Go fish for reel, relaxing summer fun

Photo by Kolleen Long Berks County abounds with beautiful fishing sites, like this one near a country farm. If you dont have access to a private pond or stream, dont despair. Popular public sites include Kercher Creek and Kernsville Dam in Hamburg, and Blue Marsh Lake or Lake Ontelaunee in Leesport.
Photo by Kolleen Long Children love to fish and are proud of all their catches. Bring along a camera when you go fishing, especially if you plan to release the fish back to their habitats. Other musts for a successful fishing outing include long pants, walking shoes, and simple fishing tackle and bait.

Summer is rushing by, and our family realized this week we had yet to enjoy a favorite family activity together: fishing. Fishing is something most children enjoy from the time they are old enough to hold a rod (and parents are comfortable having them near sharp hooks). It combines some of our favorite things about summer: lots of fresh air, time to relax, beautiful natural views and, of course, a healthy dose of competition.

So, this Friday, we packed up our gear for a fun fishing outing. Its important to note that gear can be as complex, or simple, as you wish. You can pick up rods at a big box store or specialty shop, or you can find a decent used rod at a yard sale or flea market. If youre new to fishing, ask a friend if you can borrow his rod; he might even offer to fish with you! When you go, make sure to dress appropriately: long pants, sturdy shoes and a hat are all good ideas.

My son got a decent rod for his birthday a few years back, and he also has a compact stool that doubles as a tackle box. My husband carries his rod and tucks extra hooks and gear into his hat brim, while our daughter simply grabs a lightweight branch, plucks off any obtrusive leaves or twigs, and ties on a piece of fishing line with a hook (read on to see how surprisingly effective this low-tech approach can be).

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First, we headed to a store and got a license for the grownups (or, in our case, for my husband). An annual fishing license for an adult (age 16-64) runs $22.70 in Pennsylvania. No license is required for those under 16; senior citizens qualify for a reduced rate. So a single license, along with a small jar of bait, put us slightly over our usual $20 budget. However, my husband can use the license for other outings the rest of the year.

Our family is fortunate in that a friend has offered us the use of her pond any time wed like. If you dont have access to a private pond or stream, there are still plenty of options for fishing. Hamburg has some great public sites, including Kaercher Creek Lake and along the Kernsville Dam. Nearby Lake Ontelaunee has great shore fishing, and anglers with boats like Blue Marsh Lake in Leesport. Typical fish found in Berks County include bass, crappies, muskellunge (or muskies), sunnies and catfish. Trout are also around, but require a special license stamp.

And so - finally! - we fished. Our daughter needed a little assistance baiting her hook, then settled with her branch-rod on the edge of the pond. Within ten minutes, she shouted triumphantly and pulled in a nice-sized catfish. She posed proudly with the wriggly catch and then, with her fathers help, released it back into the pond. Shortly thereafter, her brother reeled in a catfish on his own.

A tranquil hour passed. Father and son enjoyed trying different baits to see what might tempt the fish. Our daughter eventually set her rod down and hunted for interesting bugs. I wandered around the pond, taking pictures of fish caught, children mugging for the camera and the beautiful sunset that unfolded across the field. By the time dusk settled in, the kids had caught several fish and we decided to reel in the rods and head for the truck.

To check out the rules and regulations about fishing across the state, to buy a license online or to locate a local place to get one, visit the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission online: fishandboat.com. Youngsters (8 to 12 years old) can also sign up here for a free quarterly magazine, PLAY (Pennsylvania League of Angling Youth). Need some tips? Looking for a good fishing spot? A great local site is greatdayoutdoors.com, which also highlights weather conditions and notes actively feeding fish in Berks County.