Hunting Fishing

Fishing expert learns valuable lessons on the water from a 4-year-old

Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert and guides in the Central San Joaquin Valley.
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert and guides in the Central San Joaquin Valley. THE FRESNO BEE

Most of us older anglers seem to have our own unique patterns. You could call it getting “set in your ways,” and that’s where kids seem to have it all over us. They are sponges.

I had a grandfather call me about taking him, his son and his grandson on a fishing trip. Sounded OK, but how old was the grandson, I asked? “He’s almost 5, but this kid is some kind of fisherman!” the proud grandpa replied. I was skeptical – could this youngster reel in a striper, let alone stay focused during a long day? – but I decided to trust his grandfather’s judgment.

The group arrived early and I immediately saw that this kid was precocious. Bright-eyed, he surveyed my boat and began asking all kinds of intelligent questions. What kind of sonar is that? How big are the poles? What size fish will we be catching? Whoa!

He knew what downriggers were, and after we had trolled about 200 yards he looked at me and proclaimed, “Is that a fish on that pole?” Yikes! Really! He had noticed the slight movement of the pole signaling that a fish had hit, but it had been a very subtle hit that most grownups would have missed.

I’m just starting to think that there might be a fish on when a little voice behind me quietly notes, “Hey, you’ve got a fish on that pole, don’t you!” How in the heck did he know?

So I’m holding the pole up, and the striper is pulling, when a little set of hands reaches over and tries to take the pole out of my grasp. Grandpa and Dad are standing back, smiling ,just watching the show. I hang on. This is an 8½-foot rod that’s not really built for a youngster, but that doesn’t seem to faze the boy.

“Do you think you can reel the striper in by yourself?” I ask. He glances up, then confidently reaches out for the pole and boldly states, “I got this!”

Later I’m in the back of the boat when I hear him say, “Hey, there’s a bunch of fish on our sonar. Get the lures out!” What? I rush to the front and he’s pointing to a school of fish on my screen that most anglers wouldn’t have recognized. He had quizzed me about reading the sonar earlier and I guess all the video game time was paying off – it was just another game to figure out.

That kid caught 10 stripers. More importantly, he showed me that most of us are so preoccupied with how we used to do something that we don’t learn what’s right in front of us. He had the system wired by the end of the day. Most of us (me!) fight change and new ideas. Seems we need to practice being more childlike!

Never give up!

Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at,

at and @StriperWars on Twitter.