Last week, my cousins came to visit Maine from the mid-Atlantic region. They made the trip to see relatives and friends, first in Connecticut, then at Sebago Lake and points beyond.

I offered to take the children fishing, following in the footsteps of my late father, Bill Warner, who enjoyed sharing his passion for fishing with youngsters.

The most enthusiastic of the bunch was 13-year-old Tad, the oldest of my four first cousins, twice removed. I wanted to make sure we got out in the boat for him to get some fishing in.

It’s not a stretch to say fishing is in their blood, since the kids’ great-great-great grandfather, William Kendall, purchased the property and fished at Sebago as early as the late 1800s.

Con, 8, was up for the excursion, too, and 7-year-old Ellery wanted to tag along, although not to fish. Older sister Soule, 11, opted to remain at camp and continue reading a good book.

The trip was the maiden Sebago fishing voyage of our recently acquired aluminum boat, which replaced the ol’ 1964 MirroCraft. We trolled an F-7 Flatfish lure at slow speed using a small spinning rod.

The lures have an aggressive wiggling action that often entices the fish to bite, but the incessant jiggling takes some getting used to for inexperienced younger anglers — who invariably are convinced there’s a fish on the line.

“If you get a fish on, you’ll know,” I said.

Tad, who occupied the bow seat, knew the drill. Con, who shared the middle bench with Ellery, wasn’t familiar with the lure dynamics.

The kids were inquisitive — they’re a smart bunch — and the electronic fish finder provided details about the depth and temperature of the water, marked a few fish and kept our minds off the lack of action during the first half-hour.

We made our way through a long cove, then turned sharply west toward the point. All of a sudden, Con said he had a fish on. He was sure of it.

Having heard a similar claim several times already, I was skeptical, but then I saw the rod’s tip bent over considerably.

I told him to give the rod a tug to set the hook, then he started reeling, struggling against the pull of the fish. I looked back and saw a silvery flash just below the surface.

Con had hooked a landlocked salmon.

We had been trolling in only about 12 feet of water, so I would have expected the salmon to be patrolling the cooler water, some 25 to 30 feet down.

Secretly, I feared we might have an anticlimactic ending, one that I have experienced multiple times. Salmon are notoriously hard fighters when hooked and often resort to acrobatic jumps to get off the hook.

“It’s pulling very hard, I can barely hold it,” Con said before further resistance sparked a burst of excitement.

Con was battling not only the fish but a clunky open-faced reel. Yet he stayed focused and kept cranking, one slow turn at a time.

Tad looked on, providing words of encouragement as only a devoted big brother could.

“It’s close. It’s close. You’ve almost got it, Connie,” he said.

Ellery screeched with delight, announcing that they would need to tell their mom and dad about the fish.

“You can do it,” she told Con.

“Nice and easy,” I kept saying, hoping to help Con avoid any sudden movements that might allow the line to slack and the salmon to escape.

“You’ve almost got it,” Tad said.

Moments later, Con had the fish near the boat. Unable to see it under the water, I ditched my phone and grabbed the net. Con muscled the fish to a spot where I could scoop it up.

Then, the celebration was officially on. Tad and Ellery crowded around Con to glimpse their first live Sebago salmon, which had conveniently become unhooked in the net.

Questions arose about keeping the fish. Even without applying the measuring tape, I knew it was a borderline legal fish, probably 15 inches. It should be returned to the lake, I told them.

After snapping a few photos dominated by broad smiles, I carefully took the salmon and gently held it in the water, allowing the fish to get some oxygen back in its system. Within a few seconds, it swam away, hopefully to someday provide more thrills to another angler.

We congratulated Con, who was understandably giddy, on his good luck and his fishing skill. A few minutes later, Ellery asked whether she might take a turn with the rod. Con willingly reeled in and I handed Ellery a different rod, one sporting a silver Flatfish with pink spots.

Our conversations focused on the potential for catching more fish. Meanwhile, the fluttering Flatfish kept both Con and Ellery entertained.

We didn’t have any action until we headed back into our cove, when Ellery again suggested that she had a fish on the line.

“You’ll know,” I said, again expressing doubt.

Finally, I relented and she reeled in. To my disbelief, there was a small bass at the end of her line.

“I told you I had a fish,” Ellery said gleefully.

More celebration ensued. The kids admired the little bass, which also was subjected to a photo opportunity before it was released.

I apologized profusely for doubting Ellery’s fish-sensing ability and we continued to troll. There would be no more fish that day, but we returned to the beach triumphant, thanks to Con’s inspiring catch. The kids shared the story with their parents, Ian and Sue, who probably couldn’t have imagined such a resounding result.

I was thrilled to have the chance to go fishing with my cousins and to share an experience that will be a treasured memory.

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...