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Connections: How To Get Teenagers Excited About Fishing

By Jeff Martin

Facing a vacation, sometimes the best planners find themselves at a loss over what to do.

I found myself facing this challenge last week when, as it happens every year, I was faced with seven days off from my regular job and overwhelmed as to what to do with myself. Making it even more difficult was the fact that I had my two sons with me and I didnít want to disappoint and bore them.

Because Iím getting back into fishing and wanting my boys to have the same interest, we spent the first day trying to find a good place to throw in a line. A family member of mine suggested that I take the boys to the Randolph Hatchery, where the state facilitates the hatching of about 100,000 pounds of fish annually.

It was an overcast, rainy day (a typical start to a vacation!) when we pulled into the parking lot. There was not a soul to be seen. Arranged in single file were several cement lagoons, some with steel roofs, progressing to a much larger lagoon. Getting out of the car, we marched over and looked into the inky, black water and, as is often the case when first seeing them, were amazed at the great beauty of the rainbow trout.

Looping and coasting along in the water, the great rainbow trout flashed their colorful bodies with great enthusiasm. Some appeared longer than my arm. My youngest son let out a cry of excitement and thatís no easy task; heís often difficult to excite. We stood there together and watched the great fish, and it wasnít long until we were walking up and down the property, glancing into each lagoon.

There were rainbow trout in adult stage and much younger ones, too ó seemingly millions of them. Beside the rainbow there were brown trout, again in various lagoons and in various stages of growth. The brown trout appeared far more vigorous and strong, as were the brook trout, who slapped the water with anticipation as we walked near.

It wasnít long until my youngest asked if we could feed them. I found one of the men who worked there and asked for some change so that we could fill a plastic cup. He vanished inside a building and brought out a large pail half full of pellets, asking only that we share with the other couple who had arrived.

The feeding frenzy that ensued excited even my oldest son, a teenager who has difficulty showing any enthusiasm if it doesnít deal with teenagerly matters. He called the swimming fish ìgracefulî and ìpeaceful,î though peaceful isnít the work I would use when describing the moment when he dumped a cup full of pellets into the brook trout lagoon. The fish twirled and jumped and smacked the water surface, eating as if they had never eaten before.

I spoke to the man in the garage and inquired about some local places in which to fish. He told me of some, commenting that bringing children to hatcheries is a good way of getting children interested in fishing.

ìIt lets them see the fish,î he said. ìKids need to see fish to get interested in fishing. I donít blame them.î

A couple of days later we would fish outside Cattaraugus village on Route 353. My youngest caught a few sunfish, as did my oldest. A day after we fished at Holcombís Pond, which is part of the Zoar Valley system. My oldest caught a largemouth bass and, again, my youngest hauled in several sunfish.

I truly think that the hatchery was a big part of their interest in fishing. There are 12 hatcheries within the state of New York, several of which are located in Western New York. I urge you to visit one.

For more information about them, call the Randolph Hatchery at (716) 358-4755 or visit www. http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor.

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