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Frank Ruczynski

I've spent the last twenty-five years chasing the fish that swim in our local waters and I've enjoyed every minute of it! During that time, I've made some remarkable friends and together we've learned a great deal by spending loads of time on the water.

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July 28, 2013

Summertime and the Fishin's Easy

by Frank Ruczynski

Why do so many of us make fishing more complicated than it is? Over the last few days, I've hit many of the local freshwater fishing holes with my two youngest kids and I've learned a lot by watching and listening to them. Some of our recent experiences have me questioning what it means to be a good angler; maybe fishing is a little easier than I thought it was?

Much of the 2013 summer season has been tough as it seemed like we had one of two weather options: heavy rains or near 100-degree air temperatures. Thankfully, it seems like we've broken the pattern and better days are ahead of us. Sunshine-filled days in the 80s are welcome as we're all dying to get out on the water.

Fortunately, I have the luxury of spending the summer with my kids and they like fishing enough to tag along with their old man. While my youngsters put in an effort on most trips, more times than not, they're goofing around until their rod bends. We always have a good time, but I can't count the times I wondered, "How do they get so lucky?"

On a recent trip, my 11-year-old son, Jake, joined me for the day at a local, public lake. Most of the time, we'll start by fishing the spillway creek as the moving water creates oxygen and a better environment for summertime fishing. Some of these little holes are so full of fish you could scoop them up in your hands. As soon as our bait touches the water, a fish is on the hook. After a few fish are caught, they seem to grow even more aggressive as they go into feeding mode and become highly competitive. Our bait container was a few feet over by the first hole so I wanted to show Jake how we didn't need bait to catch these fish. I grabbed a small green leaf from an overhanging tree and put a little piece on my hook. Sure enough, I had a sunfish on just seconds after my offering hit the water. Jake followed along and quickly started catching fish on whatever he grabbed and threaded onto his hook. Soon after, we were hooking sunfish on bare hooks and laughing about those "stupid fish."

Jake working the spillway

Later that afternoon, we made our way over to another lake. It was my first time at this venue so I worked the perimeter to see what the structure looked like. Jake sat by the spillway and happily caught sunfish after sunfish on worms. As I moved a little further away, I could hear Jake yelling or singing; I wasn't sure what he was doing, but whatever it was grabbed my attention. I headed back over to the spillway just in enough time to see him hoist a nice-sized largemouth bass onto the bank. He looked at me with a big smile and said, "Dad, this bass just ate a little piece of grass I put on the hook." We both started laughing and admired the bass for a few seconds before I took a few pictures and sent it on its way.

Jake's grass bass

After Jake released his bass, I wondered about the guy that fished a half-hour in the very same location with all kinds of fancy equipment and caught nothing. I couldn't help but think about how "lucky" Jake was to catch that bass. We all know sunfish aren't difficult to catch, but I know lots of guys, including myself, that spend a ton of money on fancy lures for largemouth bass, while my 11-year-old son is here catching them on a little blade of grass that he plucked from the bank of the lake.

Catching fish on a variety of offerings doesn't come as any earth-shaking headline, but I think some of us may take fishing and ourselves a little too seriously sometimes, I know I have. We've caught weakfish and striped bass on bare lead heads, tog on soft-plastic baits, and largemouth bass, perch, and pickerel on banana peels. I'm not suggesting that it's a preferred way to fish for these species, although I may be onto something with the banana peels, but it does provide enough evidence that fishing isn't always rocket science.

Going bananas

Now, this may ruffle a few feathers, but honestly, how much skill does it take to throw a bunker chunk or clam 30 yards into the suds. I know lots of anglers that feel like they're "special" because they caught a big striper on a clam or bunker chunk. You could take it as step further and add the diehard jetty guys, as I'm aware of quite a few rock piles that only require an angler to be there and toss plugs, almost aimlessly, into the water. The same could be said about most other types of fish, no matter the location.

Frankie's big catch wasn't so difficult thanks to a tip from a friend

Don't get me wrong, there are times, lots of times, when fishing seems so specialized that a PhD may be required. Nothing will ever compare to the knowledge and experience gained from time on the water, but I'm beginning to think those types of anglers are slowly dwindling.

For every angler out there finding a bite and putting their time in, there are probably a hundred others waiting for his or her report. It doesn't seem to be so much about what you know as it does about where and who you know. For example, I can't imagine my children are better anglers than I was, yet they've caught 100 times the fish I caught at their age. As a young boy, I fished all day, every day and if for some reason I couldn't be on the water, I'd be watching fishing shows or reading magazines about fishing. My kids catch more fish than I did at their age simply because I put them in the right locations at the right times.

Julia hooked a good one

So is fishing really that difficult? I guess it depends on whom you ask. For me, fishing was difficult as I learned mostly on my own with a little help from Jimmy Houston, Roland Martin, and Field and Stream. If you ask my kids, fishing is easy. As I'm writing this, I asked Jake if fishing was difficult and he responded with a smile and quick, "No." When I asked him why he felt that fishing was easy he said, "Because you show me what to do and I do it." It's summertime and the fishin's easy; well, at least it is for some of us.

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