I have always said, the next best thing to catching a fish is watching a kid catch a fish. If you have ventured out with a child in recent years for a fishing adventure, you know exactly what I mean. Notice I never said fishing trip, because when kids are involved, it's not always about the fish, but the adventure!
If you have relatives, or that neighbor kid that has been bugging you to take them fishing, this time of year is the perfect time to do so. With the following tips, I hope to make your trip with a youngster a great one to remember.
Timing - This time of year, all fish species are roaming the shallow waters looking to fill up their bodies with spring's fresh nutrients and food. When fish are shallow, they are easier to catch. It also makes it a great time to walk the banks of area lakes looking for that next spot to fish. Now and the next few weeks are ideal time to take youngsters out.
T-R PHOTO BY TODD REED
Taking a child fishing can be very rewarding for you and the child. You can assure a great time on your adventure by keeping a few things in mind; safety, proper clothing, drinks, snacks and keeping things simple.
Planning - When taking a child out fishing, try to keep the length of the trip pretty short. I have found that anything over two hours for young kids is a real struggle. Try to have an agenda in mind, and don't expect to stay fishing for very long. The younger the child, the shorter the trip. Clothing is another thing to think about. Dress the child in layers, and plan for colder rather than warmer. Often the temperature at lakes seems to be much cooler than the air in town, so by having layers, the child can adapt quickly and be comfortable. Be sure to pack some sunscreen also, a necessity for children when exposed to the sun for even an hour of time.
KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. Kids won't be impressed with your new $50 rod that is perfect for throwing crankbaits. In fact, they would rather use something their size, so keep the tackle simple. A couple spinning or spincast rod/reel combos are all you need for a fun day of fishing with a child. The same goes for those fancy lures you have bought too. They might enjoy looking at them, but a simple live-bait rig with a bobber will give you the best chance of catching some fish. I always like to bring live bait along when taking children. If we aren't catching any fish, at least they can catch the minnows or worms.
Snacks - Everyone likes snacks and cold drinks while in the outdoors, kids are no different. Juice boxes are a kid's best friend when the weather warms up, packing a few of those will make you a hero even if you don't see a fish all day. Pretzels, pudding cups, fruit snacks and fresh fruit are a hit to fill their stomachs when the fishing action is at a halt too.
Focus - During the entire trip, you must keep reminding yourself that the trip is for the child. Do everything you can to let child make some decisions. Letting the child pick where to fish, what color of jig to use, which minnow or worm to put on the hook is a nice thing to do too. Little decisions throughout the day that the child makes will help them be more in tune with the fishing process and give them a sense of ownership in the trip. Do everything you can to make the child feel comfortable, and don't push them to do anything they don't want to do. If they really don't want to touch the bait, that's fine. If they really want to fish in an area that you never tried before, that is fine too. It's their trip, let them make some decisions about the day and ask them for feedback. Asking questions like, "Do you want to try another place?", or "Do you want to cast the bait out?" will help the day go smoothly too because you both will be in tune to what each other wants to do. Remember, it's the child's trip, you are just there to supervise.
Safety - When taking a child out on a fishing trip, please keep safety in the forefront. When outdoors, it is easy for kids to wander off quickly. When you add water to this equation it can become dangerous. A fishing trip is a great chance to teach about water safety and review the laws of fishing with them. One more safety item, if your phone is anything like mine, ringing with emails, text messages and phone calls, it may be a good idea to put all those on silent. Taking time to text, email or talk with friends while out on trip with a child isn't using your time or their time wisely. All these things can also take your attention away from the child and not allow you to maintain their safety.
Pictures - Don't forget to bring a camera along on your trip. Snapping a few pictures of fish, or just the child playing around at the lake will make a great memory of the day. Most cameras and phones have an "outdoor or landscape" setting on them. Using this is best whenever outdoors and will help make your pictures look great.
FUN - Whether you catch 20 fish or zero, make the day as much fun as you can for the child. Cold drinks, snacks, being safe and taking in nature is all part of a child's fishing trip.