Fish and Fetch
angler. Part of the joy of creek fishing is solitude. Most creek fishermen don't want to see another angler while fishing, much less splashing dogs, which brings up another point. Combining creek fishing with dog training is for a dog that already has a solid hold on basic obedience. A dog that has not been taught to come, sit or heel will benefit little from time spent creek fishing, other than enjoying a good romp. And a dog enjoying a good romp will most likely ruin your fishing as well as that of any other angler you meet.
My son and I also limit our dog training to the creek channel, and never enter private property without permission.
A Safe Trip
As with any outdoor activity, combining dog training with creek fishing poses a few hazards. During summer, animals are out that bite and sting, including snakes. Most that reside along Missouri's creeks are harmless water snakes, but cottonmouths inhabit scattered locations in the Missouri Ozarks. These venomous vipers will bite if approached too closely. A curious dog, sniffing at a cottonmouth, might get bitten on the nose. Such a bite could prove fatal.
My son and I avoid this problem by knowing snake species and knowing the creeks in our area. Over the years, we have spent much time fishing creeks close to home. We know those that support cottonmouths and those that don't. We typically limit our dog training to creeks that don't harbor cottonmouths. If we take a dog to a creek that does support cottonmouths, we keep the dog out of the brush.
Wood nettle poses another problem. Found statewide and along most creeks in Missouri, this plant, though not a serious threat, has stiff, stinging hairs, called trichomes, that can pierce human skin and a dog's nose. The result is intense itching. Some people call the plant "itch weed." When my son and I are working our dogs along a creek, we keep an eye out for wood nettle, both for our sake and the dogs'. When pitching dummies into thick vegetation, we make sure it's free of nettle.
Also consider your dog's feet. Dogs do fine walking and running over gravel, but too much time over this terrain can leave a dog tender-footed, particularly if it lives in the house and is accustomed to walking on carpet. If a creek-fishing trip leaves your dog sore footed, all it needs is a couple days rest. Their feet heal fast.
While your dog sits as you fish, make sure deer flies and horse flies are not bothering him.
A last consideration is water hazards. Before allowing a dog to jump into any pool, know what lies beneath. On clear creeks, that's no problem. You can see to the bottom. In creeks that offer water with less visibility, wade in to make sure there are no structures that might hurt a dog that enters the water with an enthusiastic leap.
Follow these tips, and you and your dog will find creek-fishing trips top-notch practice for the upcoming hunting seasons.