The days are getting longer and the weather is headed for summer. It’s time to turn off the X-Box and get those kiddos outside. Take a kid fishing is more than just a slogan, it is an important thing to do for many reasons. Most of us who have developed a lifelong addiction to fishing started out as youngsters fishing with a parent, grandparent or possibly another family member. I was lucky and had all the above. Some took me fishing because they enjoyed it themselves while others were simply kind enough to indulge my passion.
Some of my fondest memories are of riding dirt roads of central Texas with my Grandpa after he got off from a long day of work. He worked cattle for several area ranchers and had access to their places.We’d pull up to a stock tank and he’d settle into a lawn chair while I fished…and fished…and fished. I never thought about it then, but looking back, I now realize he really didn’t care about fishing.He simply cared about me.
Grandpa left us many years ago, but those memories are as fresh as yesterday. How awesome would it be to have someone thinking fondly of things you did for them long after you’re gone? You have that opportunity all around you. Whether your own kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids or just the youngster next door; I’m certain there is a potential young angler just waiting to wet a line.
My baby girls aren’t so little anymore. In fact, the youngest has presented me with a couple of grand babies. The oldest is already showing signs of being an outdoors girl. Both my girls love to hunt, fish and spend time outdoors. Over the years some of the best conversations I’ve had with them have been while we were on the water, sitting in a deer blind, or just riding in the truck on the way to some great adventure. The best way to get to know what’s going on in their young heads is to take them away from the everyday mayhem and relax a while.
Relax is the key word. Don’t put too much emphasis on the catch. We all enjoy pursuing the glamor species, the bigger the better. But for a kid starting out it’s all about the pull. Who among us doesn’t fondly recall watching a red and white bobber sliding sideways and submerging? Or perhaps it was the tap-tap-tap transmitted up the line as some unknown fish showed interest in the dead shrimp impaled on the hook. It didn’t matter if it was a piggy perch or hardhead, it was all about the pull.
I’ve found that kayak fishing is a great way to get the youngsters involved. Little ones easily fit in the tankwell, while older kids can join you in a tandem or even paddle their own kayak. I can’t put age ranges on what is best for your kids, but mine were quite capable of paddling on their own by the time they were twelve. The initial outings might be best sampled without fishing gear and in protected water.Let them get a feel for paddling and just being out on the water. Spend some time paddling a marsh or creek. Make it about seeing what’s out there and not so much of a paddling lesson. I’ve found that paddling sort of comes natural to most kids. A few pointers on how to make the kayak go forward and turn should suffice in the beginning. Keep in mind that while the things we see every day on the water become mundane for us, poking at crabs or watching a heron stalk minnows might be just the thing to flip the switch on a lifetime in the outdoors for your kid.
Safety comes first. Get them into a properly fitting and comfortable PFD. If they aren’t comfortable around the water it might be a good idea to get them in a pool while wearing the PFD to show them how well it works. Also, let them play around on the kayak to see just how stable they really are. You might even put the kayak in the pool. A lightweight kid will just about have to jump in the water on purpose in a typical sit-on-top style. Anything you can do to lessen their anxiety will make it easier for them to enjoy their time on the water.
You know your child better than anyone else. Base your trip on that knowledge. Don’t make big plans for an extended day if you think they can’t handle it. Whether paddling, boating or just a bank fishing trip, several short fun excursions are worth far more than one long and potentially boring session. As they get older and show interest, you can increase the duration. All of this might sound like common sense, but I’ve seen far too many gung-ho parents push their kiddos too far and end up taking all the fun out of it. What constitutes a good day for an avid fisherman probably isn’t going to be the same for a youngster.
Pre-trip planning is just as important as the actual trip. Make sure they have the proper clothing, footwear and sunscreen. Also, pack plenty of drinks and snacks. An uncomfortable, thirsty or hungry kid will end a trip in a hurry. While I can easily go all day on a protein bar and a couple bottles of water, I knew my girls couldn’t.
As for the fishing; keep it simple. Like I stated earlier, kids just want something tugging on their line.Find a place with some decent water movement, park it and drop a dead shrimp on the bottom.Something will come along and eat it. Use small hooks and just enough weight to hold the bait on the bottom. Keep the gear simple too, but do yourself and them a favor, don’t go cheap. The Snoopy rigs are cute but, from personal experience, don’t fall for it. Nothing spoils the mood of the trip like a balky reel that quits working after a couple hours of salt exposure. There are several good quality closed-face reels available. Pony up and get them something that will last. There are also some decent quality kids rods on the market that will work just fine for most anything they’re likely to hook up with. Once I realized my girls were hooked I took a couple good quality popping rods, cut them to a shorter length and installed smaller handles. One other tip I’ll pass along from personal experience is to have them practice casting. I made a game of it with buckets in the yard. Having them familiar with the gear and mechanics of casting prior to the first trip made things go a lot smoother.Data shows that the demographic of fishermen is slowly aging. The future of the sport depends on recruitment of young anglers. It’s time for all of us to step up and…Take a Kid Fishing.