the day, the weather was finally reaching that mild point the forecast had originally called for, and the conditions improved dramatically.

Time wound on, and we finally found a weed line that was trying to form.

We made our first pass off the corner and immediately had a mahi race out and crash a bait.

For the third time the accomplished angler, Jake, who was eager to help a young girl catch her first offshore fish, hollered out for Maddy to take a seat.

Once again, Mike grabbed the rod and Maddy began to grunt, groan, and make funny faces as she reeled. But this time I managed to stick the fish with the gaff and bring it aboard.

Maddy was beaming with excitement and a sense of accomplishment. Her face was red, and her arms had blood racing through them after the fight.

The 41/2-foot tall, 65-pound (soaking wet) girl stepped out of the chair, rolled her sleeve up, curled her arm and said, “Check out these guns.”

I have to wonder at times if this kid and I are genetically linked somehow.

We were all very proud of her.

We continued to troll for a while longer and had only one more mahi come into the spread, but it went unhooked. We finally wrapped the gear up and headed home.

Maddy was dead asleep on a bean bag for the duration of the trip home.

Upon reaching the docks, I called her mom to notify her we were safe and had a successful trip.

I handed the phone to Maddy, and she began to speak as fast as an auctioneer describing the day’s adventure.

She repeated this again when we got home, at breakfast the next morning, and again at school on Monday.

And that, my friends, is what taking a kid fishing is all about.

(Rob Alderman is the owner of the Hatteras Island Fishing Militia website and is a kayak fishing guide. Rob has 10 years of fishing experience on the Outer Banks, and is host of the “Outer Banks Angler” television show. You can follow more of his extreme adventures or contact him at

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