When we were at the Lodge last month, Grandpa and Will and I probably went fishing almost every morning and many afternoons as well. Unlike his fishing experiences from last year, Will was much more involved in the actual fishing process this time around. He helped us reel in a number of fish, touched most of them, and made many decisions about whether to keep the fish or "throw them back into the drink". He even had his own "Will-sized" fishing pole - an icefishing pole that we rigged up for him with a bobber. He actually caught a few fish with it that Grandpa and I helped land.
Most of the time you could tell he was a bit scared of the fish, especially when they flopped around. We had a near catastrophe when I caught a really big northern pike when we were out one morning (so big you wouldn't even believe it, of course the camera was not with us...). We had to use the net to bring it in, and as I was trying to get the hook out while it was laying on the bottom of the boat, it flopped around pretty good and slapped its tail on Will's leg a little bit. He had a meltdown - he was shaking and sobbing and clinging to me so the fish wouldn't be able to get him. Grandpa and I did our best for damage control, but he was really upset, eventually we had to head in. Even though the fish didn't do much more than slime him, we spent the rest of the trip rebuilding Will's courage with the fish. One way we were able to do this was to tell him it was very important that we find the slimiest fish in the lake. So he eventually got around to touching each of the (little) fish that we caught to check them for sliminess. Note, most of the time Grandpa or I needed to be "thumbing" the fish - what Gramps is doing in the pic above left - for Will to be sure that they weren't moving and were safe to check for slime.
Possibly due to the fish-leg incident, Will became much less interested in fishing with his pole and discovered it's fun to throw the boat rope into the drink and "reel it in". He kept telling us about all the big imaginary fish he was catching with it.
Here's where the fishing really got fun. We convinced AJ and Erin - who has a horrible fish-phobia but is a really good sport about it - to come out with us one afternoon. We weren't hitting many fish when suddenly Jenna hooked and landed a nice-sized crappie (proudly displaying in the pic above, while Will cowers in the front of the boat and Erin apparently jumped out of the boat). She had found a hole and we caught loads of big fish for the next few hours. Even mom! But Erin always needed help landing the fish - once she could see it on the end of her line, it was too close for her so Will and I had to reel it in. We credit AJ with us catching enough fish to have a fabulous fish fry later that week.
Here is one of Erin's trophies: a nice rock bass. You can't tell from the picture but her teeth are chattering with fear :). Will checked the fish for sliminess as Erin gave her approval.
I am so proud of this picture - by the end of the trip, we had built Will's fishing confidence back up to the point that not only was he touching the fish, he actually thumbed one by his big boy self!