If you’ve never taken a kid fishing, you are missing out on one of the most rewarding aspects of the sport: sharing it with others. As an elementary school teacher and father of three, I have been lucky enough to introduce the sport to many children, and have learned some things that enhance their first experiences with this magnificent sport.
Kids are naturally fascinated by living things. They can sit and stare at a squirming worm or chase ants for hours. Adults are often fixated on catching “the lunker,” but to a kid who spends their afternoons chasing insects, a pan fish can be a beast. It’s all how you, the guide, frame it, and they will be looking to you for clues as to how excited they should be. If your two pound test rig gets a tiny nibble, assume the role of pro photographer and sports announcer and make a big deal out of it. Holler, “NO WAY! IT’S HUGE!,” bend down before them to get some point-of-view shots or videos of them battling “the beast,” and pepper them with questions, paparazzi-style, about how they are possibly holding up in the midst of such a challenge. They will feel important, and the struggle will become amplified into an epic clash of wills. You’ll probably also have a ball!
Prep the kids for the trip by helping them learn about the fish, scenery, and other wildlife they may encounter. Go online and lookup the species (try using TakeMeFishing.org’s Fishopedia section), check out the pictures of the fish, and download free informative coloring sheets like the ones at enchantedlearning.com. The more they know about the fish’s habitat, habits, prey, and predators, the more fun they’ll have. Go to Google and look up videos of the fish being caught or swimming in the wild.
Many kids have short attention spans. You may be stoked on fishing for a full day, but most kids aren’t, unless the action is nonstop, and there are plenty of snacks, drinks, and ways to expend energy. You’re better off going to a spot where they can pull on lots of small fish (bait fish will do!) than waiting around for something huge, especially since they may not be able to handle a monster.
If you’re in a boat, consider staying close to shore and limiting first timers to short, fair weather trips. I once took a kid marlin fishing in Cabo San Lucas with his father. The poor fellow spent much of the day in the boat white-knuckling it in the cabin. Once we got back in the bay into calmer water, his eyes lit up. In fact, the highlight of his day was when he found the colorful fish swimming below the dock on the load out!
Kids often are amused by things that adults take for granted. Trips to the tackle store, prepping bait, and threading worms on hooks may seem like old hat to you, but it’s not to kids. Some of them would rather play around in the livewell than tend a pole that’s getting occasional hits. As long as it’s a positive experience for them, go with it. Their hunger for the sport and attention span will likely grow over time.
About the Author
Jon Schwartz is a freelance journalist whose fishing photography, articles, stories, and blog can be seen at http://www.bluewaterjon.com/.