Dan Jacobsohn had no idea where his 7-year-old son, Theo, got the desire to go fishing, but he’d been talking about it for weeks and Jacobsohn indulged his son’s wish on a warm and sunny Father’s Day.
It turns out a friend at Elvehjem Elementary School planted the seed by writing a “how to” book on fishing.
“That’s why I’m so good,” Theo declared as he practiced casting on the lawn of the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monona, where the father and son were part of a group of families who spent a few hours Sunday learning to fish.
Since none of them had ever fished before, Jacobsohn’s wife, Gwen, found the event and thought it would be perfect. Theo’s 9-year-old brother, Max, came along, too.
“Participation in fishing really is dropping off,” said the nature center’s Alanna Medeari, “and fishing is a great way to bring the family together, spend some time outdoors doing something fun and also educational, too.”
It’s also a great way to facilitate conversations about local ecosystems and habitats, Medearis added. Plus, it was one of the activities the center’s namesake, conservationist Aldo Leopold, enjoyed most as a child.
The fishing clinic, now in its fifth year, was part of a month-long fishing theme the center is hosting through exhibits and activities.
Scott Laeser, an exhibit staff member at the center, gave the families an indoor primer on fishing, had them practice casting on grass, showed them how to dig for worms, and then took them out to a pond which sits on about an acre in back of the building. The center provided all the supplies.
The pond has bullheads and sunfish, Laeser said, and within minutes, Bobby Henkelmann, 7, and his brother, Gus, 4, had caught little bullheads.
The boys had never fished with their father, Mark Henkelmann, before, but have been coming to camp at the center the past couple of summers, when they may have learned to fish, their father said.
“The part they are the most scared of is the actual fish coming out of the water,” said Henkelmann, who works as a trainer at Epic Systems, although when they caught the fish later, neither boy flinched.
Laeser, 30, said he’s been fishing since he was a small boy. “It’s one of the first outdoor activities I was introduced to.”
Not only is fishing a great way to get children outdoors, it’s also an easy way to teach children about climate change, “and how climate impacts will and already are affecting outdoor activities and pastimes like fishing,” Laeser said.
Climate change will alter the abundance and distribution of fish species throughout the state, he said.
“Cold-water fish like trout won’t be able to survive in warmer waters and some species like the bullheads we are fishing for today could populate new areas, but to the detriment of other fish species,” Laeser said.
Laeser said he was introduced to fishing by his father, “and I think a lot of children are. But it could be a great Mother’s Day activity, too.”
As for Jacobsohn, who works at UW-Madison’s School of Business, his family made him breakfast for Father’s Day, and they all planned to go bowling later.
“Classic Wisconsin,” he said.