Fishing with Kids

By Joe Reynolds

HAVE FUN! Don't worry about technique and don't be concerned about catching lots of big, trophy-size fish. To a young angler, a small bluegill or crappie caught with a simple hook and bobber is a major achievement. For some children, a big fish might be scary.

KEEP IT SIMPLE. Don't make your fishing outing a big production. Kids can only take in so much information at any given time. The more complicated you make it, the more frustrated they'll get. You don't need fancy equipment. You don't need a boat; fishing from a pier, dock or shore will do just fine. Keep it simple. After all, your child just wants to spend time with you.

MAKE IT AN ADVENTURE. Like any great adventure, planning it is three-quarters the fun. Fishing is the same way. Even if the fish aren't biting, you can have fun buying a family fishing license; studying a map of where you're going; exploring the lake, stream or beach, digging for worms, making a picnic lunch, or pretending you are in search of Moby Crappie or Catfish.

USE RELIABLE EQUIPMENT. Quality fishing equipment is important to ensure that everyone has a positive, frustration-free experience.

ATTENTION SPAN. It's a fact of life. Kids have short attention spans. First off, plan ahead. Check the forecast for bad weather. Look for a spot that has easily accessible rest rooms and a nearby playground. Bring snacks, and maybe some toys. Second, don't make the mistake of forcing your child to fish for hours on end. Sometimes a child will be happy fishing for 15 minutes and then playing for an hour along the beach.

HANDLING THE FISH. If a child catches a fish, don't force him or her to take it off the hook, or to touch the fish. Do it for them. After all, imitation can often be the best teacher.

QUICK SUCCESS. With youngsters, a little success, early on, will hook them for a lifetime. So, as you plan your fishing outing, make a point to find some spots that will quickly reward you and your little one with fish. Kids don't care about size, but they do like to catch fish, even if they're little ones. So, stop by or make a quick call to a nearby bait and tackle store to learn where they're bitin'.

SAFETY FIRST. Whether it is big river or a small neighborhood pond, water needs to be respected. Show your child how to act safely around water, in a boat or on a dock. Use your fishing outings to teach and rehearse what they should do if they get in trouble with water.

LOVE THE OUTDOORS. It's never too early to show your child how to love and appreciate the outdoors. While you're fishing, take this time to observe other creatures such as birds, ducks or squirrels, and talk about simple ways to keep the outdoors beautiful, such as properly disposing fishing line or picking up candy wrappers and soda cans.

CATCH, RELEASE, PRAISE. Don't worry about catch and release. Better yet, let your child make the decision. Give him or her the opportunity to take their catch home to show friends and relatives. But do teach your child how to carefully and respectfully handle a fish for the day when they do release them. Whatever the decision, don't forget to heap on plenty of praise for learning a new skill.

CAPTURE THE MEMORIES. Whether your child sticks with fishing or not, only time will tell. But for now, what matters is capturing the memories so they have something to share with their friends, family members, and ultimately, with their kids. So take plenty of photos.

SHOW THEM YOUR BEST. Finally, fishing is an excellent opportunity to teach your kids how to be kind, caring adults. Children imitate adults they love and respect. So, show them your best and make a good impression. Taking the time to be with your children and sharing in the excitement of the outdoors will pay big dividends in years to come.

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