With all of the new gizmos, gadgets and whatnots available to our children these days, you’ve inevitably noticed an alarming trend – kids (and adults, for that matter) can grow maddeningly attached to their devices. The fear is that we may be raising the least active, outdoorsy generation to date. Lessening are the numbers of parents who take their kids camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, or really to do anything other than play video games or wallow around in some filthy indoor playground at the nearest fast food joint. But fear not, Awesome Outdoor Enthusiast Parent! There are ways to get your kids interested in the finer things that Mother Nature has to offer, especially the time-honored tradition of fishing. There is nothing quite like sitting next to a river, lake, pond, or seashore with a line in the water, taking in the peace and quiet. Except, perhaps, spending quality time with the kiddos while doing so. The key to getting them excited about it is to get them interested early, you need to be patient and enthusiastic, and most importantly, you should read this article. Here are a few ways to help make sure your little guy or gal grow up to be the world-class fisherman that you (clearly) are.
It’s their fishing trip, not yours.
This is an important point to remember. In the past, you’ve gone out with your buddies, scoped out the perfect catfish-slaying spot, and…sat there for four hours. While I’m sure you’d love to spend four hours just sitting and chatting with the little one by the lakeshore, we both know that that’s probably not going to happen. They just don’t have the patience for it at a young age. Let them do what they want to do. Their first experience or experiences need to be fun for them, or they’re not going to want to have anything to do with fishing the next time out. Depending on how old they are, they’ll probably end up throwing rocks or jumping in the water within the first thirty minutes anyhow.
Don’t bore them with technicalities
Look, the kid is smart, but they’re not going to give a crap about how to tie the perfect knot or how much drag they have on their line at the age of 5. Keep it as simple as possible – a worm on a hook tied to a line that is attached to a pole. Sure, you’ll want to show them the basics like casting, reeling the line in, or how to bait the hook (if they’re especially brave…and not accident prone). You’re not dealing with a professional bass fisherman, you’re dealing with your kid.
Do a little homework
You’re going to need to either scope out a place to go beforehand or take them to a place that you know well. You should be thinking about and looking for places where “easier” fish frequent. Look for places where fish like blue gill or other common “panfish” are going to hang out. The reason for this is simple – these fish are more abundant and easier to catch. Children will get much more enjoyment out of something if they have success in it (don’t we all?). They’d much rather be fighting to bring in a fish than sitting there listening to you yammering on about “the good ol’ days” and staring at the water. The next thing you know, they’ll be playing Angry Birds or Bubble Pop or whatever games they play on those handheld, mind-melting picture boxes.
Keep them occupied
So you’ve failed at your homework and you’re not catching anything other than sticks and algae. The kid is getting fidgety, hot, and hungry. Now what? Simple – using the same tricks you’ve probably used a bazillion times at home, keep them occupied. Bring snacks (the more, the better) to feed them, binoculars so that you can keep an eye out for other cool wildlife, or even something like a couple of baseball gloves and a ball. Again, it’s important to remember that you want the experience to be fun for them, and it’s called “fishing,” not “catching,” so there will be those unfortunate instances when you’re just not having much luck. Play a game of catch, grab a net to catch minnows (if that’s legal, ya dummy), seek out other wildlife and teach them all the cool facts about it. Anything to keep them outside and away from those electronic…things.
Don’t force it
A mistake that many parents make when fishing is forcing their little one to do the things they’re not yet comfortable doing, such as baiting the hook or taking the fish off the hook. Let them warm up to the idea by showing them exactly how you do it, every time you do it. They’ll eventually see that that big, bad earthworm didn’t eat Mommy or Daddy’s finger and that the terrifying catfish didn’t swallow their hand whole. After awhile, they’ll muster up the courage and walk away with a huge boost of confidence and a positive memory of their fishing experience. If you pressure them into doing it before they’re ready they’re probably just not going to do it, and they’ll walk away feeling like fishing is gross and negative. You’ll be stuck watching the same episode of Dora the Explorer for the next three days straight just to make it up to them.