Bullhead Fishing & Kids

February 2, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

Managing deer herds is always a hot topic

Managing deer herds is always a hot topic

 On a morning not long ago, my kids woke up begging, and it wasn’t the usual quest for Cheerios or to crawl in bed with mom. The dawn-breaking whines were designed to encourage a fishing trip. Specifically, they wanted to catch bullheads.

Understand that Joe is 4 and Kaitlyn is 2, and the simple fact they wanted to go fishing after they rubbed the sleep from their eyes put a smile on dad’s face. Fishing? That caught me off guard. In fact, just a year ago my son was afraid of bullheads.

Like most adult anglers, I’m not a huge fan of bullheads. As a biologist, I know they are undesirable species in many of North Dakota’s fishing waters, where they take up space that would be better filled by game fish. As an angler, well, there’s several other species I’d prefer to catch and clean.

Nevertheless, I felt a wave of satisfaction and a brief moment of personal realization in the wee hours of that morning. We all know kids at that age will say what’s really on their mind, and my kids wanted to go fishing, and not for just any fish, they wanted to fish for bullheads.

Unfortunately, the day itself didn’t pan out for a trip to the fishing hole. Sub-40 temperatures accompanied by a stiff breeze was not the recipe for an enjoyable outing, but I still took time to reflect on some lessons to which other anglers can relate.

First, I felt a sense of accomplishment with the simple acknowledgment that over the past few summers my two children had a positive association with fishing, and spending time outdoors with dad and mom. It helped that just a couple of days earlier we’d spent a few hours wetting a line, without the faintest hint of action. I couldn’t even pretend to say, “fish on.” But it didn’t dampen their spirits.

Any casual acquaintance knows my personal fishing success is similar to American Idol … not refined, downright awful at times. But that would be using society’s scale of success. For me, the only measure of success is that both of my kids wanted to go fishing, and I’ll repeat, fishing for bullheads.

The example of bullheads is testimony that kids in general have no preference for what’s biting at the end of the hook. Sure, over the course of years they’ll associate a few perch with a tasty fried fish dinner, or a smallmouth bass with an honorable fight. But for now, anything that can pull a bobber under and slime around in a bucket is a trophy – even a bullhead.

All things considered, that morning reinforced some points that could help all fishing outings this spring and summer, especially with kids, and even some adults.

First and foremost, keep them happy, no matter the age. It doesn’t’ matter if it’s Goldfish crackers or fruit snacks, load up the tackle box and the lunch box. If the fish won’t cooperate, a memorable snack or sack lunch full of everything they just love, but mom usually doesn’t let them have, might be just the connection between fishing and fun.

It’s this connection that is so important new anglers to associate fishing with fun activities. So as the kids grow up, roll with the changes. My kids now want to catch fish, and realistically about the easiest and most plentiful fish we’ve found close to our home are bullheads. What’s easier than digging a few worms in the back yard, putting them on a hook and attaching a bobber? Then sit back and watch the day unfold.

Why spend the time and money to prepare for a trophy excursion when a bullhead bonanza is cheaper and easier? If you’ve ever invested a lot of time and money exerted for a deep-water walleye excursion, only to return to the launch with an empty live well, you know the feeling of frustration.

Kids, it seems, would prefer just catching fish – any fish. And maybe we should too?

That’s a recipe for success you won’t find in any best-selling fishing book. It’s quick, easy and simple. And when you’re dealing with kids and fishing, smiles will abound.

Photo credits to the ND Game and Fish Department


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