Family fun in Flint: Free fishing for kids

This is part of an occasional series on things for families to do in Flint. All tested by my family. For better or worse.  




“Oh, wow.”

And, with that, my 8-year-old son was hooked. He couldn’t help but be in awe of his perfect first cast with his first and never-before-used fishing rod. A smile spread across his face.

And mine.

I don’t fish: I don’t like the thought of putting a worm on a hook, let alone taking a fish off one. I don’t even eat fish. But Javon has been interested for a few years now, which was exacerbated when he and his fellow Cub Scouts received free fishing poles this year.

He wanted to go fishing. The truth is I couldn’t take him, because I didn’t really know how.

Then, we found out about the Kids Fishing Club for kids ages 4-17, hosted by Genesee County Parks and Recreation. “Bring a rod and reel if you have one, but come even if you don’t because we’ll have some that you can borrow,” read the e-mail.

“We’ll even supply the bait!”

Well, I figured they couldn’t make it any easier for us to give fishing a try … but then there was the moment of truth.

“Will you bait the hook?” I asked Alison Clemons, a recreational programmer leading the Kids Fishing Club event this month at Buell Lake County Park just northeast of Clio. It was the first of nine such events planned at Buell Lake as well as Flint Lake Park and McKinley Park/Thread Lake, both in Flint.

“Sure,” she laughed while pulling on a pair of gloves, “but I’m wearing these to do it.”

While registering young fishers and helping them set up their poles, Clemons admitted that handling the bait was her weakness. But soon she was out on the fishing dock, digging through a bag of worms and baiting hooks for the youngsters lined up behind her.

After watching her a few times, I managed to man-up and set the bait for my son and his friend, Camron. Then they tried their luck on the lake.

After my son’s initial casting success, I worked with Camron on his technique for a bit, and they soon were challenging each other to see who could fling their hook the farthest—like kids do. 

But with no nibbles, they decided to change location to an area where the dock cast a shadow on the water and flashes of fish could be seen below the surface.

Here their patience was tested, as the little fish got tantalizingly close, even stealing the worm right off the hook.

The boys soon were debating whether it was best to cast a line or just let it fall into the area where they could see the fish. Then they discussed switching to a colored hook, thinking it would be more attractive. After only an hour, they were already talking like they were experts—like kids do.

Then, finally, a bite!

Unfortunately, it came on the other side of the dock, where Kelsey Quinney of Flint pulled in a fish – it was only a few inches long, but it was a catch. Clemons, probably more excited than Kelsey, ran over to take a picture, remove the hook from the fish, and then release it back to the lake.

Javon and Cameron decided to change bait to match what Kelsey used—a waxworm. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bait container and found not a worm, but a caterpillar—the larvae of the wax moth.

The young men were energized and back at it. Casting and reeling and talking and urging the fish to bite. One time they inadvertently crossed their fishing lines, but with advice from park staffer Montana Bishop, recovered without a snag. So, of course, they started to deliberately cross their lines and laugh—like kids do.

As the event came to a close, I looked around at the parents, grandparents and friends sharing a beautiful day with their kids. No phones or televisions. Just a quiet morning on the lake, celebrating perfect casts and anticipating the time when a bobber will dip to signal something on the line. We didn’t catch a fish, but we still had plenty of fun.

It was time to go. But not without one more cast, one more chance, and a promise to keep trying until they get it right—like kids do.

The Kids Fishing Club is open to children from 4 to 17 years old. Youth participants do not need a fishing license. The monthly events run 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.:
  • Buell Lake County Park (14098 N. Genesee Road, Clio): July 8 and August 12
  • Flint Park Lake Park (1100 block of Stewart off Dupont, Flint): June 17, July 15 and August 19
  • McKinley Park/Thread Lake (3102 Collingwood Parkway, Flint): June 24, July 22 and August 26
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