When I was a boy, given the choice, I would have rather gone fishing than to the library.
Reading was something I had to do at school. Summer was time for fun. You wouldn't catch me with a book in my hand June through August.
But looking back, I might have had a different attitude had somebody given me a book on a topic that I cared something about, such as fishing.
I guess I was just born too early, because now, fishing kids can enjoy a new series of mysteries featuring their favorite pastime.
The Fishing Kids Series, written by Stuart-based charter boat captain Mike Holliday, is geared for youngsters ages 6 to 10. Holliday, an outdoors writer who has also written several Florida fishing books geared toward adults, knows his audience. The 51-year-old father of three takes his offspring out in search of snook and tarpon every chance he gets.
"Kids just want to have fun," Holliday said. "I try to fish for species that provide a lot of action, like ladyfish and jacks.
"And we usually fish for a while, then take a break and go swimming or snorkeling," he added. "They will have plenty of time to take fishing more seriously when they get older."
The heroes of the series are two 10-year-old boys from Minnesota named Steve Pinner, a.k.a. "Spinner" and Bobby Ernest, who goes by the nickname "Bobber." They first appear in The Monster of White Bear Lake, and then resurface in his second book, The Mystery of Porpoise Point, which takes place in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
The heroine, 11-year-old Coral Skye loves to fish and snorkel and once landed a 45-pound mahi-mahi. "She's a spunky, independent, outdoorsy girl who knows all the best fishing spots from trips with her dad," Holliday writes. "She's tough, smart, compassionate, creative and has a never-give-up attitude."
Each book, available through FishingKids.com, has fewer than 100 pages, which makes them ideal to take along on a summer road trip, and costs $5.99. A third adventure, The Pirate of Creole Bay, takes place in Louisiana, where the boys meet a new friend called Shrimp.
The books are fun, informative and offer great life lessons, such as how to be a good steward for the environment and to appreciate all the great things that are free on this great planet Earth.
Holliday has lots of advice for parents who want to get their children started on a lifetime of fishing fun.
"Take the time to point out the things in the environment that we often take for granted," he said. "When you are on the water all the time it's easy to forget how special it is to see turtles, dolphin, starfish, conchs, horseshoe crabs and even jellyfish. But to kids, these creatures are new and magical."
Holliday believes that all parents should spend time on or around the water with their kids. It could be as simple as just taking them for a walk along a pier.
"You might even wind up learning something yourself," he said. "I was camping on a spoil island in the Indian River with my son and his friend, and they were shining a flashlight on the water and pointing to all the orange eyes.
"I had no idea there were so many shrimp in that area of the river, and how small they were. Based on what I saw, I tie all my shrimp flies to match the size and color of the shrimp we saw that night."
Every time you're on or around the water with children, look for teaching moments, he said.
"I try to instill in them an appreciation for the fish and the environment," he said. "I teach my children to handle fish with respect, to place them gently in the water, not throw them back and to make sure they're revived before they release them."
In the end, Holliday said, today's 10-year-olds will be the ones who ultimately have to preserve and protect our fisheries.
"That is why it is so important to teach them the importance of habitat," he said. "Without mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass beds, we won't have any fish."