I don't have a boat, so I need people to help me. My buddy Mike Proctor owns one, and he has been my salvation many times over.
Here's Captain Mike:
The way I met him shows what kind of a guy he is. I used to teach at a public school on Camp Pendleton Marine Base, and one of the students in my class was upset because his dad was deploying for Iraq in three days. I put out a desperate "Hail Mary" post on a local fishing chat board, asking if anyone could volunteer to take the kid and his dad out fishing within the next two days, and Mike, who I had never met before, sends me an email telling me he's up for doing it!
Lo and behold two days later Mike took out my student, his dad, and the other two brothers, and they had an awesome time fishing, all on Mike's time and tab. So that's Mike. Here's a pic of the boys and their dad on that trip just a day before dad deployed:
I ended up teaching all three of those boys, in fact. The one that was in my class at the time, Luke, is the one with the chips in his mouth. Here is a picture of him the next day in class telling the kids about the monster fish he caught the day before with Captain Mike!
(You'll have to excuse the quality, I took it on an old cell phone)
Half of the fun was watching the kids interact. Bill, Eve, and Richy aren't exactly chums in class, but they were the right kids to bring, because they hadn't experienced the wonders of the sea. Bill in particular is a very quiet kid at school.
If you take the time to prime the pump by stoking the kids imagination and schooling them on what they are likely to encounter, that makes the trip more meaningful; by the time we showed up at the dock to meet our benefactor Mike and his magnificent motorboat full of gear and grub, the kids were fired up!We motored out to a buoy where a single male sea lion held court with a bevy of ladies, and stayed until the stench eclipsed our curiosity.
After another ten minute cruise, Mike set anchor just outside the kelp and set out some chum to attract schools of mackerel. The thing about fishing with kids is that they usually prefer action over size. Whereas some anglers are happy to scour the ocean for a chance at hooking into one huge fish, most kids prefer to stay closer to shore, pulling on smaller fish all day. Having done both I'm not sure they haven't picked the better option!
I actually returned to the exact same spot two weeks later to do a shoot for a fishing magazine and I got some cool underwater kelp forest pictures. That's me mired in the kelp in the first pic.
So there we were in the boat looking at pics of the kelp on my iPhone. Soon Captain Mike set up some chum (ground up fish parts) along the side of the boat to attract our "target species", the mighty mackerel. These are great fun on light tackle because it's one after the other fishing, and they school right next to the boat, so it's very visual. Within minutes the kids had mastered the art of hooking these hard fighting brutes, and chaotic contests of fury and might commenced.
Something primeval was born in Bill at that moment; the warrior within him surfaced. I was no longer watching a child at play; I was witnessing an archetypal struggle between man and beast. Soon he had fought his foe to the corner of the boat, gaining line at times, only to watch it fly off the reel in bursts.
Ultimately, Bill's superior intellect enabled him to subdue the sea creature, and he hoisted his vanquished foe aboard in a bold display of strength and supremacy.
Like many of the world's strongest gamefish, mackerel exhibit a fishy taste, so we decided to put them in Captain Mike's bait tank. Soon their catches numbered many. The kids enjoyed watching them circle 'round the pen; it allowed them to savor their victory, while still permitting their later release.
Eve and Richy boated some of the largest specimens.
We also took advantage of another learning opportunity by examining Captain Mike's 'fish finder". California State Math Standard Number Sense 1.2 requires that the students "Order and compare whole numbers and decimals" and we talked about how we might round 41.9 feet of depth to 42 feet, thereby doubling our chances of catching "the big one". With stakes this high, we couldn't get bogged down in whether or not we had 41 or 42 feet beneath us!
To finish off our successful sea voyage, Captain Mike brought the kids to Seal Rock and broke out the last of the booty for the kids. I'm not a big fan of junk food but rights of passage like these call for celebrations of decadence and debauchery. They earned their stripes.
The trip provided a great many opportunities for excitement and learning, and the next day in class I had the students cap off their adventure with some writing and art activities. These would provide a forum for higher order thinking skills like evaluation and synthesis that are mentioned in Bloom's Taxonomy. Here's a sample of the work:
The highlight of the trip for me was watching the kids on the ride home. The kids asked Mike to push the boat to it's limits and Mike granted their wish. Richy kept falling off of the chair and together we all broke out in laughter, to the point where our bellies ached.
Perhaps Eve summed up the trip best in this last part of her letter to our dear friend Captain Mike:
To see more stories about Jon fishing with kids click here and here. Also, believe it or not one time I was able to arrange a free fishing trip for a family of a returning Iraq War Vet. His son was my student and you can read about that trip here.