The One That Got Away
The fishing bug is easy to catch. Kids can do it at any age. A good first step is simply taking them to a local lake and walking along the shore. There's nothing like seeing someone catch a fish to pique curiosity.
Next, teach them about the rod and reel, about bait or lures and casting. The backyard is a perfect spot for teaching skills and safety while creating anticipation for the big day. Make an activity around selecting a tackle box and filling it with your favorite lures and bobbers. Learn about the types of fish you might catch and what to do once you've landed them.
What you need
- A number of inexpensive spin-cast rod and reel combinations are sized to fit young anglers. Avoid giving a young child an adult-sized rod and reel as it will be difficult to handle and may end up frustrating and disappointing them on their first fishing trip. The rod and reel should fit a child's hands for easiest use.
- Small hooks mean big catches. Fish don't like large hooks. There's no need to use whole whopping-big, writhing night crawlers on your hook. Keep the bait approximately the size of your hook: live bait such as worms, bee moths or crickets work best. Or use a lure, which simplifies the experience.
- A light line will do the job, preferably 6-pound test line or less. Remember, you're looking for enjoyment and building confidence, not targeting the prize-winning catch.
- Bobbers are a mesmerizing way to teach the basics of how fish respond to bait. Small, round, red and white bobbers quickly let you know if you are getting a bite. A small tackle box is a good way for a child to organize hooks and bobbers. It will appeal to their sense of ownership and will encourage them to keep their gear in one place.
The First Fish
For freshwater fishing, look for a weedy or rocky area where the water is several feet deep. Avoid shallow water that doesn't offer fish a hiding place. Look for areas where the bottom changes in some way, from sand to gravel or from sand to mud. Make the preparation and scouting of location a part of your fishing adventure.
Remind your child to stay quiet and avoid disturbing the water or they may scare fish away. Be patient. They are going to make mistakes as they learn. Encourage and laugh with them during this fun time. If you have no action after 10 or 15 minutes, try another spot. The first time out, don't overdo it. Young children should not be expected to fish all day. Perhaps an hour or two is all you both can take that first time. You may want to have a picnic after you fish.
Safety and Respect for Nature
While you're out, model and reiterate safe fishing practices. Remind your child to always fish with a companion who can offer help in an emergency. Be careful when handling sharp hooks. (You may want to consider using barbless hooks or lures for beginning anglers.)
Find a spot that is comfortable and safe. Avoid slippery or steep banks. Don't cast near other people, and always look carefully around before making a cast. Wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device or life vest when wading or in a boat. It should fit well and be comfortable. A good angler respects natural resources and wants to conserve them for others to enjoy. Always carry out what you brought in. Never leave behind plastic containers or packaging.
Fast Fishing on the Fly
It's simple to pick up a basic child's fishing kit on the way to the lake, already loaded with a rod, reel and line and small tackle box. If you like, you could also add a live bait container to hold minnows and worms, a stringer or an ice chest to keep your catch fresh, a landing net and a first-aid kit for minor emergencies. Other handy items for the young angler include a scaler, a hook disgorger and a filet knife.
Fishing is a win-win for your family. The time you take will pay off considerably in the future, strengthening your relationship and introducing them to a lifelong recreational activity.