Fishing made fun for first timers
Jun 22, 2000
I tend to believe that a child's first few fishing experiences often determine whether or not the sport is going to a life long passion, or just another thing he/she will grow out of as they progress in years. Many things can make this a great experience which children will love. My first fishing trips were with my grandfather to little ponds owned by other relatives in my family. Sometimes my father would come along, but more often than not, it was just my grandfather. Some of the greatest bonding experiences we ever had have come just from sitting out there for hours fishing and talking. Fishing should never seem like a boring chore for children, or they are going to reject it as they would anything that isn't fun. I think I was started on the right track at an early age, and it has led to my love of the sport to this very day. With just a few simple rules, fishing can be a great trip for children which can often lead to some of the best childhood memories.
My first tip would be to make fishing a family affair. A family member with a love of the sport is usually going to be a better teacher and someone who a child is more likely to listen to. I already had a great respect for my grandfather, so every little tip he gave me about catching fish was gobbled up with voracity. Now, this isn't to say that someone outside the family wouldn't do a great job as well. However, I think that most of the first experiences should be a one-on-one affair, since others would only tend to be distracting. A child needs someone to give them full attention to every detail. I sure didn't know what I was doing the first time I went fishing, but my grandfather did everything he could to feed me every little bit of knowledge he had about the sport. I think I probably would have felt like second place if others had come along and talked to my grandfather the entire time he was trying to fish. Even two wouldn't be bad, as my father sometimes came along, but what I really mean here are outsiders who are more interested in fishing for themselves, than in teaching someone else how to fish.
Secondly, to make the experience fun for a child, you have to go to where the fish are! Big lakes full of bass are great for experienced fisherman, but not for a child who has little concept of where to cast, or how to set the line. I think small ponds make an excellent choice if available. Bream are much easier to catch and handle for children. They are easy to catch, and if its the right time of year, can be snared very easily right off the shore. When these fish are on the bed, ready to give birth, they rarely leave and snap at anything that lands in their general vicinity. Children need to know that fishing isn't always going to be this easy, but for the first few times they need to catch fish in order to have a good time. Without much understanding of the sport, children are more likely to be impressed by catching a stringer of bream than they are one or two small bass. I can't imagine going fishing my first time at some big lake overrun by other fisherman and not catching a single fish. I believe that this probably would have turned me off to the whole experience from the very first time. Small ponds which are regularly stocked and have few people fishing them, make the whole trip a lot easier and fun for children with little patience.
Also, fishing should be made as simple as possible for first timers. A child shouldn't learn to fish on a baitcaster or some spinning reel which takes skill and know-how. My main recommendation would be a cane pole. This is fishing in its simplest form, and what I personally learned to fish on. In the right places, a cane pole, bobber, and a few worms and crickets can make for a very fun day. There is little to be done other than baiting the hook, and tossing it into the water. Retrieve with these is little more than jerking the fish back out of the water, rather than having to reel it in over a great distance. Also, without casting, you have less hang-ups, and less time trying to get your youngster's line untangled from some tree, or off the bottom of the pond. Fishing made simple, this is probably the easiest way to bring a child into the world of fishing.
However, a closed faced spinner can be a very good choice for those just starting to fish. More snags are going to be seen, but it also is a better teaching tool for the spinners and baitcasters they will be using later. Of course, it is half the trouble of these two reels. Casting and retrieving are all that is needed for a closed faced spinner. No backlashes, or flips, and the reel is still very good to catch fish without having to retrieve at high speed. I would probably recommend starting with a cane pole for the very young fisherman out there, with a gradual step-up to a closed faced spinner and so on. I, of course, still love using cane poles, as they can be great for a lazy day at the lake. So, cane poles can be fun for all, just not those looking for a high action day of fishing.
And, you're shaping a young child's mind about the way he/she will view the sport for the rest of their lives. So, when fishing with a young child, your fishing should be the last priority of the day. After all, you are here to teach and to make sure this child goes home happy. The only stringer you should be concerned about being filled at the end of the day, is the child's. I can't stress how important my grandfather's guidance was during those first few trips. I sure paid attention more then than I ever did in a classroom. And my grandfather always boosted my confidence. I always caught the biggest fish and had the biggest stringer. If he caught a 10 pound fish and all I caught were dinky little bream, he would always insist that I caught the biggest fish even though I knew it wasn't true. Joking around like this, I learned that there really was a lot more to fishing than just catching fish.
And finally, teach respect of the fish and their environment. No one likes going fishing and seeing where others have thrown beer bottles and other trash around the lakes. Teach them to preserve these areas so that they and others might enjoy them in the future. Also, teach them the importance of respect for the animals they are catching. Catch and release is a great system, especially for the smaller fish. But teaching healthy respect for size limits and what makes a keeper are also a must. Keep what you are going to eat, throw the rest back, and never toss back fish which you have caught deep enough to kill them. If you've killed them in the catch, keep them in the basket. Never throw a dead fish back into the water. Teaching the youth respect of their fishing areas will make sure that there are still places around to fish when they have kids of their own.
All of these rules will lead to a wonderful experience for a child, and an assurance that they will enjoy the sport for years to come. They'll learn that fishing is about so much more than who catches the biggest fish, or the most. They'll learn that it's about the sport, the joy of being outdoors, and all about spending quality time doing something they love, with someone they love. Once this is learned, fishing becomes a joy for everyone involved, and a guarantee of memories which will last a lifetime. Fishing with my grandfather is to this day one of the best experiences of my life, and with a little guidance, your experiences too will lead to great memories with your child, grandchildren, or loved one.