Anyone who has read my column with regularity (thank you to both of you!) knows I love to fish, and that love of fishing was fostered very early on. My dad took me hunting and fishing quite a bit when I was young. My grandma also took me fishing. I was fortunate they both had the time, and the inclination, to do that. I was lucky neither one of them threw me in the lake as well, but that is a story for another day. Suffice it to say I was a fairly hyper kid and not always the most focused.
But that brings me to my point of taking a kid fishing. It is important to remember kids are not just small adults. They do not have the attention span we do (well, maybe that I do - I am still distracted by squirrels and shiny objects, as most of my co-workers will tell you). They do not have the fine motor skills we do. They are very different from us, but they can still enjoy fishing as a hobby or a sport, just as much as adults do. Here are a few of my best tips for taking a kid fishing.
If we, as adults, plan short trips, we can always decide to stay longer if things go well. Plan an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Keeping trips short will help keep kids focused while they are fishing. Once they start catching a few fish, their excitement will keep them engaged; but we do not want to burn them out on their first trip. Keeping the first few trips short - and fun - is integral to getting them to want to come back again. Sometimes this is all about finding the right lake, whether you are in search of pan fish or numbers of bass or something else. We are more engaged in fishing when the catching is good and, quite honestly, kids do not care how big the fish are. Pick a numbers lake and make the trip short and you are halfway to getting a kid hooked on fishing for life.
Leave time to explore
Kids are naturally curious. Fishing from shore is great because kids get to move around and explore the world around them. They want to find bugs in the grass and crayfish in the water, and watch the birds come down and grab some lunch out of the lake. They want to know what makes water blue and what kind of tree that is down the shoreline. Let them explore, too. Bring some bird, plant and animal identification books with you. There are many field guides available today which easily fit in a hand bag or even a tackle box. Just leafing through those books can be a great way for a kid to spend some time while waiting for a bite.
My mom had field guides when I was a kid and I just about wore them out looking through them constantly when I was outside. Letting kids explore and find answers to their questions is all part of the experience. I recommend leaving electronics at home and keeping cellphones in a pocket. For one, if they fall into the water - enough said. Secondly, I like keeping "being in nature" just that. No electronics. It can help to bring a pen and paper to write down any questions to which you do not have answers. Both of you can take some time later at night, or on a rainy day, to jump on the internet and learn the answers together.
Snacks are imperative. Nothing will end a fishing trip quicker than a hungry kid. I have to admit, it is rare that I eat much of anything during an eight-hour tournament day. I may grab a beef stick while running from one spot to the next, but that is about the extent of it. I definitely do not recommend that when fishing with kids. It could bring about a mutiny!
Healthy snacks are what we all strive for, of course. But, at the same time, fishing may be a special occasion. It may not be something we get to do together very often. So why not make it fun? Bring along some special snacks the kids only get when they go fishing. Anything that makes the trip special is sure to be remembered by a young mind.
Be sure to take pictures of any fish the kids catch, which seems to go without saying; but I cannot count the number of times, caught up in the excitement, I have forgotten to take pictures. Share them on social media when you get home. Make it a big deal. Or print the pictures and let the kids make a photo collage of their fishing trip.
Fishing with kids can be fun and rewarding. Introducing someone to the sport of fishing is never a bad idea. It is amazing to see what kids can learn and fun to watch their confidence grow as they learn more and master new techniques. For me, fishing with kids is so much more than fishing. Doing things in the outdoors can teach life lessons like nothing else can, and I think many of those lessons are some of the most important ones we can learn, so sharing them just comes naturally. Above all, when you take a kid fishing, do not be afraid to have fun. Take time and see the world through their eyes. It is amazing what you can learn from each other.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.