According to the American Sportfishing Association, there are about 60 million anglers in the United States. Of those, about 75%, or 46 million, fish in a given year.
For perspective, if American anglers who fished this year broke away and founded their own country, it would rank thirtieth in population — behind Columbia and above Spain.
Factor in the attrition rate, which can be as high as 15% per year, and it’s a safe bet that most Americans have, at one time, been fishing.
If you were fortunate, you were one of them. You caught your first fish on a warm summer day with someone eternally there for you: Dad.
While time doesn’t wait for photo ops, you may even have an old picture of you holding that very first fish at 3 or 12 or 30 years old.
One thing that has remained unchanged over time is the experience that fishing brings — especially on Father’s Day.
Football is over, it’s too hot to work on cars or home repairs, and grilling isn’t an all-day activity. That leaves fishing.
You don’t need a lot of know-how to catch fish on Father’s Day. Early June marks the peak time for almost every species in lakes, rivers and streams, though high lakes and rivers are probably the most pleasant on a hot day.
Safe bets for a day on the water with Dad — especially if Dad is a casual angler — involve one of three options: hatchery trout, bullhead catfish or sunfish.
Sunfish and trout are a daylight affair, while catfish come out to play at night. Each has its merits, and neither you nor Dad needs to be an expert to catch them.
Trout and sunfish are pretty widely available.
You can find the trout stocking schedule online here: https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/trout/stocking-schedule. Simply input your region and filter the dates to see when fat planters were last stocked in your local put-and-take fishery.
Hatchery trout can be caught on worms or PowerBait or lures. Think like hatchery fish: small and shiny. Small spoons and spinners are ideal for hatchery trout. Simply cast and retrieve them — no tutorial required.
Sunfish are also widely available.
Cast small jigs tipped with worm and slowly retrieve or fish the same under a bobber. Bobbers are great for beginners.
If Dad had to work, or you had other plans during the day, consider a night outing for catfish.
Bullheads are going to be the most likely bet, so focus on smaller gear and leave the mondo catfish gear at home unless you know there are monsters afoot. Err, afin.
Bullheads will eat any bait, including worms or PowerBait, but small frozen minnows about 1 or 2 inches in length are your best bet for getting good-sized fish.
Part of the experience of night fishing involves making a fire, bringing the ingredients for s’mores and telling stories, laughing, playing music or trying to scare the most gullible ones around the fire.
If fishing is really in the background, buy a bait bell. This will ring when you get a hit, so you don’t have to leave the fire except to reel in the next catfish.
Get out and fish
Regardless, you can have a great time with Dad, Grandpa or even Great-Grandpa in any of these low-impact fishing trips. Consider making a day (or night) of it, and bring snacks, drinks and — if you’re confident — the supplies to make dinner out of your catch.
Just be sure to check fishing regulations to make sure you don’t overharvest.
Top the evening off some fillets over the campfire, as you tell Dad how much he means to you. The butter will sear the fish, and the quality time will sear a pleasant memory into your mind.
Campfire dinner sidebar
Turn that catch into a campfire dinner with a big, cast-iron skillet.
Grab one baker potato per person. Poke some holes in the potatoes, wrap them in foil and put them at the edge of the fire once you’re ready to start your meal. Proximity to flame will determine whether they take 15 minutes or an hour to cook.
Typically, two to five fillets per person will be enough — depending on the size of the fish.
In addition to fish, potatoes, the skillet and a few gallon-sized plastic bags, you’ll need plates, two sticks of butter, two whole lemons, a few cups of flour, salt, black pepper, dill weed, an orange and a strong beer or two. I prefer to cook with stouts, but that’s up to you.
In a plastic bag, combine some flour, pepper and dill. For the lower table quality fishes (trout and freshwater bass), use more pepper and dill. For perch, sunfish and catfish, you won’t need as much. Close and shake the bag until mixed.
Slice one lemon, and squeeze it into a bag then add the pulpy slices. Do the same with the orange. Pour in the beer. Shake until mixed.
Combine the contents of both bags, and you have your batter.
Coat the skillet with a lot of butter and melt it.
Lightly dust each fillet in flour.
Dip the fillets in the mixture. This isn’t an exact science, but if it runs right off, it needs more flour. If it’s too thick, add more beer.
Place the battered fillet in the skillet and cook for about a minute per side, or until the meat flakes with a fork.
Slice the additional lemon and squeeze them atop fillets for extra zest.
Use the extra butter for the potatoes.
For bonus points, bring some asparagus and sear it in the pan with butter and lemon.