There aren’t many outdoorsmen who wouldn’t like their youngsters to become steady fishing partners, and follow in often muddy footsteps.  So, when they hear the words “Can I go fishing, too?” they’re eager to take them along.  Often, it’s a good experience. one that gets better as the years roll along.  Sometimes, it’s a bad one, resulting in kids that would rather commit hari kari than try fishing again.  When that happens, you’ve usually done something wrong.

 I took my own youngsters fishing from the time they were small, and plenty of others since, and it doesn’t take many trips to learn that you’ve got to plan the experience like a general.  Last week I took my two young grandsons (9 and 7) out again, and as usual I planned carefully, and gave the trip plenty of thought.  Here are the 7 basic things I did, and you should, too.

  1. Initial outings should always be to a farm pond, rather than a big lake or river, and I always check out the pond first.  I want one that has smooth, grassy banks and clear water, rather than one that the youngster will have to reach by fighting through brush and skin scratching briers.  There should be few or no weeds to keep fouling hooks, and no thick line of cattails surrounding the pond.  Easy walking and easy fishing.
  2. Fish strictly for bluegills, and make sure the pond has plenty, though a bass or two will add welcome excitement if you’ve set the drag carefully.  Kids need fast action, and they won’t get it from a Lake Erie walleye trip or a half days boring casting on a muskie lake.  Bluegills will provide plenty of fast action as they did for my grandsons.
  3. Make sure they have good equipment,  Some anglers are tempted to give the kid a junk rod on the theory that if he or she ruins it, it’s no loss.  But I still remember a man who took his boy to a pond I was fishing, handed him a rusty old rod, then hotfooted it down to the far end to cast for bass.  The boy made a few casts, tangled his line until it wouldn’t cast at all, then sat there frustrated and wanting to go home.
  4. Don’t fish yourself.  I never did when I had a youngster out, but stayed close to clear tangles, offer advice, bait their hooks until they could do that easily, and  removed fish until they learned unhooking themselves.  While I was offering advice, I also offered plenty of praise (that’s a good cast – he’s a very nice bluegill).  Kids love that.
  5. If fishing is slow for some reason and they begin to show signs of boredom, go to plan B.  Stop for a while, get out a little picnic lunch, walk them around the pond looking for tadpoles and frogs, maybe even throw a few rocks.  And talk about the creatures you’re seeing.  Then fish a little more.
  6. Keep it short.  Few things put a kid off fishing more than staying too long, letting them get hot and tired, and again, bored.  Even if they’re catching lots of fish, keep it down to an hour or so.  If they leave eager to catch more, they’ll be eager to come again.
  7. Finally, be sure to take some home for mom to admire, then clean the lot with the youngster helping a bit, fry the fillets or pieces up for dinner, and comment often as you eat them about their flavor and size.  Kids love compliments and this is a good place to give them. 

Simple rules indeed, but they’ll see that young lad or lady wanting to go  again.  When you hear them say “Let’s go fishing, dad”, you’ve done it right.

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