There’s a lot more that’s important about catching fish…than just catching fish. Guest writer Dan Hickey shares why in today’s outdoor feature.
Ed. Note: Guest writer Dan Hickey served as game protector for Mercer and Miami Counties, then as a wildlife officer supervisor for nine counties in west central Ohio until he retired in 2005. Still avidly involved with the outdoors, wildlife, and habitat preservation, we’re delighted to debut his first public column in this edition of Press Pros.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife has had many success stories in its long history of wildlife support through preservation, one of which is the wood duck. As the officer in Miami County in the early 1980’s, it was my job annually to inspect and maintain 50 or so wood duck boxes scattered throughout the county. This task was performed in January or February when the ponds were frozen and safe enough to walk to the boxes.
The boxes were cleaned and fresh wood shavings were placed with the hopes of arriving hens would take up residency, lay a clutch of eggs, and successfully hatch a brood of ducklings.
Over the years I met many landowners who would invite me back to their homes when I finished. They wanted to know about wildlife population, how the division of wildlife was doing, and share their stories of what they had seen on their farm. It was good public relations and many friendships were formed.
One day talking with one of these landowners, he asked me if I liked to fish. When I replied “Yes, of course,” he then said I should come out and fish his pond for bluegills and crappies. “I think you will like it,” he added. Well, 54 years later, I am still fishing that pond, once or twice a year.
I have shared it with fellow officers and some good friends over the years. But the most important fishing partner on those trips has been my son, Stephen. As I recall, his first trip there came when he was 10 years old. He was excited to be in the front of the boat, intent on catching fish, and hopefully more and bigger than Dad’s.
We talked about his school and sports back then, but his focus was on fish. When he entered his teenage years our talks became more important. Of course, we talked about sports, and what he wanted to pursue in life as a career, and what a surprise…girls.
Working his way through college with a law enforcement degree, we still found time, once a year to take time to fish “the pond”.
Recently we made the trip, heavy spring rains having made our trip later than usual this year. After 25 years, many stories of past trips resurfaced.
He once again reminded me of the five pound largemouth bass he had landed as a 12 year old, and Dad made him release it. It made no sense to him. The biggest fish of his life and his dad made him throw it back in the pond. I tried to explain that the fish needed to go back to ensure quality farm pond fish management. At 12 years old, you don’t care about that.
I have seen that boy grow up into a fine young man with a family of his own now. I often reflect our treasured times together in a 12 foot jonboat on that two-acre pond. Special times for a father and son – quality times we still share together.
And how it’s important for both of us to make our annual trip to “the pond”.