For a teen-ager, acquiring a driver's license is a defining moment in life. It represents independence, responsibility and a degree of freedom that didn't exist when travel was limited to bicycles and tennis shoes.
That doesn't mean our sense of adventure was repressed throughout our youth. Thinking back, there were places we went and things we did that we will never forget.
For those of us who have grown up to become avid anglers, owning a boat is akin to a new lease on our fishing life. It opens up a world of destinations and opportunities that we previously only heard and dreamed about.
But again, that doesn't mean we weren't able to pursue our passion for fishing during our landlocked days. We found places to fish from shore or by wading that helped hone our angling skills and instilled a degree of fishing knowledge that lasts a lifetime.
I learned to cast jigs over rocky structure. I began to understand the subtleties of buoyancy and profile in a presentation. I learned how to read current during my early years fishing from the banks of local lakes and rivers. I learned how to use three-way rigs and how to fish a slip bobber, along with dozens of other skills that have served me well as a professional angler.
Actually, some of the best angling of the year occurs close to shore in the spring of the year. Many species of fish, including walleye, northern pike, bass, catfish, crappies and bluegills can be found in or near shallow water, often in places boats simply can't reach.
It's a great time of year to keep a rod and reel combo and a handful of lures in the car or truck for those quick stops on the way to work, during a lunch break or on the way home.
Its grass-roots fishing, plain and simple, and also a great way to spend quality time with the family or introduce new anglers to the sport. Turn it into a fishing picnic. Take the dog along for some exercise. Set up a couple of dead rods and play catch with the kids. Dig around in the shallows or move a few rocks and you'll unearth an educational experience in aquatic biology.
It always brings a smile to my face when I pass close by shore in my Triton 215X and get a big wave from a happy young angler. On the other hand, there are times when I'm competing in a big tournament and that smile turns to a frown when a shore angler lifts a heavy stringer from the water and I'm still trying to catch my first fish.
Here's a basic guide to shore fishing:
WHEN TO GO
Fish whenever you can, but keep in mind that May and early June are times of the year when a variety of species are close to shore.
Some fish, like walleyes and northern pike, are there in the spring to forage after completing their spawning ritual. Crappies spawn a little later than walleyes and northerns, but they'll be feeding shallow in preparation for procreation or staging for the spawn.
Bluegills and bass spawn even a bit later, so their interest in the shallows is largely food-related. It's a place they can find variety