I've been thinking a lot about how it was when I started fishing. It was a lot different back then. My grandparents lived through the depression, raising families in a subsistence world. They farmed, gardened, hunted and fished. Hunting and fishing for them wasn't sport, it was a means of putting protein on the table, protein that was hard to come by. There was no catch and release, either it was big enough to eat or it was more bait, nothing got thrown back.
My parents grew up in the depression and they were an integral part of the subsistence program. They worked from daylight to dawn. They picked acres of cotton, pulled mountains of corn, hoed weeds for months on end. These were children, but they were workers, and the work they did was directly tied to the success and survival of their family. Hunting and fishing might have been a bit more relaxing than chopping cotton, but not by much. If they didn't come home with fish or game, they might not eat that night. Pressure and lots of it. And they taught me to fish, and while fishing when they were teaching me was more for relaxation than it had been in their youth, it was still practiced the same way. Fishing put food on the table. Hunting did too.
My generation didn't have that family survival pressure on us as children. We weren't part of the family survival system at all. We went to school, watched television, and played games. That's just one generation difference but it's the difference between the 1930's and the 1950's. When we went hunting or fishing, it was a recreational thing. But we did bring home food for the family, and we did get that ego boost that comes from contributing directly to dinner on the table. We did get those looks or recognition for a job well done, and we did get to watch as our catch was consumed by our family and the looks and sounds of satisfaction as that catch was consumed with gusto. That was a tremendous thing, a big big thing, for a child that otherwise was just an appendage to a family.
Today's generation isn't much different than mine - they play different games, but that's about it. Yeah we were rougher and tougher and played outside more, but we still were just playing. Except when we were bringing home the bacon.
And that has all been running through my mind like a hamster on a wheel. I take my grandkids fishing when I can, but it's catch and release fishing. I'm thinking now that I've been cheating my grandkids out of something very important by doing that. I'm thinking now that the right thing to do is take them fishing - for our supper. Explain to them that what we catch is what we eat that night. Put just a little pressure on them, not much mind you, but a bit - and then keep every single fish that is legal to keep, and then clean it and eat it, that night. I think I owe them that feeling of bringing home the bacon, of contributing to the dinner table in a direct way. They could use the ego boost that comes from seeing their family enjoy the fruits of their labor. I know of no other way for them to get that, and it's an important thing. I think maybe I've been doing wrong, and I'm going to fix it.
I think we might eat a lot of bluegills, and that's okay cause I think they are great eating. Besides, wild fish are just about the last clean food a normal person can come by. Not pumped full of hormones and anitbiotics and fed turds from other animals. Wild fish, if caught in clean water, may be the only real food left for most of us to gather. Teaching my grandkids to eat wild fish isn't a bad thing either.