Get The Kids Involved
By Hank Parker
It’s easy to get caught up in our own activities and forget the important things in life.
That’s one reason I gave up tournament fishing. When I retired I had five kids ranging in ages from 6 to 16, including twin boys aged 13. It would have been a shame to continue my tournament-fishing career and never have taken time to share with them my appreciation and love for the sport.
Fishing is a part of the American heritage, yet sometimes I fear the pastime is losing the tradition. When I was growing up, parents and children learned to know each other better during the time they spent fishing. The simple things in life kept us anchored and helped set priorities for our lives.
Unfortunately, that’s changing. Today’s adult urban society is finding other ways to spend leisure time, and in many instances, the activities don’t include children.
The fishing industry is doing a great job of attracting youth to to the sport. Those who don’t have children, won’t need to look far to find other kids eager to wet a line.
Keep in mind; teaching kids about fishing may not be as easy as it sounds. As a bass fisherman acclimated to making every cast count, taking my kids fishing many years ago was a test of patience the first few times we headed out for a day of fishing.
So, when are children old enough to go fishing? As soon as they show an interest and can hold a rod. But remember: Fun is the number one priority when teaching kids of any age how to fish on those first few outings. You must work on their timetable. When you see them growing weary, do something different. Go for a boat ride, or ease into the shallows to show them ducks, turtles and other wildlife. End each trip on a high note; don’t wait until action is terribly slow to call it a day.
Here are other factors to consider:
- Any first outing should be from the shore. Riding in a boat can be a scary experience for a child on the first fishing trip. Let him or her grow into it.
- Choose a bank that’s grassy, shaded and free of snags. Pack a lunch and plenty of soft drinks. Spend time teaching the basics, such as casting, adjusting the bobber and baiting the hook.
- Spincasting equipment is ideal for beginners. Spool the reel with 8- or 10-pound-test line and match it to a short, light-action rod. Make sure each child has his or her own outfit, with the understanding that they are responsible for their equipment. Shakespeare has done a great job of offering a wide variety of combos for children of all age groups to enjoy fishing.
- Leave your rods and reels at home so you can focus on the needs and excitement of children. Let them sit on your lap and steer the boat, pick places to fish, cast, bait their hooks and fix their own tangles. Offer assistance and advice, but let them feel involved.
- Control your temper. It doesn’t take many tangles or snagged hooks in brushpiles to test a teacher’s nerves. Try to accept the fact that those things are all part of the learning process.
- In the beginning, kids don’t care how big or what kind of fish they catch. Target abundant, aggressive fish that can be reached with a simple cast.
- Preach safety and set the example. While in a boat, put a life jacket on each child and yourself. Keep the kill switch snapped to your jacket and explain what it’s for. Safety tips can be instilled in youngsters at an early age, and they’ll never get away from them.
- As kids grow older, don’t try to push them to a higher level. Provide the opportunity, but let them make the choice. If they would rather play ball than go fishing, let them. Don’t try to compete with other interests.
I’m still learning about these things. When my twins were 6 years old, I took them to a brushpile on Lake Norman. I knew it was loaded with big crappie. To my dismay, we only caught three or four fish. I thought the trip was a disaster, yet years later the boys still talk about that trip. They remember how we made a mess of the boat and sat out there laughing at funny things that happened during the day.
That memory helps me keep things in perspective when I go fishing with my grandchildren today. Get out there and make memories with your kids, grandkids and youth in your area.
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