DEXTER, Mich. – The sun rising over the smooth, glass-like lake. The birds are chirping. You, your thoughts, a fresh cup of coffee and a fishing pole.
You could probably spend hours and hours in that perfect pure Michigan setting, right?
Well, add a kid or two or three and your opinion might change very quickly.
For me, fishing was a rite of passage growing up. My grandpa would take me out on Lake St. Clair at least once a week every summer. When he and my grandma moved to Florida, the tradition continued when I was lucky enough to visit them. It was great. I loved spending time with my grandpa on the water with a fishing pole. He had the worst navigation skills in the history of boating, so this would be an all-day (and sometimes all-night) affair. It was the best.
Nowadays, free-time for kids is about as common as a Michigan road without construction barrels. Fuhgeddaboudit.
Today, children are busy, training like an Olympic athlete with various sports. Soccer, football, swimming, tennis and more. But, sadly, these days, fishing doesn't come anywhere near the top of the list of sports kids want to sign up for. My kids love keeping busy in their extra activities. But sometimes, I just want to go fishing.
Carving out five hours on a random Saturday can be tough. But, that doesn't mean the desire to hook and reel in that big one isn't still with me. And even more important – is my desire to teach my three kids how to fish.
With kids dabbling in various activities, the fishing poles, boat, trailer, tackle box and a full day on the lake might not be in the financial and time budget.
Last summer, my wife made a perfect discovery to go fishing at a place that guarantees a catch for everyone in a VERY short period of time. Fishing without the commitment. This place is called Spring Valley Trout Farm in Dexter, Michigan (about 20 minutes from Ann Arbor). It's a one-stop shop for people like us. People who don't have all day to sit in a boat, on a lake, waiting and wondering if you'll even catch anything.
At Spring Valley Trout Farm, their slogan is "the ultimate fishing spot for all ages." It really is. It's spread out over 20 acres. They have nine ponds ranging from a half-acre to an acre.
While you're there, you're able to catch fish that have been farm-raised right on-site. They have rainbow trout and catfish. The best part -- they have a children's pond! It's reserved for kids 10 and under. It's not overcrowded with aggressive adult anglers. They just have to wear a life vest if they're under 54 inches. Don't forget to ask the attendant for some "special bait."
This stuff is magic. Your kids will catch a fish in seconds. Yes, seconds. As soon as my three kids dropped their lines in, a fish hooked on. They'll even bait the hook for you and take your catch off if you can't stomach it.
They also have covered pavilions for lunch, a children's play area and a fishing lodge that will remind you of being up north (and yes, it has bathrooms). No dogs or booze allowed.
They really make the whole experience simple. You don't even need your own fishing pole, bait, bucket or fishing license! You can literally just show up (with money) and fish!
You pay $5 to get in, then you pay for the fish you catch by the pound. Rainbow trout are $7.49 per pound and they'll even clean them for you for an addition 30 cents per fish, they'll also de-bone them for 25 cents per fish.
They say the average fish you catch is about a foot long or so and can feed around two people. If catfish if more your thing, you can go after those for $5.80 per pound. It's 50 cents additional to clean them and 25 cents more to de-bone them. I highly recommend paying the extra to clean and de-bone them.
They do it quickly and let's face it, they're going to do it better than you.
This is not a catch and release type of place - so be mindful, you have to buy every fish you reel in. If you end up with 10 fish like we did, freeze them! Spring Valley even has ideas on how to cook them.
They're open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
This is a must-do if you're looking for your kids to experience catching their first fish but just don't have the time.