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Bernie Kuntz: Hook-and-bobber fishing

It has been my good fortune to fly-fish for trout in dozens of creeks and rivers in the West, and to fish for salmon and steelhead in British Columbia and Alaska, but the truth is I never have had more fun fishing than I did with a quill bobber and a No. 6 or No. 8 hook baited with an earthworm dug from a garden and placed in coffee grounds in a tin can. And unlike fly-fishing, bait-fishing is the perfect way to teach a youngster to fish and enjoy it.

I'd pinch a split shot onto the line (4 to 6-pound test will do), and depending on water depth, clip the bobber onto the line 3-1/2 to five feet above the hook. Cast gently into a slow-moving river, pond, reservoir or lake, and you are bound to catch fish.

In my day we caught bullheads (watch out for their spines or you will suffer some pain!), yellow perch, bluegills, carp, chub minnows, and probably some other species that I have forgotten—all on that simply hook-and-bobber rig. Today one might catch crappies and white bass in places where they were non-existent when I was a kid.

When they are older and more experienced, youngsters can learn to cast lures and even flies, but start them simply, allowing them to see the bobber dancing on the surface, and then plunge out of sight into the depths. If that doesn't get their blood racing they'll never be an angler.

North Dakota is loaded with lakes, reservoirs, sloughs and slow-flowing rivers where "kid fishing" is perfect. Not all locales have such opportunities for youngsters. When I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming the only decent spot close by to take a youngster hook-and-bobber fishing was up on Pole Mountain at the beaver ponds where one could catch brook trout.

When I lived in Juneau, Alaska hook-and-bobber fishing was non-existent so we made the boat do the fishing for us—we trolled cut plugs or herring and also hootchie rigs baited with rubber squids and a piece of herring. Add a 12-ounce sinker and a flasher, and this garish mess of terminal gear, while cumbersome, would catch coho salmon very well in August. We'd set the hook and hand it to the youngster.

The high lakes in the West have wonderful fishing, but most lakes that offer quality fishing are so far back in the mountains that it is impractical to expect a youngster to hike that far.

Try the simply hook-and-bobber this summer and bring along a young person or two. Watching that bobber bounce and dance on the surface before it disappears into the dark water is the essence of fishing and I never have tired of it.