Rainbow Trout, Howling Coyotes, Bugling Elk and Fishing with Kids…a Labor of Educational Love

  • Fishing, Life, Discovery
  • Freshwater Streams, Insects, Dry Flies, Rainbow Trout
  • Autumn, Badlands, Sunrise, Adventure

By Buddy Seiner
The smell of a South Dakota autumn day can bring a rush of reactions within one’s brain. The strongest among them for me is the desire to fish, fueled mostly by memories of epic angling adventures of old.

Autumn fishing days just always seem to produce the perfect combination of scenery, serenity and success on the water. What better time, then, to take children fishing? The fish are hungry, food is prevalent and beautiful weather will have their sense of adventure tingling.

With National Public Lands Day gracing the United States on September 22, it made for a perfect excuse to take my children outside for a South Dakota adventure. And so, that is how we found ourselves camping in the back of my pickup truck at Iron Creek Lake, south of Spearfish, South Dakota, the evening prior to Public Lands Day.

Elk hunters and a few cabin owners were our only company this evening. The pack of coyotes howling over the ridge brought a backbone chill that made the kids shiver with excitement. A full moon shone through the tinted windows of my topper as we relaxed carefree under fleece blankets and zero degree sleeping bags. Sunrise for these kids would not need to hurry.

The next morning reminded me of how lucky I am. Despite temperatures in the low 40’s and cover jostling matches replacing precious sleep time, these kids were up before the sun and ready for our next adventure. No complaining, no whining, no challenges. Just positivity and a youthful exuberance that acted as a catalyst for my adventure anticipation. First on the schedule for our day celebrating public lands…fishing in the Black Hills National Forest.

The number one rule for fishing with kids is to give them plenty of opportunities to catch. Bluegills and perch will often play the role of prey in this situation, but on this day, hungry rainbow trout took the lead. Iron Creek Lake is full of them. Early morning ripples indicated a school of fish feeding along a shallow weedline.

As a fly angler, I’m always searching for feeding activity and possible food sources, and I’m constantly equipped with a box of Black Hill’s bugs, hand-tied to my liking, begging for the approval of any trout that will pay attention.

The aforementioned list of autumn attributes returns to relevancy when I write that the fish were hungry and the food was abundant. Small baitfish were stealthy and swimming about, pale morning duns (mayflies) were emerging from the weeds below the surface, and dragonflies were skimming the water in constant danger of becoming the next trout meal.
When fish are actively feeding on many different food sources, using a fly that will initiate an instinctive reaction can sometimes be the best bet. A small, unweighted, thin mint fly attached three or four feet below a clear bobber provides just enough weight to reach the threshold of hungry fish and it did not take long for them to accept our offering.

“FISH ON!” I exclaimed, hoping my kids would come running.

The oldest was first to respond, eagerly snatching the rod and taking over the tug-of-war battle.

A big rainbow trout emerged from the mirror-like lake and dove for the weedline. Before long, the shimmering scales of the rainbow were reflecting the early morning sun’s rays like a disco ball at a dance. Its colors brought audible sounds of surprise and wonder from the children. “It’s important to always keep a fish in the water,” I explained. If you are going to take a photo, do so very quickly. Four seconds out of the net, and back into the water went the hungry trout. The clear water provided the perfect window to watch as it swam back toward the feeding frenzy of fellow fish.

Boy, did we hook into fish that morning! Not all of them made it to net, however. Trout have an uncanny ability to throw a hook, unlike any other species, but that didn’t matter to any of us.

The reverberating echoes of “FISH ON!” hanging over the northern Black Hills that morning was enough to give any angling-minded individual a nice shot of dopamine (or a nagging rush of envy). By 9:30 we packed up and headed to Spearfish, South Dakota.
There is a lot that should and could be said about Spearfish, but I’ll just share that I plan to live there someday. That should suffice to indicate my level of appreciation for this town and the amenities that exist, and it is not only because of the great fishing. We began the morning at the Termesphere Gallery where the kids ooed and awed over spectacular art and a unique gallery setting. It is a must stop while in Spearfish.

The other never-miss location in Spearfish is the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives. I did a story about it for the Fish Stories Archive, of course, the fish are always a highlight, but we also took time to tour the grounds, making a special stop in Ruby’s Garden. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy the quiet.

After lunch in the park, it was time to celebrate National Public Lands Day with a visit to Badlands National Park. This 244,000 acre park protects one of the most rugged, harsh, and spectacular environments on the planet. Bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dog sightings are all but guaranteed in this landscape, with many other species making possible cameos. We pulled into Sage Creek Campground and were immediately greeted by two large bull bison grazing the hills near the entrance. For it being midday, the campground was already occupied with many tents and vehicles.

The yellow jackets and tiny biting insects were also abundant, and the “sweltering” heat was an unwelcome surprise for late September. We quickly set up camp before seeking refuge from the bugs and heat in nearby Wall Drug. Wall Drug donuts are a thing of legend, so we purchased a few for the next morning’s breakfast before driving the Badlands Loop at sunset. The views were nothing short of spectacular. The kids were having a hard time retaining their appreciation for landscapes, but we were fortunate to find a long-eared owl in the town of Interior. It allowed us close enough to say hi, but did not want to be photographed. Darkness soon consumed the Badlands and we joined a caravan of other campers headed for Sage Creek.

The drive back to Pierre was more quiet than normal. I assume the 6-year-old and 2-year-old were just a bit worn from the short adventure. The 10-year-old finally piped up after 30 minutes of driving to prove that her silence was spent in careful reflection.

“Dad…thanks for taking us camping,” she said with a grin. “We are lucky kids.”

Click on the “Fish Stories” image to visit that website.

My tiny heart skipped a beat and likely grew a few sizes in that moment. Yet another reminder of how lucky I am to have kids that appreciate the outdoors and the experiences they have in them. Admittedly, that gratitude was not at all expected on my part, but it was exactly what I needed after a great weekend enjoying our public lands.

Buddy Seiner – President, Fishing Buddy Studios; Founder of Fish Stories Archive (http://fishstories.org/) and podcast Listen to some awesome Fish Stories.

The GREATEST STORY NEVER TOLD

Taking the Ambassador Pledge.

  • This youth program exists in 80 countries and the United States, do your kids know about it?
  • Program includes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education
  • Kids build life skills…honesty, responsibility, decision-making, teamwork, self-discipline, self-confidence, problem solving

By Larry Whiteley

Missouri 4H Shooting Sports Team enter the competition arena, much like the Olympics.

You will probably never hear this story being told on CNN, CBS or NBC national news. You probably won’t ever read a story about this in USA Today or other big national newspapers or magazines. We see, hear and read about shootings, protests and demonstrations. We hear or read about experts telling us that young people should never see or touch a firearm.

Why don’t they also tell the story about more than 400,000 young men and women in 47 states participating safely and successfully each year in the 4-H Shooting Sports Program led by 20,000 certified volunteer instructors? Do a Google search and you will find very little coverage about this except for home town newspapers talking about local kids being involved. When I searched I could find no national news stories about it. That’s a shame.

The story they should be telling is that this is much more than a bunch of kids, 8 to 18 years old, shooting rifles, shotguns, muzzle loading rifles, handguns, archery and learning about hunting. Boy’s and girl’s learn marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles and ethics of hunting, and much more. These are not kids that spend most of their time on their smart phones, playing video games or watching TV. These are not kids into drugs or stealing.

Taking the Ambassador Pledge.

Since it was founded many years ago, 4-H Shooting Sports has served millions of young Americans. Their mission states, “To assist youth in acquiring knowledge, developing life skills, and forming attitudes so they may become self-directing, productive and contributing members of society.”

Through the program, participants learn safe marksmanship and archery skills from an early age. State-level 4-H clubs offer programs for individual training as well as team competition shooting. There is also the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championship Event each summer which hosts shotgun, air rifle, air pistol, small-bore rifle, small-bore pistol, compound archery, recurve archery, muzzle-loading rifle and hunting skills events. The opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the competition kind, remind you of the Olympics.

Indoor air gun competition.

If you know anything about 4-H, you probably think of growing crops, raising and showing livestock and competing for blue ribbons at the county fair. You might not know that 4-H and related programs exist in 80 countries around the world. It is the largest youth development organization in the United States with nearly six million members, but of that number, only 17 percent of kids involved actually live on farms as most people would probably think. The majority come from suburban and urban communities.
It’s not just about shooting. The objectives of the program center on building life skills that include decision-making, teamwork, self-discipline, self-confidence and problem solving. The program also works to promote the highest standards of safety and sportsmanship, along with an appreciation and understanding of natural resources.
The Shooting Sports curriculum uses the resources of land-grant universities, Cooperative Extension agents and certified 4-H leaders, instructors and trainers. The adult instructors involved try to provide a positive relationship with the students. A national or state certified instructor teaches each discipline.
They also tie in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education along with shooting sports and hunting training programs. Instructors are given STEM activities they can relate to a part of the kids training in shooting.
All volunteers go through a background check and have archery and gun safety training, along with 4-H classes on youth development. It’s all designed to provide a partnership with a caring adult and a safe environment for youth to learn how to move forward, working on their own.
If you’re interested in becoming involved with the 4-H Shooting Sports Program, you can go to your state 4-H website. You can also go to the national shooting sports website and find a state contact for each of the states involved.

Scoring archery target results during competition.

The National 4-H program treats Shooting Sports just like any of their other programs, whether it’s livestock or foods and nutrition or computers or woodworking. The goal is to get kids into a positive setting where they can have fun learning and develop lifelong skills while working closely with an adult, other than a parent, who really cares and takes interest in them.

If the national media ever did decide to tell this great story, I would suggest to them that they interview Jon Zinnel and Hannah Persell. Both Jon and Hannah started in the program at a young age and competed for many years in the National Championships.

Crowd at 4H National Shooting Sports competition.

Jon, who now works for Vista Outdoors, is a past 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador. Hannah is serving as a Shooting Sports Ambassador while she attends the University of Missouri where she is majoring in Agri Business.

Ambassadors represent 4-H and 4-H Shooting Sports for public relations purposes at special events such as donor/sponsor functions and with the general public. They also serve as spokespersons for the Shooting Sports program.

Hannah would not hesitate to tell the national media, “Participating in the Shooting Sports has given me confidence, communication skills, patience, the drive to succeed in life and made me into a hard worker.” All qualities that American companies are looking for in employees they hire.

Jon would say to the national media and anyone else, “The 4-H Shooting Sports Program is something the kids never forget and the skills they learn stay with them and benefit them the rest of their lives.”

In today’s broken world, it’s a great story that needs to be told.

Outdoor Resources for Families – FREE From New York State

  • New York State Conservationist for Kids is FREE
  • Useful Outdoor Discovery Articles
  • Environmental Education Information for All Ages
Kids and Nature work together to promote Conservation. Check out these links!

Many children learn about the outdoors from adults who accompany them as they explore. Plenty of times the kids teach the adults as well as the adults teaching the kids! If you are looking for ideas on how to enjoy the outdoors with the young people in your life visit the web sites listed below.

Outdoor Discovery is an online newsletter from DEC for families. It encourages New Yorkers to explore outdoors and learn about the environment. Each issue introduces subscribers to a a seasonal environmental or nature topic, suggests a related activity and lists family friendly events at DEC’s environmental education centers. DEC Outdoor Discovery is emailed to subscribers every other Wednesday and also appears on DEC’s website.

DEC operates environmental education programs statewide. These include two environmental education centers from Albany to Buffalo, plus regional environmental educators who serve New York City, Long Island and Central NY.

The DEC’s residential environmental education summer camps have be operating for over 60 years. The camps serve boys and girls ages 11-17, who attend a week long program exploring the outdoors and learning about the environment. Campers can even participate in a hunter safety class and receive their hunter safety certificate. The four summer camps are located across the state, two in the Adirondacks, one in the Catskills and one in Western New York.

National Wildlife Federation advocates spending at least one hour each day outdoors in nature. Their web site Be Out There provides ideas for reconnecting kids with the many benefits of the great outdoors. Good for both mental and physical health, spending time outdoors is also fun and helps kids build a connection to nature. Using the “NatureFind” feature visitors can find outdoor activities in their area, and across the country.

Nature Rocks from the Children and Nature Network, The Nature Conservancy and R.E.I. provides ideas for exploring outdoors with children. They also offer a search feature to locate programs, sites and outdoor play groups, known as Nature Rocks Flocks in your area.

For more, just visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/59422.html.

“Sunny Day Kids” are HOOKED ON FISHING FUN!

  • Fishing & Learning Adventure on the Buffalo River
  • May 28, 2017; Bison City Rod & Gun Club, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • 141 Kids, 322 Total Attendance; 21 Volunteers; 8-Learning Stations
There is something very special about that first fish!  Kids and parents found adventure and fun while learning about rods, reels, bobbers and fish-catching at Bison City Rod & Gun Club in Buffalo, NY. 

By Forrest Fisher

The forecast for rain and fog was swept aside when bright, sunny skies with a gentle 75 degree breeze surprised families with kids from Buffalo and Western New York.  They came to fish and learn at Bison City Rod & Gun Club for the 13th Annual Jimmy Griffin Memorial Teach-Me-To-Fish event.

Each youth carried a personal registration card with their first name, last initial and age. When the kids achieved learning at each station, the station captain would hole punch the card, when all the stations were completed, the youth was eligible to drop the card into the raffle hopper for one of 76 free rod/reel rigs.

Once a polluted waterway that would burn from the heat of a lighted match, today the Buffalo River waterfront is clean, alive, and hopping with fish, kayaks, canoes and kids with fishing poles.  The Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper Group is a big part of the clean-up progress.

The kids and their families all learned a bit more about the adventure of the outdoors through the fun of fishing, many for the very first time!

While the river was running a bit muddy from recent heavy rains, the steady flow of riverfront kayakers, sailboats, canoes and power boats showed proof that water color is not a deterrent.  Kids fishing from the Bison City fishing pier were busy.  Even single adults without kids came to discover the fun and adventure of “how-to-fish”.  More and more people want to know.

Lynda Kollar, Rose Barus and Linda Cooley energized a positive first-moment connection with folks at the registration welcome station.

Inner city kids and parent, guardians and many others discovered the fun of fishing with the Buffalo city skyline in full view. 

Kids and parents learned “How-To-Fish” and what to do from Western New York bass pro, Scott Gauld, who took time to share “easy tips” for everyone in the program.  He explained that catching a fish with a rod and reel (bait or artificial lure) is not only possible, it is fun and not difficult.  Gauld provided that special seal of “sure-fun is right around the corner” that only a professional angler might be able to influence for new onlookers.  Kids went away looking for the fishing pier!

Marine Unit 2 with Erie County Sheriff Tim Dusza and his team, provided tours of their vessel.  Everyone learned about water-safety, kids were allowed to blow the horn and turn on the flashing lights. Big smiles there!

Russ Johnson and Bob Carlson, members of the East Aurora Fish & Game Club, who have perfected the system for educating kids and parents on how to tie a perfect Palomar Knot and Clinch Knot, taught everyone how to tie on a hook in only a few seconds.  

Rigging a weedless plastic bait, a plastic worm or jig tail, was made easy with a hands-on demonstration by junior Bassmasters Alex Gauld and Collin Voss, as they provided each youth with a souvenir plastic creature bait sample from Cabela’s.  The kids could use the bait to fish with or take home.  The girls seemed to pick the pink squiggly-tail crayfish!

Environmental Conservation Officer, Jeff Jondel, and firearm safety instructor, Joe Mills, provided hands-on firearm safety training.  They shared the rules of responsibility for parents and kids, so they could experience the Cabela’s BB-Gun Range, an inflated and fully enclosed, fully safe, “bounce house” style event.  The NRA safety-instructors provided easy 1, 2, 3 steps for responsible use of a firearm, using a BB-gun.  Kids and parents took turns checking their aim using Daisy Red Ryder BB-Guns, shooting at suspended souvenir paper targets.  Happy kids took their targets home with ear-to-ear smiles as souvenirs.

Lifetime youth educator and certified New York State Archery champion, Paul Stoos, worked with Earl Farrel, Sr., to provide first-time how-to lessons for kids at the Cabela’s Archery Booth, using air-suspended floating ball targets.  

Charter Captain Jerry May and walleye master, Ted Malota, taught kids how to cast a spincast fishing rod with hookless casting baits.  The kids were sailing their lines a very long way toward hula-hoop targets in just minutes.  Ted shared, “Wow, some of these kids are really good with so little practice!”  Fun for all!

The kids and adults fished from “George’s Landing,” the legacy honor name for the Bison City fishing pier.  It was a fun and exciting adventure station for kids, even more exciting for some parents who had never touched a live fish before. On-site fishing educator, Dave Solowski, provided eager kids with bait, pre-rigged rods, reels, bobbers, hooks, split-shot and plenty of nightcrawler bait supplied by Weekley’s Worms.  Weekly’s Worms provides more than 50 million redworms and nightcrawlers to anglers every year.  Imagine that!

Dockside outfitter, Donna Kayes, provided solid “pre-fish confidence” while outfitting each youth with a life-preserver before entering the fishing pier area.  Several first-fish catches were recorded, with new adventure and fun had by all. The fish were placed in the aerated “Lunker Pool” and released by the kids after the event.  Kids that did not catch a fish enjoyed seeing the swimming fish that others caught. After the event, the kids helped release all the fish to swim another day, a meaningful lesson in conservation for our youth.

Lyme disease is a serious killer of healthy fun and life. “It starts with deer ticks,” says instructor, Sheri Voss, as she uses dolls and explains details  to stay safe in a manner that little kids and their parents can understand. 

At the newest learning station, “OUTDOOR AWARENESS,” outdoor educator, Sheri Voss, provided hands-on lessons for families with advice on how to stay prepared, protected, informed and proactive, whenever they head outdoors.  There was special focus on deer ticks and the Lyme disease outbreak in northeast USA.

As families completed the learning station tours, a 70-page slide show was shown on the 7-foot screen indoors, allowing for continued fishing and outdoor adventure education.  While observing the screen, the kitchen crew provided world famous Sahlen’s grill-cooked hot dogs, Perry’s Ice Cream, Paula’s Donuts, Gwen Jozwiak’s hand-made “fish cupcakes,” beverages and other munchies.

During the random gear raffle, 76 happy youths won a free rod/reel combo.  Everyone else, adults too, took home fishing maps, tackle, and special prizes from the “Bison City Tackle Treasure Chest.”

The kids and the adults were all BIG WINNERS!

This special youth outreach event is annual event sponsored and coordinated by the Bison City Rod & Gun Club with special thanks to Ted and Doraine Malota, Cabela’s, Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, WNY Safari Club, Sahlen’s Meat Packing, the Norby Antonik Foundation, Weekley’s Bait, Paula’s Donuts and 21 dedicated volunteers who donated their time to help youth and their families learn more about the outdoors through the fun of fishing!