Jason Neuswanger (a.k.a. the "Troutnut") had his first fishing experience with me, his father, when he was 2 1/2 years old. I rigged up an 8-foot St.Croix 7-weight fly rod to function as a cane pole, with about 8 feet of monofilament line and a tiny black rubber jig fished ~18 inches beneath a small bobber (replaced these days with self-tied nymphs fished in conjunction with strike indicators). Our primary quarry were the big green sunfish that lived among the rocks along the dam of Marceline City Lake, a new 176-acre water supply lake in north central Missouri that I once managed as a fishery biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. A reporter from the Marceline Press was on hand to document opening day fishing activities on this new lake, and he thought it would be cute to photograph a two-year-old catching fish.
About the time the reporter got set up, Jason's bobber went under, and he torqued the fly rod like he was setting the hook on a 30-pound Chinook salmon. An 8-inch green sunfish came sailing 20 feet through the air and smacked the poor fellow in the side of the head! (Jason got his picture in the paper anyway.) We caught a bunch of sunfish that day, but mostly we chased frogs and otherwise doinked around the water's edge looking at bugs and doing whatever else a two-year-old thought was fun.
We also caught and kept several small, emaciated largemouth bass that had been stocked illegally before there were any predators to control numbers. (Anglers were being encouraged to keep bass under 12 inches long in order to establish balance in the developing fish community.)
As Jason and I were leaving the lake with a bucket full of big sunfish and skinny bass, we ran into Carl Rude -- Conservation Agent (game warden) Supervisor for the North Central District. Carl was an intimidating man with an intimidating name; but he was my friend, and I knew he had a heart of gold. He jovially approached Jason, peered into his bucket of fish, acted impressed, and asked, "What ya got there young fella?" Jason did not hesitate. He looked WAY up at Carl, and in all sincerity he proudly proclaimed, "Walleye!"
Carl looked at me with eyes wide open, desperately trying to control himself, but he couldn't do it. He burst out laughing. And I'm not sure what tickled him most--the fact that the fishery biologist's own son couldn't identify a fish correctly, or the fact that the fishery biologist's bass were so skinny that they LOOKED like walleyes to an innocent, honest two-year-old! I endured endless rounds of humiliation from Carl and the other agents on hand that day, but it now makes for some fond memories. A word to the wise though... ask for a second opinion on those bug IDs from Jason! (Just kidding, son, you're a better entomologist than I'll ever be.)
MORAL OF THE STORY: Take a kid fishing. You just never know where it may lead.