SCORCHING temps this summer have caused water temperatures to exceed 80 degrees, pushing a lot of panfish out of the shallows and into deeper water.

That was going to make finding fish a little more challenging for Kids Fishing Day in Eagle River, the scribbler surmised as he scouted several lakes prior to the July 12 event.

But just before that special day arrived, there was a cooler night and some rain as clouds finally returned after about 10 days of hot, bluebird weather. It was great timing for the kids.

My plan was to join forces with an old friend, Brennan Ranheim of Raleigh, N.C., who has shared boat space with me in three of the last five years during this event. He’s an oldster now, a high schooler, but his age and passion for fishing makes for an exciting trip.

We decided to pick just one youngster from the hat again this year, and the lucky kid was Kenny Kincaid of Eagle River.

We left the fairgrounds with just a handful of guides, as only 13 showed this year. And the number of kids had dropped also, to 25, so every youngster got to go with a guide.

We dropped the boat into the Three Lakes Chain and as we motored away from the pier, I noticed that the water temps had dropped to 74 degrees under heavy overcast skies.

So we decided to start shallow again this year before hitting some deeper structure, knowing that it’s so much easier for kids to cast and fish when the bait is just a foot under a pencil bobber.

The action was slow for the first couple of stops, as only three crappies, two rock bass and a perch made it to the boat. So we moved on and kept searching.

It was about the time that Kenny started talking about the lake we should have gone to, and the fish we should have targeted instead, that things broke loose.

The crappies were stacked in less than four feet of water around cabbage weeds, lily pads and submerged wood. Bobbers were dropping consistently and quickly now, and the fish really responded to a slow retrieve.

The two of them had 20 crappies in the livewell so fast that talk of the lake we should have fished was replaced by who was keeping what fish for the cleaning table, as both sets of parents said they wanted fish to eat.

Besides the crappies, we caught rock bass, bluegills, perch and small walleyes — all on tiny minnows that were suspended 12 to 15 inches under a bobber.

Once again there was a little magic in the way it all turned out. The sponsoring Eagle River Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center had us leave early to sneak in a trip between rain showers. Overcast skies meant cooler temps and a feeding frenzy in the shallows, something that hadn’t occurred in weeks.

The boys were catching so many fish that I agreed to call the parents and request a 45-minute delay in our return to the fairgrounds. They just didn’t want to leave, and really, I couldn’t blame them.

I’m guessing that Brennan, a veteran to shallow water crappies, caught the most. But right before we left, Kenny pulled in the biggest crappie of the day, measuring 12 inches.

And he declared right there, that no matter how many fish he was taking home, that biggest crappie was going with him. We all agreed. He also caught the biggest perch.

It was the third time in the 38-year history of Kids Fishing Day (formerly Guides/Kids Day) that enough guides showed to handle the kids. At 25, it was also the smallest number of kids to ever attend the event, which obviously made that feat easier.

The chamber gets some big help from the Eagle River Guides Association and the Headwaters Chapter of Muskies Inc. The two groups account for most of the guides and for the second year in a row, Muskies Inc. made sure every kid went home with a new rod and reel.

There was more to the afternoon than just fishing. We talked about school and grades and summer jobs. The boys shared other fishing experiences from previous weeks, as both are avid anglers.

We watched loons, geese, eagles and ospreys during the afternoon, for there is an abundance of wildlife these days in the North Woods. One eagle perched in a tree not far from our location, screeching out its distinctive calls from time to time.

That’s the beauty of the sport we call fishing. For those who get hooked, it creates a lifelong passion for fishing and adventures in the great outdoors. It provides an excuse to spend time with family and friends like few sports do.

This is truly a sport for kids, something they can learn at a very young age and use for a lifetime. It teaches lessons in patience, perseverance and sportsmanship.

We could have chased a lot of different species on that overcast day, including walleye and bass. But the consensus was that crappies and other panfish would provide the best action.

There’s just something mighty exciting about watching a bobber and anticipating when and how the next bite will occur — and what species of fish might grab the bait.

Teaching the basics of fishing was the theme of the day, and it doesn’t take a professional fishing guide to make that happen. Any avid angler can play guide for an afternoon.

It’s a blessing from heaven when you get to meet, fish and make friends with kids who you would otherwise have never known. That’s the real beauty of this annual event.

This is fishing, not guaranteed catching. But put in your time and you’ll run into those feeding frenzies that really make for a memorable outing.