by George Poveromo

Lindsay and Megan PoveromoNOTE: The following feature originally appeared in the April, 1993 issue of Salt Water Sportsman magazine. It's just as timely today. Lindsay Poveromo is now 24 years old, married and with a child due in July, 2011. George claims she's still the "perfect kid" and has no gray hair that would indicate otherwise. He also thoroughly enjoys spending time with his 14 year old daughter - Megan, and taking her boating and fishing.  Megan, incidentally, has starred in four TV episodes with her dad.  Start Them Early!

I was one of those kids who couldn't get enough of fishing. As I recall, the blame
rests with a six-ounce mangrove snapper tending its turf underneath a Marathon, Florida, dock. I was seven years old, on a family vacation and trying to understand the workings of the $4.50 toy fishing rods Ol' Dad bought for my brother and me some 40 miles back at a Key Largo department store.

I'm sure the plastic outfits were more of a bribe to keep us quiet and well behaved for the remainder of the drive than they were for fishing. That became evident the following morning, when he and my uncle slipped off to jig for kingfish! After a little horseplay, my brother set aside his now-crippled outfit and began frolicking in the swimming pool. I waited impatiently for the boat's return so someone could show me how to use my new rod and reel. The boat eventually docked, and I was awestruck by the kings and a 40-pound dolphin that appeared to be three times my size.

The happy duo began cleaning the catch and tossing scraps overboard, rallying the local mangrove snapper population. Noting my interest in the schooling fish, Dad tied a sinker and tiny hook onto my kite-string line, baited it with a small piece of kingfish, and showed me how and where to cast. The strike came instantly, and the pull and vibration telegraphing through my arms, not to mention the sight of a snapper splashing from the water and flopping onto the dock, influenced my life from that day on.

Introducing someone to fishing and boating is as easy as arranging a trip, but unfortunately it doesn't always work out. In my experience, people fall into four groups after they make their first trip. The first group comprises the "disasters," people who aren't cut out for the sport. They succumb to seasickness or incredible boredom and swear never again to step off dry land. The second group includes those who enjoy themselves as long as somebody else provides the gear and bait, and absorbs all the expenses. The third group is the flash-in-the-pan types who become obsessed with the sport, purchase the best in everything, then suddenly sell out to pursue another interest.

Then there are the die-hards - the true backbone of the sport. They're a dedicated bunch with a deep-rooted appreciation for fishing and boating, always finding the time and means to be on the water, regardless of economic conditions. It's in their blood and they're in it for the long haul.

The future of fishing and boating lies in creating that 'hardcore" nucleus of
Anglers.  If we want our children to develop a fond appreciation for the water, like we have,  it's vital to plant the seed at an early age. It's not an overnight undertaking, and it'll require plenty of cultivating to be successful.

Shortly after my introduction, my passion for learning more about the sport netted me a fancy spinning outfit, casting lessons in the backyard, and freshwater bass excursions with my dad and grandfather. A year later I was a regular on Dad's boat, learning all about it as we fished the Marquesas Islands for grouper and snapper, and Biscayne Bay for trout, snook and tarpon. My insatiable devotion nearly wore out dad, and I never figured out who was happier when I turned 16 and began driving and boating on my own, although I have a hunch.

I now have a daughter who shares an interest in boating and fishing. Her curiosity can be traced back to my business, where at the age of two she began noticing fishing pictures and fish mounts in my office.    I organized a tackle box, bought her a small spinning outfit and introduced her to the sport in a nearby canal, bobber fishing for bluegills and oscars.

Lindsay Poveromo at the wheel of the MARC VI in 1992.Lindsay soaked up the experiences and demanded stories on the places traveled to. Having outgrown the canal dock two years later, she was ready for her first boat trip. I primed the experience by showing her maps of Biscayne Bay, explaining what it was and the types of fish that live there. I showed her where we were going and then told her a bit about the boat. The excitement was there. Making a youngster feel like part of the team and not merely a passenger will go a long way toward nurturing their interest. Give them projects and request their help. Lindsay's in charge of packing lunches, drinks and sunscreen the evening before, sorting out her tackle box, laying out her fishing clothes and helping me load the boat and wash it afterwards.

Kids love to feel useful, and it's important to carry that sense of responsibility over to the water. Even if you don't need assistance in launching, give them a line and let them help secure the boat while you park the vehicle. Have them accompany you into the bait shop, checking to see if they need anything for their tackle box (provided it's not a Penn International 50). It's amazing how much mileage you can get from a box of hooks, two bobbers and a Butterfinger candy bar!

One of my pet peeves, thanks to growing up in South Florida with its hordes of boaters, is ignorance of boating safety. Most ten year olds are aware of the basic rules associated with automobiles, so developing a working knowledge of boating isn't that complicated. For instance, Lindsay knows it's a cardinal rule not to board a boat without her life jacket. She's fully aware of its purpose and why she must wear it at all times. She
was given this information in a light and easy manner.

Making this too frightening can scare some kids away from venturing out. Purchase a life jacket that's comfortable, and let them field-test it in a swimming pool or at the beach. When demonstrated properly, wearing one becomes as natural as buckling a seat belt. Also, make kids aware of the propellers in case you take them swimming. Tell them why the boat operator wears a kill switch, and show them exactly where and how to sit in a boat that's under way. Point out the dangers of dangling their feet over the bow of a running boat.

Their boating experience should be an adventure and a learning process. Point out the water life and scenery along the way. Parts of the coast, islands, river junctions, and wetlands we take for granted are of great interest to kids, especially if birds and other animals are present. They'll become familiar with the diverse surroundings, develop an appreciation for the habitat and learn to distinguish various birds and fishes. It's an education in nature that a school book can't match.

Also, explain the meanings of different navigational markers, rules of the road, and how to operate a boat safely, including placing a call on the VHF. One may consider all that information overwhelming to a youngster, but I can assure you that they absorb it like a sponge. In fact, Lindsay now points out boaters running in no-wake zones, operating on the wrong side, or racing past an anchored boat. She even knows how to handle the VHF if she ever needs to.

Starting them young also means letting them develop a feel for the boat. Little by little I'm letting Lindsay take the wheel and use the throttles. The power surging through the steering system and the fact that she is operating the boat still overwhelms her a little at this stage, but she is slowly growing accustomed to it. By gradually being exposed to the driving chores, she'll have a basic understanding of how a boat feels and operates that will pay dividends in the long run.

Kids also marvel at electronics, such as a sonar or radar. A friend and I took Lindsay dolphin fishing off the coast. Seeing the interest she had in the radar, we explained what it was and how it worked. A short while later she was comparing the boats on the screen to their actual position on the water in front of her.

Fishing is no different than boat riding. Take time to describe the species you're going after and how to catch them. Review the surroundings and why the fish are there (e.g. trout over grass beds, dolphin under weed-lines). Keep the angling effort simple, and touch on the need for conservation. We have a rule where the only fish kept are those for dinner that week. There's no stockpiling the freezer, and most of the fish are released. By educating them to the environment and conservation at an early age, you'll help them grow up knowing it's the right thing to do. Ditto with pollution. Candy wrappers, cans and other refuse are kept on board in a trash bag that's later disposed of in a marina garbage bin.

Megan Poveromo with a largemouth bass prior to releasing it in a lake by her home in 1998.LET KIDS DO THEIR OWN THING
If you're going to be successful in instilling a true interest, let the kids set their own pace. This is unquestionably the key in making it work. Remember, they're with you to have fun and experience the surroundings. As long as they're enjoying themselves, their minds are open and learning. Insist on a long and regimented day, however, and they'll associate that with boating, in which case you'll run the risk of turning them against the sport.

It's that easy. Such an occasion occurred when Lindsay and I arrived at a favorite trout hole. On the first pass, she caught a four pound fish and I took a three and a half pounder. On the next pass we released a two pounder and a three pound Mangrove snapper, and lost another plump trout. The bite was hot, but Lindsay had had enough. She wanted to go boating and exploring on the islands and protested against making "just one
more drift." Ordinarily, you would have had to pry me off the beds, but it was her trip. We left the feeding fish to do her thing, since it's important for her to develop her own unique appreciation for the water.

Starting them young, instilling a value of the environment and letting them participate in your boating adventures is the surest way to plant the sport in their heart. Once it's there, the boating and fishing industry will have a loyal friend - and customer - for life.