Lately, we seem to be constantly reminded of how much our experiences of growing up have shaped us into the kind of person we are today. The all-too-often heartbreaking news we see underscores how important it is to give children positive, optimistic, and enriching experiences growing up.
Introducing children to fishing, the natural world that supports it, and working with others to achieve a goal can lay the foundation for a healthy, well-adjusted adult if we strive to make fishing simple and as fun as possible. These experiences on the water leave lasting memories and help convey the importance of camaraderie, the natural world and the desire to protect it for future generations.
Creating unrealistic expectations can discourage young anglers and be the difference between arousing a passion or an aversion to the activity. The basics of fishing are easy to teach and don’t require expensive equipment. If there’s one cardinal rule for getting kids interested in fishing, it’s to keep them engaged. Children are naturally curious; they enjoy playing in and on water and are fascinated by the creatures they find there. Catching fish is not their main objective and you should not make them the focus of an outing. It is important to plan a trip that includes other activities like swimming, wildlife identification and snorkeling as well as fishing.
Being on the water provides a great opportunity to teach children about their environment and their boating safety skills. It’s important to let the kids be part of the adventure and involving them is a great way to inject a lesson in responsibility. Let them drive the boat even if they’re just sitting on your lap while you steer. Introduce them to navigating the Intracoastal Waterway and give them things to take care of, like making sure everyone knows where the safety gear is.
Don’t start kids off with cheap fishing rods and reels. Provide them with decent equipment that is light and manageable. An ultralight rig with a 6 pound test line is a great way to start. Try to think like a child when fishing. Kids would rather catch a dozen pinfish in half an hour than wait hours for a chance to catch a bigger or better fish. Action is paramount; children are easily bored and distracted.
Consider starting children’s fishing with a small cork that they can watch for signs of action. If you can start teaching kids that the fun of adventure isn’t measured by the number or size of fish you catch, you’ll teach them an important lesson that many anglers never learn. If you can make the experience interesting for them, even if they don’t catch anything, they’re more likely to want to do it again. Children might be more interested in collecting seashells, counting crabs, or finding manatees or dolphins than fishing, so be sensitive to what gives them pleasure.
It’s also important to emphasize safety, flexing barbs and making them aware of sharp-toothed, stinging fish like catfish and stingrays. These first experiences on the water are very important and you should consider a plan of action in advance in case the fishing is not good. The last thing you want to do is bore the kids by sitting too long. Keep your eyes and ears open and you might learn a lesson or two!