little girl holding up a bobber

Billy’s bobbers

Thanks to Brad Steinberg, our Natural Heritage Education Coordinator, for today’s post, which includes instructions on how to make your own fishing bobber.

I never knew either of my grandfathers, both of them claimed by heart disease before I got to know them. I was, however, blessed with some great surrogates – family friends whose wisdom and support filled the space normally reserved for a grampa. Bill Bishop was one of them.

Bill possessed the wisdom and wit that seems unique to Newfoundlanders, often toasting a meal with a maritime saying that was mysterious in its slang and nearly impossible for an eight-year-old boy to decipher.

Bill and my family shared a deep love of Algonquin Provincial Park, especially the speckled trout that inhabit the murky depths of those cold, Canadian Shield lakes. And every spring, as the lake ice freckled and broke apart, he’d fish for those speckled trout using homemade bobbers made from old wine corks.

They’d be painted gold, orange, or silver; bright enough to catch your eye when they were yanked below the water’s surface by a hungry trout. Today, we’d call it up-cycling, but to Billy, it was just a pragmatic way to fish.

Creative parenting

It had been close to 30 years since I’d thought about those bobbers, my own tackle box filled with the generic plastic bobbers you buy in bulk. But on a dreary day last winter, my children were driving me nuts, so I was open to a creative solution.

Two kids at a table making bobbers

As I rooted through the kitchen cupboard looking for something to trick the kids into being nice to each other, I came across a bag of corks. I was pretty sure my wife was saving those corks for some sort of Pinterest craft, but as she hadn’t left me clear instructions in triplicate, they were fair game.

That’s when I remembered Billy’s bobbers

I assembled the following:

  • an electric drill
  • 5 wooden skewers
  • 10 corks
  • kid friendly paint and paintbrushes
  • heavy scissors
  • my semi-feral children

Tools required for craft

This was a high tech operation. We made the bobbers by following these four steps:

  1. Drill holes through the corks, lengthwise
  2. Cut the skewers to the desired length
  3. Stick them in the holes
  4. Let the kids paint the bobbers

Three bobbers in a row

Gaudy, fun, and functional

Little girl holding up a fish caught using a pink bobberThe end result was a replica of Billy’s bobbers, in a gaudy and fun assortment of colours. A few months later in Algonquin Provincial Park, held fast to the line with a hair elastic, one of those corks bobbed in the water.

A moment later, it winked underwater and was quickly hauled in by my daughter, who was elated to catch a Small-mouth Bass using her very own bobber.

I think that would have made Bill smile.

Pro-tip: these bobbers can also be used as Christmas tree ornaments, floating keychains, and fashionable earrings.