The rush of a roller coaster is exhilarating, but the fight of a five-pound bass will always win in my book.

By Philip Hunt
Fish Ambassador

The rumble of the diesel ferry hummed as we headed back to our cabin after a full day of walking. Ducks, herons and egrets flew by on their way to roost and the clear water beneath reflected a beautiful scene of birds flying in a pink sunset. A rare sense of relaxation washed over me. But it was short-lived as our double stroller fell on my legs and a chorus of screaming toddlers and irritated parents broke the Eden-like scene. We are not at a fishing lodge. We are at Disney World.

(Philip Hunt)

Disney. A kid’s dream. Mickey Mouse, roller coasters, and ten-dollar peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I would expect to pay that much for a sandwich at a remote Alaskan lodge, but here in the Magic Kingdom the price includes organized chaos and adults in costumes.

For the last six months my wife had planned this trip, reserving meals, golf carts, rooms, and rides. Every time she asked for the credit card, I begrudgingly read the numbers while thinking about the equivalent cost of a Rocky Mountain trout stream vacation. A fear crept up inside that our children would not want to go to wild places on vacation but to animated theme parks instead.

The fear increased over two days as the joy in my kids’ eyes grew with every show and rollercoaster. Don’t get me wrong, I was having fun, too. Every evening we would take the ferry back to our cabin and I would see the best show of the day as the sun set over the central Florida lake.

The last day my wife and daughter had a princess breakfast before the park opened, so my son and I had to fend for ourselves. Waiting at the dock the night before, I saw a guided bass fishing advertisement and set up a morning trip before the park opened. Fishing for Florida bass has been a dream of mine since watching Jimmy Houston catch fish at Disney almost 25 years ago on a Saturday morning show.

I decided that we were going to fish for Disney’s largemouth bass, “Mickey-Mouths.”

That morning the girls went to see Cinderella, and we met our guide who immediately put us on fish. As the first three pounder bent my son’s rod, I saw a smile that rivaled any that I saw that week. In a packed two hours, we caught close to 20 “Mickey-Mouths” from two to five pounds on live bait. I was in heaven and hoped that this rivaled the park rides in my son’s mind.

When the fishing ended, we went back to the park. We rode roller coasters and ate ten dollar PB&Js. We took pictures with the characters and watched fireworks light up Cinderella’s castle before taking the ferry back to our cabin. Each night of our trip we would ask our children their least and most favorite part of the day. My daughter went first. Least favorite: waiting an hour for a log ride. Most favorite: eating breakfast at Cinderella’s castle.

(Philip Hunt)

Now it was my son’s turn. I have to admit I was nervous. I love the outdoors, but I never want to force it on my kids. I want them to choose to enjoy what their parents love.

My son answered, “I didn’t like waiting in line an hour for the roller coaster.”

“Ok,” I said nervously, waiting for his most favorite part of the day. I didn’t make eye contact with him so he couldn’t see my thoughts and hopes which he reads so well.

“My most favorite part,” he paused for a moment, and my stomach knotted up like being at the top of a roller coaster, “was fishing with dad. I caught more fish than him.”

A rush of relief ran over me. Disney is fun, but being able to appreciate a natural theme park like a sunrise on a lake is a goal for me to teach my kids. The rush of a roller coaster is exhilarating, but the fight of a five-pound bass will always win in my book.

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