Teaching a child to fish is a great way to bond and create memories that both you and your kids will remember for a lifetime. But, as with most new activities and skills, learning to fish can be challenging for both the teacher and the student. It’s good to be prepared with tips and tricks before heading out for your child’s first fishing trip.
Here are some tips from Mike Webb (http://webboutdoors.com), a professional guide and owner of Webb Outdoors and Central Pro Circuits. Webb has been teaching children about fishing for over 30 years through his guide service and a program called K. A. S. T. (Kids Are Special Too), sponsored by Tracker Marine Group, which was founded in 1996 to educate kids about the hazards of drug use.
1. Find The Right Rod and Reel: Depending on the child, a good starting rod and reel is a simple push-button spincast model. The push-button models are easy for a child to handle and they will save you time untangling knots. Alternatively, spinning reels have a little better functionality, but they take a bit more practice to figure out.
Once you find a reel, you must find a rod that matches the reel type. The length of the rod is the most important consideration. The length should be the same height as the child or a foot taller. So, a 4-foot-tall child should have a rod that is up to 5-feet-long.
2. Keep It Simple: When introducing a kid to fishing, keep it simple: a hook, a sinker and a bobber is really all you need. Use Leaf worms (the small worms -- not the big Nightcrawlers). As the adult, plan on handling all the bait and taking out hooks. Let the child try touching the worms if they want, but the important thing is to keep the kids focused on casting, catching and having fun.
3. Practice Makes Perfect: Casting can be hard to master, so help your child practice on land before you hit the water. Take them out to the driveway or a park so that they can work on their accuracy. To ensure safety, make sure they’re casting straight over their heads.
You can also demonstrate to them how to properly tie a knot and bait the hook. It’s easier to do these lessons before you get to the water when the child has better focus and more time to get it down.
4. Stay Safe: As with any activity near the water, when fishing, it’s important to come prepared with basic first aid supplies as well as safety equipment such as a properly-fitting life jacket. Always make sure your child has eye protection like sunglasses or prescription glasses and be sure to bring sunscreen and insect repellent.
Another trick is to pinch your hook barbs so that they are flat. Kids will
still catch fish, but unhooking a fish will be a lot easier.
5. Find the Shade: Shaded areas like docks, piers, rocks and any shoreline vegetation are a favorite hiding ground for panfish (bluegills, sunfish, crappies, perch) and a variety of other fish that are easy to catch. Stay around these areas and there’s a better chance you’ll get a bite or two. Plus, the shady areas are a nice way to get relief from the sun on a hot day.
6. Keep It Short: When planning your trip, keep in mind that children tend to lose interest rather quickly. It’s best to plan a fishing trip that lasts around an hour or so. If the fish aren’t biting and interest is fading, you might make up a casting or accuracy contest to keep kids engaged. And don’t get frustrated if your kids say they’d like to run around and play on the nearby playground. Introducing kids to fishing little by little is how you’ll raise a kid to love fishing for a lifetime.
7. Pack Snacks and Drinks: Be sure to have easy access to snacks and drinks. Bring healthy and portable snacks, and maybe an extra special treat. It’s important to keep kids hydrated in addition to fed, so bring along water bottles or flavored water. Food and drinks will make it much more fun for everyone.
8. Make It A Learning Experience: Fishing with a child is a great time to instill lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime. Teach them the important things about fishing like when to catch and release or what to do when a fish gets hook gutted. You can also talk about the trees, plants and other aspects of the outdoors.
9. Don’t forget the camera: Kids want to show off their big catches to mom, dad, grandparents and their friends. So make sure to bring a camera and take lots of photos. Remember, even a very little sunfish or bluegill can be a monster in the eyes of a little child.
10. Have Fun: Perhaps the most important tip is to have fun. Teaching a child to fish is important, but it shouldn’t be the only goal. If you make the trip an adventure and a memorable experience there’s a better chance they will want to do it again – whether they hook a fish or not.