Do you sometimes want to be a kid again? You can by taking a real kid fishing. Children are curious about and fascinated with the outdoors. Even the simple things that you might have outgrown—like skipping rocks along the shoreline—excite young minds. You might even rediscover how those little things can make spending outdoors so satisfying and fun.
Passing on the sport to a child is rewarding, too. You can create lasting memories and even gain a new fishing buddy for life. Get started by thinking like a kid with these tips and suggestions for making the experience safe, fun and rewarding for you and the child.
As an angler, catching fish might be your priority. For a kid, catching might be just part of the overall experience, though. Be prepared for distractions—there are many—that might divert the attention away from the fishing. If you encounter wildlife, take a time out and enjoy the moment. Make everything going on around you part of the outing. If you do, the child might want to spend even more time outdoors, which is the true essence of fishing.
As a parent (or grandparent, uncle, aunt, etc), you already know that children have short attention spans. When the fish aren’t biting, it can get downright boring, so be prepared with diversions to keep their mind occupied. If you are in a boat, bring along familiar toys for a play break. Take a swim if the child is of age. Go on a short cruise or change locations. Then, pick up the rod and reel and resume the fishing.
If the fish are biting, you might be tempted to set the hook and play out the fish. Instead, pass the rod on to the child. Grab your mobile phone and snap a photo or take a short video. The more you let the child do the catching, the more they will want to do it again. And the more fish stories you will have to tell!
You do this for day trips to the zoo or elsewhere, and packing snacks and drinks is even more important on the water. Kids like to eat, regardless of what they might be doing, and they will burn up lots of calories being outside. Pack healthy snacks and avoid sugary foods. Don’t forget the ice and drinks.
Keeping it simple is the mantra for the entire learning process. That includes the species you intend to catch. Bass should rank low on the priority list in freshwater. More prolific species like bluegill, perch, catfish and even carp should be the target. With the exception of perch, these species can be caught from the dock or along the shoreline. Best of all, they bend the rod just like a bass, but are much easier to catch.
Catch more fish by knowing ahead of time where you want to take the child fishing. For kid-friendly species, that list is short. Bluegill are plentiful around marinas and boat docks, which provide shade and shelter for the fish. Just make sure fishing is allowed from the dock! If you come up short, there might be a better option. Many states have fish-attracting structures that are intended to create habitat for gamefish. Some fish attractors are placed near shorelines, while others are more convenient for boats. Buoys or signs mark the locations. An online search of your state’s fisheries agency can also reveal the locations.
You can bait a hook—just like you did as a kid with a live worm—with the soft baits. Add a bobber, and you have the good old-fashioned rig that is time tested over many generations of anglers. Nothing beats the excitement of a bobber dancing across the surface of the water! As your new fishing partner develops casting skills, try using the soft bait on a lightweight jighead. At first, though, use the bobber to develop distance casting skills. Eventually remove it and teach the hopping jig technique and the slow retrieve tactic. From there, you can continue advancing to lures requiring more mechanical skills and hand-eye coordination.
Let the fun begin in the backyard with practice session using the new rod-and-reel combo. A sidearm cast is much better for kids to learn than the overhead cast commonly used by grownups. Here’s how to do it. First, raise the rod above waist level. Swing the rod forward while flicking the wrist and pushing the spool release button. Press the button just before the rod points directly at the target. Provide lots of encouragement and praise, and most of all keep it fun with lots of laughs.
Most of all be patient. Watch them have a good time, and just enjoy the time you’re spending together. Remember—it’s the simple things that matter most.