Ditch Dreams: Youth Movement At The Canal - The Fisherman

Ditch Dreams: Youth Movement At The Canal

James Astle was just 7 years old when he landed this slot striper from the Canal’s famed east end.

A new age of fishermen and fisherwomen is cutting their teeth at the Canal, and the future looks bright!

It’s always nice to see young surfcasters wetting their lines in the Cape Cod Canal, as an infusion of youth have found a new playground the last few years. The future of our sport is in their hands and, from what I have observed, some really nice kids have been negotiating the barnacle covered boulders on their way to the water’s edge. Some mischievous youngsters are out getting into trouble elsewhere and causing headaches for their parents, but not these young Canal Rats! A kid holding a surf rod is truly free, without the distractions of the digital world, and may be finding a passion that will last a lifetime.

All-Star Rookies

Fourteen-year-old Matt Sadr has been fishing all of his young life, but 2023 was his rookie year on the Canal. The polite young man made the most of it with many significant catches including stripers weighing 32 and 36 pounds on consecutive days while jigging the west end Combat Zone! When I told him that he was going to be included in a story I was writing, he immediately asked me to be sure to give credit to his mother who drives him to the Canal so often. There is no higher attribute than a kid having concern for his mother!

Matt Sadr credits his mom’s willingness to drive him to the Canal whenever she can for his success at the Canal.

Thirteen-year-old Jo Jo Andrade caught his first fish before his third birthday and cranked in a 50-pound striper with his Shimano Stella when he was only 8 years old! The young, yet experienced angler sometimes draws a crowd as they watch him cast into the raging 5-knot current. He is even frequently asked for fishing advice by much older sportsmen. The humble youth even declined one man’s offer to measure a huge fish he had just brought to the rocks, a monster that looked to be close to 50 inches!

Jo Jo Andrade, now 13, landed this 50-pounder in the Canal at age 8!

Eight-year-old James Astle was only 7 when he reeled in his first striped bass which just happened to be a 30-inch slot! The enthusiastic youngster is the grandson of famed Canal Rat Jack Barton who was proudly standing next to him in the east end when the fish hit a white bucktail adorned with a red Fat Cow Jig Strip. Not only was his first linesider a keeper, but James also muscled in his first-ever bluefish during the same outing, a nice fat yellow-eyed chopper!

Young Salts

Anast Terezakis and his 14-year-old son Nick travel from Connecticut to fish along this famous 7-mile saltwater trench as often as possible. Nick started fishing the Canal when he was barely 8 years old, with many memorable catches to his credit including his personal best at age 13, a 40-pound striper measuring out to 49 inches that attacked a purple FishLab Mad Eel with a vengeance!

Nick Terezakis and his dad Anast make regular trips to the Canal from Connecticut.

Sean Keegan watched his 7-year-old daughter Jaylynn reel in a 37-inch linesider on only her second trip to the Big Ditch. I think the happy youngster is now hooked for life! Harry Skelton, another 7-year-old, landed some nice fish including a good-sized bluefish on a Skelton Lures Blitz King swimbait manufactured by his father Harold, who has helped more veterans in need than anyone I have ever known through his organization Fishing for the Mission 22.

Sean Keegan watched his 7-year-old daughter Jaylynn reel in this 37-inch linesider on only her second trip to the Big Ditch.

Sage Advice


The author’s 6-year-old grandson Joe Wirth, AKA Bam Bam, caught his first fish last year not far from the west end. The black sea bass put up quite a fight for the smiling young man who handled the rod like a seasoned veteran. It certainly seems like Bam Bam and his grandpa will be tossing lures together for many more years to come.

Iconic surfcaster Jim “Sidecast” Belcher tipped me off about a remarkable young lady who started her rookie year on the Canal this past season as an adventurous 4-year-old! Sage Nicholson fishes the Canal whenever she can with her dad Justin who proudly descends the rip rap stone banks with his young daughter. Sage is a quick learner and has already developed the necessary skills to master the sport she loves. She always looks behind her before making a cast and is careful to avoid tangled lines. Justin, who was a United States Army Specialist, is employed by Loomis Armored Service, but always tries to find the time to make the 2 hour round trip to the Canal from their home in Attleboro so that Sage can enjoy surfcasting the Canal. The humble veteran was happy to be invited to a complimentary fishing trip aboard Bad Dog Charters courtesy of Fishing for the Mission 22.

Sage was only 2 years old when she started freshwater fishing in a local pond. Her dad would wheel her down to the water in a stroller as Sage couldn’t wait to jump out and start reeling in largemouth bass! She has competed in fishing derbies since the age of 3, winning trophies from West Virginia to New England including the largest brook trout last year in Connecticut. Sage has 20 state pins to her credit from the Massachusetts Sportfishing Awards program with another one coming soon along with a plaque. Her 3-pound rainbow trout last season took first place for that species in the Youth Division as she was in contention for Angler of the Year!

The kindergartner’s biggest fish from the Canal was a 38-inch striped bass that she fooled with a custom-made David Johnson pencil popper during a topwater bite. Sage continues to outfish the boys while standing in her pink topped boots, sporting a pink sweatshirt and painted fingernails so as never to let us forget that, underneath all that fishing gear beats the heart of a young, sweet girl!

Sage Nicholson has already won many fishing awards and she’s only four! More recently, she has set her sights on fishing the Canal.

A hungry striped bass exploding on a surface plug creates a priceless smile on a youngster’s face along with a memory that lasts a lifetime. Finding a passion for fishing at a young age can give kids a central theme to their life that may stay with them for decades. In a time when parents are more concerned than ever before about addiction, there is at least one addiction that benefits our youth – feeling a fish tugging the line. As legendary fisherman and retired ace detective John Doble says, “The tug is the drug!”

Doherty is a retired Massachusetts District Court Clerk-Magistrate and the author of SEVEN MILES AFTER SUNDOWN and LAUGHS, LIES & AMERICAN JUSTICE. He had surf cast the east end of the Canal so often that other anglers started calling him East End Eddie, thus a nickname became a pen name. He can be reached at [email protected]

If you’d like to get your kid involved in the legendary fishing at the Cape Cod Canal, you’ll want to make sure they’re properly outfitted before making a cast. The Canal presents several unique challenges that kids will need to be aware of before they go. For starters, no one should attempt to descend the slick rap-rap banks without studded footwear, one slip could spell an early end to what could have been a great day of fishing.

The current in the Canal is unlike – pretty much – any other shore location on the East Coast, for this reason, all anglers should be come with a rod and reel that’s up to the challenge. After conferring with Tony from Maco’s and AJ from Red Top there was one clear consensus and that is that a great entry-level canal reel for kids is the Daiwa BG5000. Tony added that a Shimano Saragossa 8000 would be a better choice if the kid was going to fish a lot. Couple these with a Trophy surf rod rated 3 to 8 ounces and they’ll be well on their way.

Ask a question at any of the shops near the Canal and you’ll get all the answers you need regarding lures and terminal tackle. Whether you go to Maco’s, Red Top, Canal Bait & Tackle or FishLinked, you’ll be in good hands. Sunglasses, bug spray, a tackle bag and a bicycle are other, standard issue, items that will ensure your youngster has a good time on his or her first trip to the Big Ditch.




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