(Editor’s Note: Nevada residents Chris and Kim Mathison are Michael Mader’s parents; and Nevada resident Dorothy Dahnke is Michael’s grandmother.)

On Sunday, Sept. 9, I received a directed comment on Facebook from Christy Eischeid, a friend and fellow Iowa State Animal Science alumn, regarding a pelican that was brought to the Wildlife Care Clinic (WCC) with an ectoparasite called “chewing lice.” They stated that “he’s pretty skinny and dehydrated, but is bright and alert!” The post stated that “pelicans eat A LOT of fish” and WCC was asking for fish donations of smaller species.

Having previously lived just a mile or so north of Little Wall Lake, I was aware that the lake produced large numbers of stunted crappie. I figured it would be a great place to start. My 4-year-old daughter, Brooke, had been itching to go fishing about as much as I had; so, my wife, Katrina, suggested that Brooke and I take a trip. After lunch, she changed out of her Sunday best, grabbed her pink and purple tackle box, and we were on our way from Gilbert.

On the ride up, I called WCC to make sure they still needed fish and had not been inundated with previous donations. I surely didn’t want to end up having to filet a bunch of 4-inch crappie! They said they were definitely still looking for fish! I also verified that they were interested in both live and frozen donations. Brooke and I stopped at the Casey’s General Store in Jewell and purchased wax worms for $2.49 plus tax. Brooke instantly wanted to play with the worms.

We arrived at Little Wall early afternoon. There was no one fishing on the stone jetty, and we headed out there. Brooke is still very new to fishing, so we worked on her casting. Fish began biting right away, but she was unable to set the hook at first and quickly became discouraged. I showed her how to set the hook using my pole, and after catching two fish during our “lesson,” I put down my pole down and started working more closely with her. Together, we quickly set the hook on a couple fish, and she reeled them in. At times where she lost interest as the fishing slowed, I reminded her that we were catching fish to feed the sick pelican, and her interest and excitement were renewed.

At one point, she asked if we could fish off another pier that was attached to the jetty. I believe she wanted to be “on” the water. She was playing in the water when we started really getting bites. We worked on her casting a bit more, and she only almost hooked me twice! She was starting to cast out a good 20 feet all on her own! After a couple missed attempts, I told her, “When the fish are biting like this, you need to keep your hand on the reel!” I saw her bobber go down and yelled, “Brooke, reel!” She did, to a wonderful end. She had casted, hooked the fish and reeled it in all by herself! A proud moment for any parent, especially for this fisheries major. She didn’t put the pole down again for the rest of the afternoon. At one point, she even wanted to take the fish off the hook, but I suggested we wait until she was a little older.

She continued to cast and catch fish on her own; and from what I can tell, she had a GREAT time! Of course, so did I!

By the time we needed to head back, we had caught 11 small crappies and two small bluegills for the pelican. Five of them were caught entirely by my 4-year old. She didn’t want to take a picture, but I told her about the first rule of fishing — if there’s no picture, it didn’t happen. I offered to let her go home while I dropped off the donation, but she insisted on coming with me to the clinic. Five minutes into the car ride to Ames, she fell asleep. The staff at the small animal desk was very helpful, excited and grateful for the donation. Brooke now has lots to talk about at day care and preschool this week.

Michael Mader, 36, of Gilbert, graduated in 2012 from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science in animal ecology with a fisheries option. He is married to Katrina Mader, and they have two children, Brooke, 4, and Reid, 2.


Join the Maders in helping the Pelican…

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/128709123815458/posts/2061048203914864/

On the Web: https://www.nrem.iastate.edu/wildlife-care-clinic/

Phone number to inquire about donations and other animals in need of sponsorship or supplies: 515-294-4009