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Lessons From Lincoln

Good fortune has allowed me to have two careers involving education. Twenty years as a physical education teacher and coach and now several more as a fishing educator have allowed me the opportunity to educate, and learn from, others, particularly kids.

When discussing “today’s kids,” I sometimes hear comments like “kids sure have changed” or “they spend too much time on their phones!” Interesting comments, but more on that later.

I met a young man named Lincoln, a first grader at the time, a couple springs ago. Lincoln attended a School of Fish (SOF) class I taught at his school in Grand Forks (ND). Later that fall Lincoln was drawn as the lucky winner of the annual “fish on tv” drawing we do from SOF graduates.

Lincoln showed up to a small lake near my western Minnesota home one day in September for his TV shoot and immediately I could tell that this moment wouldn’t be “too big” for him! Some people, adults included, are intimidated by cameras, and get extremely nervous when wearing a microphone for the first time. Not Lincoln, as he inquisitively looked at the producer’s gear, not showing any signs of nervousness.

Lincoln proved to be good with a rod and reel too, landing good-sized smallmouth bass on several of his first casts. The show came together quickly and easily and was highlighted by Lincoln’s reference to the “the anchovies” he was using for baits that day. Hence the show became known as “the Anchovy Kid” segment.

Lincoln did such an excellent job that we invited him back for an encore appearance. The fishing wasn’t as good, but Lincoln stayed patient and determined, changed “anchovies” several times, and eventually put the fish in the boat needed for the show. He also showed viewers his rendition of “the floss” dance that has become popular. On the way back to the landing, Lincoln asked, “Do we get to fish together again next year?”

That winter, Lincoln and his now third grade class previewed the upcoming TV episode. At the conclusion, a classmate asked if he gets to fish again. Lincoln’s enthusiastic response was, “Yep, Mike said see you again next year!”

So back to this story’s start and “today’s kids.” Kids haven’t changed all that much! But the environments they often grow up in sure have.
Put a rod and reel in a youngster’s hands with a fish pulling back and you’ll still see the excited “tug of war” as Lincoln calls it. If, however, we adults never take kids fishing, how do they experience that feeling? It’s not fair to later blame older kids and young adults for their lack of fishing or hunting interest, if they never had the adult-driven initial exposure to the outdoor sports.

Now, about those phones! If our desire is to raise kids who fish and hunt more and aren’t so tied to their electronic devices, why do we supply kids those devices at early ages and give them unlimited use? Seems to me we cause the problem, and then blame the kids!

I’m not pointing fingers here, because if blame is merited, there is more than enough to go around for all us adults. My point, rather, is that many kids still love the outdoors and many more will in the future, IF given the exposure to such. And early and often exposure is sure to help!

Now, time for me to get off my soap box! Meanwhile, my buddy Lincoln and I are planning this coming summer’s fishing trip. Please consider including a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.

Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the ZEBCO School of Fish.  Follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook to see more from Mike.

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