Take a kid fishing

Bobbers, worms, and the attention span of a gnat. Plenty of squealing, squirming and sunfish. Welcome to teaching youngsters to fish.   

Anyone who has even been around young children knows just how difficult it is to keep their attention on anything for more than a few seconds. Unless it involves a big purple dinosaur or an animated cartoon, forget it. Yet there is something about a little kid trying to catch a fish that brings a smile to any experienced angler. I remember teaching my younger cousin Toby several years back while on a family vacation in the Adirondack mountains. Every time my brothers and I would return to camp with bass on the stringer, the little tike's excited screech would crack the peaceful silence of the campground. We knew his excitement level surrounding fishing was present; it was just a matter of  showing him the correct way to cast, what it means to “ set the hook,” keeping the tension on the line, watching for the bobber to go under, how to hook a worm, get over the fear of worms, the list is endless.  

As the summer months and long days at the lake or camping trips with family ensue, the time to introduce children to fishing is now. While I am not a father, my large extended family has provided plenty of youngsters to introduce to fishing.  In these times of teaching you learn patience and strengthen the connection between you and your child, or in this case my cousins, a connection which is actively being lost in the digitally saturated world. While taking a child hunting may be a bit of a challenge for some people, taking a child fishing does not take nearly the same amount of effort and is something no child should ever go without experience before the age of five.

But how can you make the most of the small windows of attention your youngster might give you and the fishing rod?

  1. Make the experience solely about them. Yes, we have heard this time and time again, but until your youngster is showing the ability to at least cast on their own, standing off the dock or shoreline and walking them through each step of the casting process is the key to success. 
  2. When the kids get a bit old and they become more independent, but right now it’s important to show them by example.   Once you feel your youngster has demonstrated the mechanical abilities and cognitive understanding of the situation, start teaching them by short trips in the boat. Explain the little details of why and where you make a cast or what type of lure you are using, but go about your regular fishing business – they are watching. Learning to fish like my father as I grew up was less about mass of instructions, just important details and watching him fill stringers of bass morning after morning.
  3. Short trips. We all know youngsters can only stay with one thing so long before they become disinterested. The last thing you want is for your youngster to associate fishing with boredom. Especially if you’re out in a boat, be conscious and watch the verbal and nonverbal responses you get that indicate their moods. One point I learned was to keep the youngsters talking. Talking means they are mentally engaged and I found by having them talk about exactly what they are doing, we spent more time fishing and less time playing games in the camper.
  4. Finally, keep it real and in the moment, don’t ever scold or get uptight, just have fun. One thing I make sure to do is to act overly excited and give lots of praise when they catch a fish so they see my excitement and will adopt my enthusiasm. When I was young I saw how much fun my dad and family members were having fishing, camping, hunting and enjoying each other’s camaraderie. I knew that whatever it was that they had was special and different and wanted to be a part of this special fishing connection.  

Time is precious but squandered by many. This summer, think about how you can introduce your youngest to fishing or help them get to the next level, encouraging their natural curiosity and training your future fishing partner. You will be glad you started now.

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