His Own Dock
Guest Blog by: Eric Allee 3/25/2016
To the untrained eye it looked like an old well-built dock that’s main purpose was to run a small paddle boat operation. To young anglers living in the nearby neighborhoods it was an iconic imagination inspiring thing of beauty. It was also a place where the playing field was leveled… at school it wasn’t hard to see who had money and who didn’t, but to the fish we’re all the same. On the dock if you could catch more bass than the kid next to you it didn’t matter who was wearing fancy clothes.
The dock on a Saturday was lined up with bikes almost like Harley’s outside of a biker bar. Sometimes you’d have to wiggle your way in just to get a small window directly in front of yourself to cast, but no one seemed to mind and none of us ever worried much about crowding each other. Collectively we didn’t know much about fishing other than we all loved it… we could all catch a couple bluegill but convincing one of those big bass to eat something other than those bluegill was a tall order. Every now and then one of us would catch a big bass or a decent channel cat and be king for a day.
Whenever one of us would catch a bigger bass or a channel cat they’d always end up on a stringer just to the west of the dock. We’d all gather around and just watch the fish struggle to swim off while being bound by a stringer. I’d like to b.s. you here and say I felt like we should let those fish go to improve the fishery, but that’s not how I felt. Back then when you caught a nice fish it went home to show the folks it was that simple. Coming home with a fish on a stringer made you feel like the man of the house… even if it was only for a minute or two. I’m a huge advocate for selective harvest now but I’ll never deny there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with bringing fish home to your family. I can still remember flying home on my bike smiling from ear to ear knowing that tonight I was going to help my dad put food on the table. My folks didn’t quite have the same excitement when I barreled through the door with a dead fish, but they tolerated it.
When I sat down to write this I had a specific memory in mind, but the truth is thinking back to that dock makes me sad. Not sad for my childhood because it was awesome I was able to experience the freedom of a summer without a damn thing to do and a bike with a decent chain and two good tires. The reason it makes me sad it kids today flat out don’t have that and I’m a part of the problem. I struggle with letting my son go to the park a few blocks away… much less let him ride his bike across half the city to fish with a bunch of strangers all day. That’s what I did from about his age until I was old enough to drive and those memories will always be with me.
Am I helicopter parenting my sons youth away? To this point no, but if I continue to keep him next to the nest without having the freedom to spread his wings a bit I could be. The thought of my son finding his own spot like I found so many years ago fills me with joy… knowing the only way he can find his dock is alone is hard. Truth is if my parents would have been with me every time I fished when I was his age it would have been much safer. I wouldn’t have tried chew for the first time, wouldn’t have gotten into a fist fight over stolen night crawlers, and wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for busting into the paddle boats and taking one for a joyride. That being said if it wasn’t for those summers and those memories I wouldn’t be me, and who knows if I’d love fishing as much as I do now. Fishing even at a young age always gave me a sense a freedom that I can’t seem to stay away from… I think to this point fear has kept me from letting my own flesh and blood feel that freedom.
Funny how writing works… I sat down to write about a few memories from a couple decades ago, and I end up realizing I’ve been getting in the way of my son making his own memories. Like any valuable life lesson somehow someway fishing ends teaching me.
Fishing has been a passion of mine ever since I can remember. I’ve committed myself to helping others not only catch more and bigger fish, but also enjoy themselves more while doing so.
Blog content © Eric Allee
Ajax5240, CO 3/26/2016 9:06:38 AM
Different times no doubt. It's too bad that our kids won't get the ability to disappear all day on a bike with the only rule being that you are home before its dark. I have great memories of the woods with friends, and will do all I can to make sure my kid gets some quality time in nature. Great story!
HRTKD, CO 3/26/2016 9:32:02 AM
My two boys got that freedom at Boy Scout campouts. Between meals the camp site was plenty quiet while they went exploring. Sure, it was only one weekend a month. But it was the best I could do.
ultralightfanatic, CO 3/26/2016 10:46:13 AM
Good read sir. Brought back some memories for me. Used to ride my bike out of town to a friends family's farm ponds with some very nice lmb and gills. Good times for a kid. Today, not so much. All we can do is try to keep our kids and grand-kids safe, but not shackle them too much. Tough to do.
ol Uncle Marty, CO 3/26/2016 11:57:12 AM
Thank You Eric. Your article evoked all kinds of good memories as a kid. Fishing is an adventure and a powerful life emotion. Helping kids to learn to fish or succeed at fishing is unleashing some great future adventures in their life. Great article. Fishing is powerful!
Smelly, CO 3/26/2016 5:11:58 PM
You can't be like your parents, because we live in a much different world. Let me tell you how I started fishing. My parents owned a restaurant most of their working lives. We lived too far from family for me to stay with somebody. So it was go to school, and hang out on the property (ours ) out back. The property had a stream running through it . Guys were always fishing it. Mom, tired of me being underfoot , gave me a rod reel combo ( the old green South Bend one ), some hooks, and told me to go catch some fish ! Off I went and struggle I did ! Seeing my determination , those old boys " Adopted " me. Some of these guys were grubby, grstled , meat fishermen. That didn't have what you would call regular bathing habits ! Still they took me " under their wing " and showed me the ins and outs of fishing. Over time, they turned me into a fisherman, and gave me a gift that has lasted a lifetime. And oh yes , I was all of 7 years old at the time this started ! That type of " parenting " would make a parent today die from fright ! And sad to say rightfully so ! The issues parents face today, never even crossed our parents minds ! I understand what you are saying. But you may need to find some sort of compromise with your son. And yes, I too think it's a sad commentary !
FISHRANGLER, CO 3/26/2016 8:34:45 PM
I Like it
Lloyd Tackitt, TX 3/28/2016 8:05:40 AM
No one should give parental advice that includes the possibility of harm coming to their kids - so I won't. I was a free range child, as were most of the kids of my generation (born in the early 50's) and reaped the benefits of being off away from supervision all day long, off long distances, no phones or anything for contact. While most of the parents of my generation reined their children in closer I let mine roam free. They survived. They built those types of memories mentioned here. I don't think there are any more child predators out there now than there were back then, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I was lucky. Maybe my children were lucky. Maybe that luck is gone these days. You'd probably get in trouble for child neglect if you let your children act as we did, as my kids did. You read about it now and then, parent arrested because their kid went to the park across the street alone. Sucks to be a kid these days.
shiverfix, CO 3/28/2016 9:27:16 AM
I'm not going to post my children's habits and what we allow on an open forum on the internet, because there is no need to give information to someone who would harm them. But our kids have a lot of freedom. Our daughters both have cars (one is over 18), and our son has a bike he rides everywhere. Honestly, in many ways, I feel our kids are safer than they were in my day, because of the fact they they all have cell phones. In our day we could have crashed our bikes in a field and had no way to contact anyone. Also, I am not afraid of the boogieman. I can tell you from personal experience that it isn't a stranger that is going to hurt your kid. It is going to be someone they know. It's going to be a babysitter, a coach, the dad of one of your kid's friends. Don't spend so much time worrying about the stranger that you miss what is more likely to happen. I worry my son is going to be hit by a car, not that he is going to be abducted into one. Statistically, the likelihood of that happening is very slim, and he knows what to do if that happens. So, in conclusion, my kids have as much, maybe even more freedom than I did, and with them carrying cell phones I know I can get ahold of them if I need to.