Sharpie and Sharpie-Fry by Gretchen M. Everin

I'm a striper fisherman's wife and a striper fisherman's mom. In the land-locked world, that would make me "Mama Bear." On the New England coast, it makes me "Mama Fish" or a cow. I'm okay with it; it's something I've come to accept. From my experiences raising my little sharpie fry, I've been able to draw parallels between him and my big catch. Here are some things I've leaned in my watery pasture

Fishing with a child has many benefits. It engenders respect and love for nature, fosters patience, and may even contribute to the development of coordination and physical strength. Most importantly, though, fishing is a time for parent-child bonding, the stuff memories are made of.

But is that 3-foot angler living under your roof more than just a recreational fisher? Do you need to order custom-made waders and a tiny life jacket? Maybe. Let my voice of experience help point out some warning signs.

READ THE SIGNS
You might be raising a future sharpie if you child:
1. Believes Daddy's claim that "Mommy was a mermaid before I caught her,"
2. Thinks everyone receives a Van Staal for their second birthday,
3. Tells the fabric store clerk that her tape measure is supposed to be used for fish,
4. Takes a fishing pole into the bathtub,
5. Has a catch-kiss-and-release policy (and you could kick yourself for not taking a picture of the first salty smooch he planted on unsuspecting skate!),
6. Thinks fishing shows are just parties with lots of pamphlets and lousy food,
7. Expects to go to the beach every Saturday, even in rain or snoow (after all, the fish still live out there, right?),
8. Thinks carrying a newly purchased bag of eels ("Daddy's snakes") is a status symbol,
9. Had his first learning experience with a hook as a toddler — and hasn't had one since,
10. Owns a dog-eared ocean life encyclopedia and can correctly identify nearly every creature in it,
11. Says 60-pound fish are okay, but tiger sharks are real catches,
12. Enjoys instructional fishing DVDs,
13. Matter-of-factly presents you with loose fish scales he finds on the counter, floor, or soles of his feet,
14. Is considered a regular at the tackle shop and knows the names of all the guys (and their dogs),
15. Is unfazed to see the day's catch smiling back at him from the bottom shelf of the fridge
16. Thinks plugs are beautiful works of art,
17. Can't fathom how tuna could possible be in a can,
18. Prefers striped shirts,
19. Believes going squidding has the allure of a trip to the carnival,
20. Is mesmerized watching the line-winding machine at the tackle shop,
21. Includes "all the fishies of the sea" in his bedtime prayers, and
22. Falls asleep cuddling a plush stiper and sailfish, and undoubtedly dreams of tight lines.
11. Says 60-pound fish are okay, but tiger sharks are real catches,
12. Enjoys instructional fishing DVDs,
13. Matter-of-factly presents you with loose fish scales he finds on the counter, floor, or soles of his feet,
14. Is considered a regular at the tackle shop and knows the names of all the guys (and their dogs),
15. Is unfazed to see the day's catch smiling back at him from the bottom shelf of the fridge,
16. Thinks plugs are beautiful works of art,
17. Can't fathom how tuna could possible be in a can,
18. Prefers striped shirts,
19. Believes going squidding has the allure of a trip to the carnival,
20. Is mesmerized watching the line-winding machine at the tackle shop,
21. Includes "all the fishies of the sea" in his bedtime prayers, and
22. Falls asleep cuddling a plush stiper and sailfish, and undoubtedly dreams of tight lines.

THE EXTRA MILES
Raising a fisherman means having lots of equipment and time on the water. It also means having a well-stocked library to entertain and inspire. This means having everything at his disposal from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to his cherished Encyclopedia of Saltwater Fishers, to cartoon movies like Finding Nemo, and more serious stipers showings like Mike Laptew's Stripers Gone Wild! There are thousands of fabulous fish tales out there and I think we must have nearly all of them.

The most important thing to realize when raising little and big sharpies is that for them, this is not just a casual pastime and that showing even a little interest in what's going on in their watery world goes a long way. I mean, imagine my husband's astonishment the first time I remarked about the menhaded shortage and commented on so-andso's recent haul.

Now, every Wednesday when The Fisherman arrives, I know the news before he does. Read a couple articles and the fishing reports so you have something to discuss over dinner — seriously!

Offer to join your live-in casters the next time they go fishing. If you're not up to fishing, take pictures. They might even wind up in a future issue of The Fisherman magazine! Most of all, be supportive. This isn't a hobby to the striper fisherman. It's a lifestyle, and you can tame any angst you might have with the reminder that he could be up to so much worse. Plus, he's catching your dinner! From here, it's up to all you fellow "cows" of the world.

That is all. . .Moo.