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Published on: Jul. 20, 2011

nets for catching tadpoles and other creek critters.

Missouri’s clear creeks team with life, providing an ideal place to spark a kid’s interest in nature. Tadpoles and crawdads will entertain most kids for hours. A real find might be a softshell turtle hatchling. Help your kids make a little holding area, surrounded by rocks just off the edge of the creek, to contain the animals they catch (don’t forget to release them when you go home!). Bring a butterfly net to catch and admire swallowtails that come to the gravel bar to sip nectar.

Creek rocks come in endless colors and shapes. Most kids find them captivating. Spend time exploring gravel bars to see who can find the most unusual one. At the end of every trip, let your child take home a favorite rock or two.

By age 4 or 5, most kids are ready for their introduction to fishing. Clear creeks provide peerless places for first fishing lessons. There’s no boredom of sitting and watching an idle cork—you can see the fish.

First, trap minnows using jug traps baited with crushed crackers. Kids often enjoy this part as much as the fishing. With minnows trapped, bait a small hook with a piece of a minnow and fish for longear sunfish. Longear sunfish are aggressive feeders; often a half-dozen or more will swarm in and try to take the bait. Watching this fish action is exciting. On these first attempts at fishing, do all the baiting, casting and hook setting (assisting adults need a fishing permit). Once you’ve hooked a fish, hand the pole to your child and let him reel it in. If you catch some large ones, and your child is interested, clean a few and take them home for a special meal.

As kids grow older, continue tailoring creek trips to their interests. By the time they are in middle school, they may want to invite a school friend or two. By this age, kids start developing a sense of independence. Though your kids still enjoy your company, place yourself in the background a bit. By high school, they may still enjoy creek trips with you, but including a school friend will most likely be a must—a normal thing as kids grow up.

Plan for Safety and Comfort

Water poses a drowning hazard. Creeks are no exception; however, the right creek and proper supervision keep these

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