For many years my husband has volunteered with Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stocking fish in the York area. Last year, he invited our then almost 4-year-old granddaughter to accompany him, and I went along to keep her safe and out of the men’s way.
The stocking is an intense couple hours of following the tank truck, and scrambling with buckets of fish to appropriate spots on the designated streams. With a young child there are added issues such as getting in and out of a car seat, in and out of a car parked in sometimes precarious positions on busy, narrow, winding two-lane country roads, maneuvering up and down steep, leaf covered, rocky slopes on short legs, and still keeping up with the pace of the men and the truck. To be late is to possibly lose the caravan.
My plan to take pictures of the entire operation was thwarted by the necessity to hustle along, holding her hand on most of the descents, but we had a wonderful morning. One of the highlights was a wristband the ‘fishman’ gave her. In the afternoon we returned to one of the sites, where, although not successful in finding a hungry fish, we enjoyed tramping around in the woods. She loved the adventure, we loved the adventure, and this year we were all enthused to repeat it. She was particularly eager to witness the ‘flying fish’ when in less accessible locations some of the men would throw the buckets of fish from a bridge or culvert.
A year makes a big difference in a child! At almost five, she is not the little girl who first made the trip. Dressed in her tick-proofed ‘into the woods’ clothes, wearing her fishing hat and winter boots, she was much more capable of climbing up and down the banks.
The most fun was helping Grandpa release his bucketful of trout at water’s edge. Unless, perhaps, the most fun was running across grassy meadows or clambering up and down the banks to find the perfect spot to put the fish while Grandpa was at the truck filling the bucket.
Although she wanted to always lead the way, I was not comfortable at some of the stops. I convinced her that it was better for me to go first in the more perilous places by explaining that if I were in front and she slipped I could catch her, but if she were first and I slipped I might squish her. That made sense, and she could always lead on the way back to the car.
Near the end of the trip, we were parked along a secluded brook with stockers working on both sides of the road when a woman slowed her car to shout, “That looks like the opposite of fishing!” For the rest of the day I thought about the comment.
Fishermen and hunters are the original environmentalists. We need the habitat, we need the species we seek, and for decades we have worked and paid to not only maintain, but also to restore both.
My husband has volunteered for a variety of projects designed to improve a self-sustaining population of fish, as well as working to encourage a self-sustaining population of fishermen by teaching casting and fly tying to children and college students. At one stocking point he pointed out the design failure of the culvert, which, even with the relatively high water the rainy spring has given us, was above the stream level, thus preventing fish from getting upstream. Those stocked or born above the culvert will be able to go downstream, but they will not be able to come back.
We stock so people can fish waters that held trout before civilization changed their home. Georgie helps her Grandpa because the process itself is a lot of fun! Also, she knows that stocking fish means there will be some for people to catch. And, Georgie loves to catch fish! (Obviously, a genetic trait.) Tight lines.