For the past 12 years, Bill vanWulven, owner of in Lemon Grove, has been donating his time to teach kids how to fish. He's an award-winning bass fisherman, and is known as the Fishin’ Musician from his touring days with Air Supply and other bands.
VanWulven, in conjunction with the RoadRangers Bass Club and other organizations, has taught thousands of youngsters the finer points of angling. He invited me out to Santee Lakes last Sunday for his latest youth event.
I arrived about 9:30 on a sunny morning at Lake Five to find 22 children, plus their instructors, already spread out along the water’s edge. The young anglers, who ranged in age from 6 to 16, were testing their skills after completing a free bass fishing clinic the previous month.
Almost immediately, I saw James Chavez reeling in a fish. His instructor gently guided him in removing the hook and carefully releasing the small bass back into the water. Chavez was a little apprehensive at first about handling the fish and hook. Soon he was relaxed and grinning as his catch swam out of sight. Then he was ready to begin a new adventure with his next cast.
Continuing around the lake, I found more happy kids. Nine-year-old Kaylie Ward had not yet caught a fish that day, but excitedly told me about her turtle catch.
“It was a big one,” she said, placing her hands side by side to indicate the size.
Kaylie was careful to explain that the turtle was not hooked—it just had the line wrapped around one leg, and her mom helped to free the creature. Most likely it was a red-eared slider turtle, which is invasive to Santee Lakes from people’s pet releases.
A little further along the shoreline I came across a father and daughter fishing team.
“I am so glad I came,” said 12-year-old Anyssa Amaro as she expertly cast her lure about 25 feet out in the lake. The pair usually fish in the ocean, and this was their first time trying freshwater. It was obvious they were loving the experience.
“Once she caught that first fish, she was hooked,” her dad Jose added with a wink.
The kids fished to 11 a.m. before gathering in a picnic area for lunch and awards. They dined on Costco pizza and bottled water brought in by vanWulven’s wife, Carole. Dessert was cupcakes with a white chocolate bass topping each one, cleverly created by hobby baker Rima Malinoski.
Then it was time for a prize drawing—everyone won something, from fish pillows to colorful tackle boxes. The day finished with awards for the biggest fish: Charlotte Penny won for the girls, and Wily Tye took it for the boys. It was an uplifting and fun day for everyone, including me.
Fishing teaches patience, and that is a good thing. I am still working on that virtue, so it is best to start young. VanWulven did admit that he finds girls easier to teach than boys, because they generally listen better. Being a male and having a daughter, all I can say is—ain’t that the truth.
The RoadRangers Bass Club will join the San Diego Council of Bass Clubs to hold a volunteer event at Chollas Lake on Sunday, May 6, for children who are victims of domestic violence. The kids will receive one-on-one instruction, and compete in a fishing derby.
If you have some fishing knowledge, they are still looking for more volunteers to help out. You would be bringing something positive into the life of a child who has had a lot of negatives. Plus it will make you feel good—really good. If interested, please call the Fishin’ Musician at the number below, or stop by the store.
is located at 7292 Broadway, on the corner of Citrus Street. The telephone number is 619-461-1214.