Teaching Kids to Fish the Right Way

My friend’s father was as passionate a fisherman as anyone I’ve ever known. Worked hard. Fished harder. Taught others. For a half-century his weekends were packed with fishing trips. Rarely was he not on the lake. When his business success allowed he purchased a slice of lakeside property and his fishing passion burned even hotter.

His son, now deep into middle age, doesn’t fish. I once asked him why. He shook his head with a wry smile that spoke volumes. “Dad wore me out with it with I was a kid.”

Fishing with youngsters (your own or others) is a balancing act. We want to do it. We need to do it. We must do it. But we mustn’t over do it. A few guidelines:

1. Kids need to catch fish
Sure, you and your buddy fished from daylight until dark, caught two bass and had a great time. But your 8-year-old probably will not embrace your “it’s-just-fun-to-be-out-here” angling enthusiasm as readily. A weedy bank where bluegill and other perch provide fast action is what you want. A local park lake will be a good starting spot.

2. Size doesn’t matter
Everyone wants a 6-pound bass or 20-inch trout. For a youngster a 5-inch bluegill is a trophy.

3. Keep it simple
Rod, line, hook, sinker, bobber and bait. A cane pole remains a basic tool. For the mechanically minded get a Zebco 33 (or 202) combo. There’s a reason they’ve been around, basically unchanged, for 61 and 54 years, respectively.

4. Bait up
The design, manufacture, and marketing of lures is a multi-million dollar industry. Worms catch fish. Buy a box of worms. Better yet, help your young fisherman dig his or her own.

5. Bring snacks
A hungry young fisherman is an unhappy young fisherman.

6. Keep it fun
Sometimes kids want to catch to fish. Sometimes they want to chase butterflies. Sometimes they want to text their friends—iPads and cell phones aren’t going away, but they aren’t necessarily the enemy, either. Bring the toys along.

7. Let the kid fish
The only rod needed is the one the youngster is holding is his or her hands. Your job is to untangle lines, bait hooks, remove fish and squeal as loudly as they do.

Kids love to fish. Just don’t wear them out.

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