Texas is a great place to land your first fish. Why? Because the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers new anglers landing their first fish a “First Fish Award” for simply documenting their catch with a photo and a quickly completed application.

Over the course of this past month alone, three sets of local siblings earned their First Fish Award while fishing on Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

Each child will receive an 8½-by-11-inch certificate suitable for framing, complete with a raised, gold State of Texas seal. The certificate lists the catch date, fish species, fish size, water body name and angler’s name.

On Aug. 11, 5-year-old Jayvion Charleston of Killeen was joined by his mother, Jessica, on a morning fishing trip provided free of charge to their family by the Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun program.

SKIFF provides fishing trips, free of charge, to military children separated from their parent due to that parent’s military duty for such things as short-term field training exercises or gunnery, to longer commitments such as National Training Center rotations or deployments.

Jayvion used a modern, fiberglass version of the cane pole to land a 3½-inch long bluegill sunfish from out of 4 feet of water using a simple balsawood float, a small split shot, and a #14 hook baited with a piece of redworm.

On Wednesday, Jayvion’s 10-year-old brother Keyonte’ enjoyed a four-hour fishing trip also provided free of charge by the SKIFF program. Given Keyonte’s age, longer attention span and better manual dexterity, we targeted a larger fish for his First Fish Award.

As we ran downriggers equipped with Pet Spoons in about 30 feet of water, Keyonte’ actually landed three fish at the same time on the three-armed umbrella rig we were using. His first fish, a white bass, measured 13 1/8 inches.

Oo Aug. 12, Suzette Sullivan of Belton arranged for a summer fishing trip for her two daughters — 8-year-old Sara and 16-year-old Asia. Neither girl had ever been on a boat before, nor landed a fish. Suzette had hoped her grandfather would be able to show her girls how to fish, but he passed away before that hope became a reality.

While trolling Pet Spoons behind umbrella rigs on my boat’s twin downriggers, both girls landed the first fish of their lives within minutes of one another. Sara’s fish measured 13.87 inches and Asia’s fish measured 13.5 inches.

Finally, on Thursday, I welcomed aboard siblings Jasmine and Tristan Culpepper for the first fishing trip of their lives, accompanied by their mother, Tania Culpepper, who scheduled the trip through the Fort Hood SKIESUnlimited program.

Once again, downrigged umbrella rigs equipped with Pet Spoons tempted a total of 45 fish to bite during the Culpeppers’ 3½-hour excursion. 5-year-old Tristan’s first fish was an 11½-inch long white bass, and Jasmine’s first fish was an 11¼-inch long white bass.

Parents, guardians, grandparents, coaches, mentors, etc., desiring to obtain a First Fish Award for kids in their care may contact me through my website at www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com. I will supply an electronic application form and assistance on completing and submitting all that is necessary to obtain the First Fish Award.

The warm water season from late May through mid-September offers youngsters their best chance at catching their first fish, especially for anglers limited to fishing from the bank. Many fish species are in the shallows during this season.

Those interested in arranging for a free fishing trip through the SKIFF program for military kids separated from their parents may phone 254-368-7411. Those interested in arranging for a fishing trip through the Fort Hood SKIESUnlimited program may phone 254-287-4592.

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