“I like being out on the water,” said Justin. “It’s exciting when the fish are really biting and the thrill of reeling them in.” At the end of the summer his family usually has a big fish fry and cooks up all the fish they catch.
Many children and teens like Justin find fishing to be a great way to pass the time, especially during the warm summer months when the days seem endless. They can simply throw in a line and wait before bringing in a big catch, smiles and all.
Surrounded by water, the Tidewater area is a great place for families to get their feet wet with a little fishing. Gather up the kids, grab a few poles, and some sunscreen before heading to that perfect spot to enjoy the summer sun. You may even end up with your own story to tell about catching your first fish.
ONE WITH NATURE
On a small bank next to a canal at Indian Cove Resort in Virginia Beach, Vayda Brown, 4, joins her family by dropping in a line. Vayda has only been fishing a few times, but enjoys the excitement. There’s nothing boring about fishing, she says.
“It’s awesome! I like to go fishing because I get to catch a fish,” she said, grinning.
Fishing at the campground has been a tradition for the family since Vayda’s mother, Laura Brown, was young. Now she loves watching her daughter and nephew as they create their own memories.
“I get excited watching them catch fish,” said Laura. “It’s a big achievement for them.”
Vayda’s father and uncle have been showing her all the basics from finding the worms to waiting for the fish to bite so they can reel it in. Though she is still waiting for her first big catch, Vayda is confident that she will get one very soon. She says catching a big fish will make her very happy. Until then she is content to simply keep her eye on the line, waiting for the right fish to take a bite.
“I try to see if the fish is on the hook,” Vayda explained. “When it moves, it’s eating the worm.”
Waiting can be challenging for both children and adults. In a world focused on instant gratification and virtual experiences, activities like fishing provide important lessons in slowing down and being present in the moment.
“Fishing teaches them patience,” said Laura. “And it’s good for them to be outside, one with nature.”
Whether in the Outer Banks or local fishing spots across Tidewater, Eric Winther and son Justin love spending time together as they wait for the fish to bite.
“Taking Justin fishing gives us a wonderful opportunity to spend one-on-one time together, laughing and enjoying all that goes with it,” said Eric. “We make memories that will last a lifetime, like seeing the smile on his face when he reeled in his first shark.”
Memories like these are milestones in our children’s lives. They often recall these experiences even into adulthood. For Justin, catching his first shark is one of his proudest memories, but even the loss of an almost-catch remains fresh in mind.
“One time I caught a shark,” recalled Justin. “But another time my grandfather was pulling in a croaker and right before he pulled it up, a shark came up and ate it.”
Moments like these create a bond between everyone involved. For the Winthers, it’s not about the biggest catch at the end of the day, but the time shared together.
“Creating traditions in the outdoors has always brought families closer together,” explained Eric. “I fished with my dad before I was old enough to hold a fishing pole by myself. And even though I love catching fish, the time spent with my dad in the boat, on the shore with a big surfing rod, or on the banks of a lake holding a cane pole, it was a connection that could never be broken.”
Fishing also allows for some much needed time outdoors. The fresh air, shining sun, and wisps of wind create an environment that is stable and nurturing.
“Fishing is a fun outdoor activity that you don’t have to have a skill to do,” said Justin. “Anyone can go out and go fishing. You don’t have to have a boat as we’ve also fished on piers and at ponds. We’ve even caught big snapping turtles at the pond.”
While catching fish may be the primary goal of fishing, the Winthers strongly believe in conservation—that you should only keep what you want to eat, letting the rest go. Nothing should go to waste, and respect should always be shown to fellow fishermen and boaters.
“[Fishing] teaches them life experiences in a great way,” said Eric. “Sometimes you come home with a lot of fish and sometimes you just come home with a sunburn.”
For Ed Stumphauzer of Chesapeake, fishing is a hobby that he can share with his grandchildren and enjoy with members of his local fishing club, Great Bridge Fisherman’s Association (GBFA).
“Initially for me, when I moved to this area to retire, the fishing was what drew me,” said Ed. “I joined the club to gain local knowledge, but what I didn’t anticipate were the friendships that I would build on and invitations to fish.”
Ed has been fishing in the Tidewater area for several years and enjoys sharing the experience with his grandson, Gavin, and two granddaughters when they come to visit. One time in particular, he brought his grandson to the club meeting where they were able to make flounder rigs with members during the break. Gavin is very proud of his lure to this day, says Ed, and happy to show it off.
“When we go to visit, one of the first things my grandson brings down from his room is his bait and tackle container. And the girls have a picture of themselves with the smallest fish you could imagine catching that they cherish in an album,” said Ed. “It takes me back to my earliest days of fishing memories.”
Even from a young age, children can get excited about fishing by helping a parent or grandparent reel in a big fish or showing off the latest catch to the camera. The sport always has something for them to do and enjoy.
“Fishing is a good learning resource for children to learn a skill, responsibility, technique, and how to do something like taking care of a fishing rod or what to do with it,” said Lori Bowen, GBFA Tournament Director. “But clubs are also beneficial as it’s helpful to have other families around to help teach them or mentor.”
Additionally, organizations like GBFA are a great way to get involved within the community by participating in events such as Clean the Bay Day and Wish-A-Fish, where volunteers give special needs children the opportunity to fish. But they can also offer a competitive environment for children to grow through the Virginia Junior Angler Program.
Hosted by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, this program offers certificates for children who are 15 years and under who catch at least six different species of saltwater fish. This challenge becomes a fun activity for the family as a sort of fishing scavenger hunt, which in turn can be beneficial for all involved.
“You can fish as a family,” said Lori. “For me, it’s great therapy. You’re in the outdoors doing something with the children—teaching them responsibility on how to handle a living animal, take care of it, or put it back in the water.”
Fishing clubs and associations are easy to join and are located throughout the Tidewater area. Many hold monthly meetings and events that are open to the public to give non-members the opportunity to see if a club could be the right fit for them. Members are usually more than happy to share their love of fishing with anyone who is willing to listen or needs an extra helping hand.
When introducing a child to fishing, don’t try to be too ambitious, says Ed. “The first experience a child has will have dramatic effect on how they think about game fishing the rest of their life,” he explained. “Let them catch a little blue gill at Northwest River or Oak Grove Lake first.”
Depending on where you choose to fish, you may need a fishing license. Resident children under age 16 normally do not require one. Check with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (www.dgif.virginia.gov) and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (www.mrc.virginia.gov) to determine requirements.
Here are a few local fishing spots, where first-timers can learn to fish.
• Northwest River Park - Chesapeake, 421-7151
• Sandy Bottom Nature Park - Hampton, 825-4657
• Virginia Beach Fishing Pier - Virginia Beach, 422-0467
• Ocean View Fishing Pier - Norfolk, 583-6000
• Newport News Park - Newport News, 888-3333
• Davis Lakes and Campground - Suffolk, 539-1191
• Lake Cohoon - Suffolk, 923-3219
Local fishing clubs and associations can be a great resource for beginners and advanced fishermen. Contact these organizations and visit their websites for more information on meetings and membership requirements.
• Bass-Jons - www.bassjons.com
• Great Bridge Fisherman’s Association - www.fishgbfa.com
• Fishing Tidewater - www.fishingtidewater.com
• Portsmouth Anglers - www.portsmouthanglersclub.net
• Stateline Bass Anglers - www.statelinebassanglers.org
• Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association - www.tkaa.org
• Virginia Beach Angler’s Club - www.virginiabeachanglersclub.org
• Virginia Coastal Fly Angler’s Club - www.vcfa.org