Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Fish Tale

Cheap Entertainment
Our most recent family trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa happened to coincide with the 7th Annual Kids Free Fishing Day in Traverse City. This past Saturday was what seemed to be the perfect day for fishing (at least to this amateur fisher who admittedly knows next to nothing about the sport). I heard that they had stocked 1000 rainbow trout, and the event was totally free including bait, a borrowed fishing pole, and food. I figured we had nothing to lose. We would for sure leave with at least one trout (the limit was 2 per child so we could have ended up with a total of 4 if luck had been on our side), and I wasn't completely looking forward to this since I had no idea what we were going to do with a dead fish -- certainly not eat it, anyway. So even though we didn't really know how to fish or what in the world we would do if we caught a fish, we headed out for a family adventure. Both kids were thrilled at the thought of fishing and I was happy to have some form of cheap family entertainment.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part
They were a bit less enchanted when they learned more about what fishing really entails. As we waited in line to get our gear, one family was just leaving, and I overheard the mom announce to nobody in particular, "We got skunked. We fished for an hour and caught nothing." I realized that this was an important point that I had overlooked in prepping the kids (and myself, it turns out) and took the opportunity to tell them that we might not catch anything.

Once we got our Dixie cup of worms and a pole, we found a spot that wasn't too crowded and I asked Brett if he wanted to put the worm on the hook or if he wanted me to do it. I can't remember why I even asked that. He told me I should do. That should have been my first clue that he was not fond of fishing. Despite the worm's squirming protestation, I got it on the hook. I double stabbed it, too, just to make sure it stayed on. We were ready to go. Brett cast the line and let Mia reel it in, then he repeated this process to give Logan a chance. Over on the other side (where it was pretty crowded), people were reeling in fish left and right and after a few minutes of waiting, I convinced him that we had to move the the other side where the fish were obviously biting.

{Logan reels in the line.}

{Mia was excited to go fishing for the first time.}
{This is the spot where the fish were not biting.}

The only difference there, it turns out, is that we got a closer view of everyone else catching fish. And occasionally, someone's line would get tangled with ours. Plus, there were the crazy folks who wildly cast their lines backward with total disregard to the tons of people, mainly children (hello, it's kids free fishing day) who may have gotten hit. I kept seeing mothers snapping photos of little kids holding up their fish while standing next to their proud fathers. I was getting a bit disheartened. When was I going to get a chance to take a similar picture? More casting, more reeling in, more waiting. Logan got antsy, so I took him off to get plates of hot dogs and chips for both kids.

{And here we are at the spot where I was sure we would catch a fish...}
{Logan decided that eating a hot dog was better than fishing.}

"The One that Got Away"
I brought him back as quickly as possible, because I didn't want to miss that moment when Mia got her first fish. And, of course, I would finally get to take that all-important photo. Then, the grandfather next to us helped his grandson reel in fish number two, and I noticed that his hands were totally covered in blood. Eewwww. Even knowing that they had a station with volunteers waiting to clean the fish couldn't make me get excited about the idea of actually catching a fish. Mia wasn't ready to give up, though. Brett told me they had a fish nibble on the worm while we were off getting food. Logan was content for a bit since he had food. Like that other family, we kept on trying for an hour when Logan was really, truly fed up with the waiting and we had to call it quits. There would be no bloody fish to deal with (whew, dodged a bullet there) and unfortunately, there would be no proud family photo. However, I mentally patted myself on the back for hooking that worm so well that it stayed on for a full hour, nibble and all. Trying not to think about "getting skunked," we headed off to find more fun...

{Such concentration. Too bad luck wasn't on her side.}

Catch of the Day
What we found called for more waiting. After about 1/2 hour we made it to the front of the Great Lakes Children's Museum booth. (Brett took the kids one at a time off to get their free tee-shirts from another booth while we waited in line.) Fortunately, we didn't have to leave completely empty handed. Mia made this pretty print using some sort of rubber fish and printmaking ink pressed onto cotton cloth. (Logan had decided that he was done just as we made it to the front of the line, so Brett had taken him to the van to wait.) With Mia's pink and purple fish print, we left the free fishing day, and one of the Rotary volunteers told her, "What a pretty fish" as we passed. I laughed about how it was the only one we had caught.

{This is a cool project, and I have to say I prefer fish art to real fish any day.}

{Detail of the fish print}
In the end, I was a bit surprised that we didn't catch a live fish. I thought it would actually be easier, which just shows you how little I know about fishing. I had to remind myself that the goal was to have fun as a family and I think we managed that. I get the sense that Brett would prefer not to do any more fishing. Logan may have been a bit too young, so there is always next year. Mia handled the disappointment about not catching any fish well, so I was pleased by her attitude. And I decided that we have to try again next year. I told my parents how well planned out this event was. It really was nice to get a chance to try out something that Mia has wanted to do for quite awhile without the hassle of investing any money. This definitely met my expectations as far as cheap family entertainment goes. Admittedly, I wanted that photo with Mia looking thrilled with her catch. I am sure that day will come, so I will just need to wait.

After our fishing foray, we made our way over to the Grand Traverse Library to check out the children's garden. It was also very nice (and free), which I loved. The kids' favorite part was the wooden train. I enjoyed all of the sculptures and the sun dial that told us where to stand in order to get our shadow to tell us the time.

{Logan as conductor}

{Mia in the "dining car"}

{And peeking out the window}

{I think the look on his face says it all: a great day of family adventures!}

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