OVER THE PAST few weeks, it seems that I have become a guru of sorts; a Mr. Miyagi kind of guy.

Three times in recent days, I have fished with six friends, new and old, none of them more than the age of 11. Two had never held a fishing rod in their hands before. Two had fished one or two times before. Two had more ice fishing experience than open water and, according to those two, neither had had much success in catching a fish.

That all changed with them and it opened the floodgates for the other four. The first two I fished with were Maya and Nate, two Illinois kids with almost no fishing experience. They had a ball, a tangle or two notwithstanding. They caught several bass and sunfish apiece, and their dad got some pictures they’ll look back at many times over the years.

Next up, a week later, were Colin and Chase. These two are locals from Sayner whose dad is an officer with the Vilas County Sheriff’s Department. Colin won a half-day of fishing with me at last winter’s Plum Lake ice fishing tournament; one of two in the children’s division who won that same prize I offered in a moment of weakness.

Things got interesting right off the bat with those two in the boat. Each landed a largemouth on their first casts of the day. As they repeated many times, 60 to be exact, it was “fish on.” They weren’t carrying pocket calculators, but they didn’t need them. They kept a detailed running total of the fish they caught; which at the end of the day ended with Colin landing 31 fish and Chase 29, about 40 of them bass, the other 20 being sunfish.

Actually they landed 61, each getting a half on the odd fish. That one grabbed Chase’s crawler. The problem was that I had just cut his line to untangle two rods tied together; not the only time it happened that morning. Colin grabbed the line and “hand over handed” a largemouth to the boat just as he would have done while ice fishing. Since it was on Chase’s line, as the arbitrator, I ruled they both earned a half-fish on that one.

As was the case with Maya and Nate, I had a great time with the boys unhooking fish, ladling out tidbits of advice, telling stories, all of them true, with a few trips to the brush-lined shore to retrieve hooks and bobbers tied up with errant casts. “Fish on” resounded across the small lake they fished many, many times that morning.

Last week, I had Ty and Will in the boat with me, brothers ages 7 and 11. Their folks have a place on Trout Lake next to two of my good friends. Neither boy had ever held a fishing rod in their hands before.

Prior to setting out on a 40-acre lake in search of bluegills, perch and largemouth, we took a few practice casts from shore. Will picked up the technique quite nicely, although out in the boat his casts sometimes went 90 degrees away from the direction he was aiming at.

Ty, who I think said he was 7, has small hands like I did at that age and found casting a spinning reel a little hard to manage. It didn’t stop him from catching the first two fish of the day, a fat bluegill which we kept and a 13-inch largemouth which went back in the lake.

Sometimes, I managed a word or two of advice, but most of the time, I simply sat back and enjoyed the pure excitement that rocked the boat each time one of them got a fish on.

Fifteen feet of slack line when a bobber went under? No problem. Set the hook, what the heck does that mean? Truthfully, it meant very little. Each time a fish grabbed a worm, reel handles were cranked at warp speed while the fish hooked themselves. Hey, serious lessons can wait for a better time when children are catching fish.

Before our excursion was over, the boys caught probably upward of 40 fish, about 10 of them released largemouths, with the rest including 14 honest, keeper bluegills and two fat perch headed for a fry pan.

Along the way, there were turtles to watch, eagles swooping overhead, turkeys and deer in the road on the way to the lake, and lots of excitement in the boat all the time.

Mom, Dad and the family pooch got to watch from the boat landing as the boys landed their final few fish from close by. As it was with my previous four fellow anglers, there are photographs destined for an album.

As was the case with the other children, Ty and Will did lots of things a “good” fishermen would not do. They had a few line tangles, a crossed line or two, and a few snags on branches and logs, but as with the other children, those things didn’t matter; fun and catching fish did.

I went through all this 40-plus years ago with my own daughter and son, and reliving it these past few weeks brought back many great memories. Best of all, at the end of these latest outings there were big smiles, excitement which probably didn’t let up for days afterward and a common refrain of “Boy, did we have lots of fun.”

I was just happy to be a part of it with six really good children; my new best friends.