Mother Nature did area duck hunters no favor by shutting down the wind the latter part of last week, but it set up nicely for the fishermen. We had to endure a frosty boat ride at daylight each morning, but it warmed up quickly and so did the fishing. The birds worked all day long on a flat lake and the boat traffic was surprisingly light and courteous to boot.

The only dilemma for most anglers was deciding which program to pursue. It was a no-brainer for folks that are unable to get on the water more than a few times each month. Having a flock of gulls screeching, “Stop and fish here!” makes it all too easy. There were a lot of small trout hitting virtually any soft plastic lobbed in their direction, but there were also some 18 to 21-inch fish mixed in as well along with scattered schools of slot reds.

I loaded up my grandson and two of his cousins Friday morning and they were looking for gulls before I even launched the boat. It was all that ten-year old Connor and his younger brother, Jordan, could do to see anything through the small opening in their ski masks, but they were quick to shed the bulky attire following our first stop.

Their Grandma had them dressed for the Iditarod, but neither complained about the additional clothing during the initial boat ride. I truly believe, however, that Jordan’s adrenalin rush alone would have kept him warm. The anticipation level was high!

The youngsters allowed me the luxury of catching one big trout on a Corky before devoting the rest of the morning to fishing the gulls. The first bunch of birds we tracked yielded five very nice trout that we released as the kids had already decided that we would only keep a few redfish. Andrew had promised them that a redfish would pull like they would not believe and they were not disappointed.

Connor immediately assumed the position of official net man after discovering that he could assist in every fish anyone caught. He also kept count of all fish that required his netting services, encouraged longer casts any time the action slowed and still found time to manage the snack bar.

We were done by 11 o’clock and the final tally for fish that they could have kept was thirty-four. Keeping score was second only to the catching.

I knew when I caught that first big trout on a Corky that there was another bite taking place that was slower, but more rewarding than chasing birds. As good as I thought it might have been, however, it was not user-friendly enough for the kids. My suspicions were confirmed by back to back phone calls before I ever got off the water.

Both groups were catching good trout fishing 2 to 4-foot flats and more significantly, they were fishing on opposite ends of the lake. The Corky was the lure of the day, but those fishing the south end caught their largest trout on a Whacky worm. Both groups caught trout over seven-pounds, but the trout that ate the seven-inch Whacky worm was one of two trout that exceeded the 29-inch mark!

While on the subject of fishing and youngsters, any “can’t miss” Christmas list should include a quality spinning rod and reel and we are not talking about a push button reel. Small hands are no excuse either as I started Andrew out with an under slung reel at the age of five and eight-year old Jordan mastered one in less than ten minutes Friday morning. He would have never reached even half the fish he caught with a push button reel.

If a youngster is old enough to cast a rod, he or she can master a spinning combination very quickly. They have dependable drag systems that will handle the largest of fish, they are easy to cast into the wind, and they do not backlash. Every year, more and more clients show up with at least one new spinning combination after using one of mine on a previous trip.

Even for the youngsters that are still vertically challenged, I recommend a 7-foot medium light action rod and a 2000 or 2500 series reel. I prefer a CastAway rod and Shimano or US Reel spinning reel, but there are any number of quality brands that will do the job. The 2500 or slightly smaller 1000 series reels not only fit smaller hands just fine, but are the choice of most adult anglers as well.

Any experienced angler on your list will immediately realize that it is a very nice addition to his arsenal, but the beginning angler will be even more appreciative. The ability to make long casts without a hassle and the confidence of knowing their user-friendly tackle is up to the challenge will have them looking forward to their next trip.

Santa cannot bring your favorite fisherman a better gift, regardless of their age or experience.