The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


April 6, 2014

Fishing is a good way to introduce kids to the outdoors

CAMERON — Few experiences are more rewarding than introducing a child to the outdoors. I remember teaching my daughters at the age of 3 to recognize the voice of a barred owl — “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all!” They were amazed they could identify a bird without seeing it.

And when my wife and I introduced Nora and Emma to the art of morel hunting, they were so proud because they invariably found more than we did. I think it was because their eyes were closer to the ground.

Spring is the season of new beginnings. It‘s the perfect time to introduce a son, daughter or grandchild to outdoor adventure. One way is to take a kid fishing.

April brings the opening day of trout season. Get a license and give a special child a break from cell phones and computer games. Breathe fresh air, get off the beaten path and talk. And don’t worry about catching fish. It’s more about the experience and getting to know the child.

I can still see the look of shock, surprise and excitement on my daughters’ faces when they caught their first fish. They were so proud.

Fishing is also a great time to teach kids about fish biology. Lessons about trout senses, for example, can be observed as well as taught.

Fish have excellent vision, but seeing in water is more challenging than seeing in air. Water distorts, bends, scatters and dims available light; particles suspended in the water create turbidity that compounds the problem. Flowing water in streams makes vision even more difficult.

With eyes on the sides of the head, however, they have a wide field of view and a small window of binocular vision straight ahead. To the rear, fish have a narrow blind spot that anglers can exploit.

Trout also enjoy color vision. Reds, in particular, provide important visual cues during the spawning season.  That’s why many lures include red markings.

The most important lesson about trout vision is that if you can see them, they can probably see you. Every experienced angler knows how skittish fish can be.

But keen vision is just one of their sensory defenses. Trout also hear extremely well, and they have another sensory system that humans can only imagine.

Trout ears are simpler than those of terrestrial vertebrates. They have only an inner ear. Land-based vertebrates also have outer and middle ears, concessions to the relatively slow speed of sound waves through air. In water, sound travels faster and farther so an inner ear suffices.

A trout’s inner ear consists of a series of canals and chambers that transmit sounds to sensory hairs that send signals to the brain. These signals enable trout to both hear and maintain balance.

Because sound travels so well in water, even the sound of a lure landing on the surface can alert a trout to danger. Anglers wading on slippery rocks should realize that every slip, every stumble and, of course, every fall warns nearby trout of potential danger. So move slowly, smoothly and quietly. Fortunately, noisy rapids help obscure your presence.

Though keen vision and excellent hearing might seem sufficient to keep trout aware of their immediate environment, they (and other fish, too) have a third sensory system that works even in muddy, dark and noisy water.

The lateral line system is a series of pores that runs along the sides of the body. They house structures (again sensory hairs) that can detect changes in wave patterns and water pressure. It helps smaller fish detect the approach of bigger fish. And it’s what enables a school of fish to move as a super-organism. They move seemingly in unison because they can sense each other’s presence. So again a wading angler is at a disadvantage.

If you can take a child fishing this spring, use it as an opportunity to explain their sensory abilities. Kids will be amazed that even in the water, fish they can usually see you, hear you and even feel your presence.

— Dr. Scott Shalaway can be heard 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) or online at

Visit Scott’s web site or contact him directly at or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.

Text Only
  • Some books for the rest of summer

    Stretching out in a hammock with a good book is a great way to relax on a warm summer afternoon. Here are a few titles that have recently caught my eye.

    July 27, 2014

  • Creating a week to remember

    After my traveling shoes were placed neatly beside the door, it was time to spend some much needed time around home.

    July 27, 2014

  • There are some changes on the way

    Hunters who have found themselves driving out of their way to check in a deer, turkey, or bear will no longer have to waste the time or gas starting in 2015. 

    July 27, 2014

  • The cure for the summertime blues: Go camping

    In case you haven’t noticed we are looking right down the gun barrel at winding down on another summer.

    July 26, 2014

  • 071714 Coda and Callie.jpg Coda and Callie’s excellent adventure

    How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs. 

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071314 Chris Ellis.jpg DNR’s ‘outdoor summer school’

    Attention all West Virginia hunters and trappers. It is once again time for outdoor summer school and the course materials are hot off the presses.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meet the Eurasian collared-dove

    Back in 1974 a local pigeon fancier imported a flock of about 50 Eurasian collared-doves to the Bahamas. Ultimately he released the birds, and they took to living in the West Indies. By the late 1970s some had reached south Florida, and by the late 1980s, some had been seen in Georgia and Arkansas.

    July 13, 2014

  • July in W.Va.: Recreational opportunities abound

    It’s July in the West Virginia mountains, which brings vibrant orange tiger lilies, blooming rhododendron, and of course fireworks. Usually the heat and humidity is in full force, but so far the weather has been nice.

    July 13, 2014

  • Shotgun 101: Shoot more and live better

    “God is not on the side of big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.”
    — Voltaire

    July 9, 2014

  • Fireflies are living lights

    At recent Fourth of July fireworks displays, spectators squealed with delight at the annual spectacle that illuminated the night sky. And I’m sure more than a few compared the spectacular pyrotechnics to the subtler displays of fireflies that punctuate backyards, parks, and campgrounds all summer long. We call these displays “nature’s fireworks.”

    July 5, 2014

Web Special Sections
  • Special Web Sections

    Click HERE for stories about natural gas and Marcellus shale gas extraction.

    Click HERE for stories about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    Click HERE for stories about the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

    Click HERE for stories from The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR event.

    August 6, 2010

Helium debate
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow