Robert U. Montgomery

Fishing

What You Should Know About Taking Kids Fishing

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First, and foremost, the primary goal for a young child going fishing is to have fun--- not catch fish. Some adults have trouble remembering that.

Take them to a pond, lake, or small stream where the panfish are plentiful, and fish with live bait and the simplest of gear, such as a cane pole or spincast outfit. Also take a bucket or two, and maybe some jars with holes in their lids. Don’t try to fish yourself. If you do, you’ll just get frustrated. Your full attention should be on being a teacher.

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Speed Trap . . . Slow Down!

Speed Trap . . . Slow Down!


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This blind worship at the altar of speed bleeds into every aspect of our lives, especially for our children. Because we’ve learned we don’t have to wait, we dart recklessly in and out of traffic, cutting in front of other cars so we can launch from a stoplight one second before they do. We have no patience for waiting in lines, common courtesy, or even listening.

That’s why the attention span of students grows progressively shorter. That’s why movies must contain explosions, car chases, and gun battles if they expect to succeed at the box office. That’s why print media are on the decline, and that’s also why participation in fishing flattened in some states and declined in others during the first decade of the 21st century.

Actually “wait” for a fish to bite? No thank you!

Tournament angling has helped keep the sport vital, through its emphasis on faster boats and the need to cover as much water as possible during the hours of competition. Anglers “burn” spinnerbaits. Tackle innovators create reels with higher and higher gear ratios to speed retrieves even more. ESPN and other cable networks glamorize fishing events with helicopter coverage and heart-pounding music.

Am I a tournament angler? No, I am not. Competitors must put their fish in the boat as quickly and efficiently as possible. I like to play with mine, to watch them jump and tail-walk and, yes, sometimes throw the bait. If anything, I am the un-tournament angler.

I certainly do recognize the many contributions tournament fishermen have made to the sport, ranging from boat and tackle innovations to creation of a vocal constituency that finances and promotes conservation of our natural resources. I am an ardent supporter of fishing tournaments and happy to share the water with them.

Still, I believe faster is not always the best way in fishing, and from that I’ve learned it isn’t always the best way in life either. Those who don’t see that miss out on the many pleasures of the journey, as they focus single-mindedly on the destination. We each have only a limited amount of time in this life. Why rush it?

(Excerpt from the essay "Speed Trap . . . Slow Down" in
Why We Fish.)

How Fast Can Fish Swim?

A leaping sailfish can hit 68 mph

Bass aren’t the fastest fish in the world. But no matter how quickly you retrieve that crankbait or topwater, you can’t get it away from them--- if they want it.

That’s because even the fastest reels are capable of retrieving baits at only 3 or 4 miles per hour. A bass, meanwhile, can swim in bursts of 12 to 18 miles per hour.

Most of the time, they don’t, not even when they’re feeding. Three to 4 miles per hour is closer to average. That’s because bass are pot-bellied, ambush predators. Much of the time, they would rather chow down on a slow-moving worm or injured minnow.

The key to success when you’re out fishing is not to know how fast a bass can swim, but how fast it is willing to swim. Experiment with speed until you find the right one.

With some fish, especially many salt-water species, you do want a speedy retrieve. That’s because tuna, wahoo, dorado (dolphin), billfish, and others are roving hunters that chase down their prey.

No one knows for certain how fast the fastest fish can swim. But experts estimate that a leaping sailfish can hit 68 miles per hour, based on the fact that it can strip out 100 yards of line in 3 seconds.

Other speed demons include the swordfish (60 mph), marlin (50), and wahoo (47).

Not surprisingly, the flounder is one of the slowest in the ocean, poking along at 2.4 mph, about the same as an eel.

In freshwater, the rainbow is among the fastest, capable of 23 miles per hour, while catfish have been clocked at 15 and northern pike at 10.6.

And in case you’re wondering: the flying fish can reach gliding speeds of 35 miles per hour.

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Legendary Fish

Legendary Fish


A frayed piece of leader owns a place of honor at my desk. It was left to me by a “legendary fish.”

That’s my own term so I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard it before. For me, “legendary fish” is one rung up the ladder from “big,” “trophy,” and even “fish of a lifetime.”

Of course, pursuit of a trophy is one of our prime motivators. And losing a big one fuels the fire in our belly even more. If we can’t get the one that got away, we want one even larger.
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Pets, as Well as Wildlife, Endangered by Discarded Fishing Tackle, Line

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Discarded fishing line, especially with attached hooks and baits, maims or kills a multitude of fish and wildlife species annually. I've written about this often, encouraging anglers to pick up after themselves, as well as the slobs who give our sport a bad name by tossing their discarded line and lures, as well as other trash, in the water and along the shorelines.

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Welcome

Nature was my first love, and time has not diminished the passion.

Nature also was my teacher. From her, I learned about love and loyalty, life and death, kindness and compassion. And yes, the birds and bees.

My books, both fiction and non-fiction, are a tribute to my first love and mentor. Read them and you will know me. Read them and, I hope, you will learn, laugh, cry, and maybe even wax nostalgic about your own time spent in the outdoors, especially as a child. Read them and, I hope, you will be inspired to spent more time in nature.

And take your kids along. Youngsters in today's world are more in need of that introduction than any of generations past.

Share my books with them too, especially
Who Let the Bugs Out?, which I wrote especially for young readers.

Another I wrote with adults in mind, but children discovered it and enjoy many of its stories as well. At a book signing, one little girl told me that "the one about the toads" was her favorite in
Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature. I've included an excerpt from that tale at the end of this post.

I'll add more excerpts from my books occasionally on this site, as well as news about them. I'll also include articles, essays, and stories about nature, animals, and the outdoors, including my adventures, some intentional and others not so much. Maybe I'll even write about writing from time to time.

Please check back to find out what's new. Now here's that excerpt from the story about the tiny toad invasion of my grandmother's house, and how I might have been to blame:

* * * * * *

I’m not sure how much time passed, maybe thirty minutes or maybe an hour. Sprawled on the kitchen floor, I was intently drawing cowboys when my grandmother screamed. As my grandfather came running, she pointed frantically toward the door of my bedroom.

I’m not sure how it happened. When I looked later, the box was overturned. Probably it flipped over when I threw it under the bed. But who is to say? Possibly the toads had climbed on each others’ backs and popped off the lid. As they marched out of the bedroom door, they seemed to be engaged in a coordinated counter-attack.

My grandmother already was infamous for taking off her dress in the front yard when a grasshopper fell down her back. Her response to the toads was just as noteworthy. As their collective mass spread like some Biblical plague, swallowing up the linoleum floor, she jumped from chair to table, screaming “Ernest! Do something!”

From there, time blurred. But here is what I know: Some little known, but immutable law of science must state that toads placed in a cigar box under a feather bed will multiply exponentially.