"Mom, can we please go fishing?" I can't imagine I will ever tire of hearing those words from my kids. Like teaching a kid to ride a bike or hit a baseball, taking a child fishing is an experience that every child should participate in. There is no better time to introduce the wonders of our natural environment and at the same time show them how to respect and protect what they will come to enjoy so much.
First off, a few tips on tackle/gear that will make your child's experience (and yours) more enjoyable.
1) Pick a season when there are fish to be caught! Don't take a kid out for the first time when the water is freezing and the fish have lockjaw. Kids like action and whether they are fishing for mackerel, bass, bonita, or tuna, try and find a species where they will stay busy catching.
2) Use a rod/reel that is easy for them to operate. A spinning reel is the easiest for beginners but as they advance, find a conventional reel that is a level wind so they do not have to worry about winding the line on evenly. As cute as the Barbie and Snoopy rods are and are functional for the little ones, as your kids get older they should graduate up to more functional gear. ? An young boy's best Yellowtail catch caught on "kids" gear but still functional for his age. A 6'10" Ugly Stick and a Shimano Tekota 300 level wind w/ 50#Spectra and 25# mono top shot.
3) Have lots of snacks and maybe even a few "gadgets". Inevitably kids will lose some interest when the bite slows or when traveling from spot to spot. Have snacks on hand for them to munch on. Also, in our hi-tech world, sometimes a little technology can go a long ways. A DVD player or Nintendo DS might give you some peace and quiet even if it's just for a little while.
4) Seasick meds. Check with your child's doctor on dosages for prescription strength meds and the ear patch. Also, Bonine (non drowsy) and Dramamine both make a children's formula.
5) Teach them about the environment. When out on the water with your kids, this is the perfect opportunity to show them how the boat operates, basics of the electronics, and of course the animals in the marine environment. If you have a fish/animal guidebook, let the kids look through it and help them identify the different species that you might encounter throughout the day.
Secondly and most importantly, this is the best and most influential time with your kids to teach them about conservation. Teach your kids to only keep what you will eat. Teach them about their responsibilities to learning the regulations, handling fish properly, measuring fish to make sure they are legal, and releasing the ones that are not. It is an opportunity to show a child that not every fish needs to be killed and that you can enjoy the catching of fish while still releasing a healthy fish to the environment.? A healthy fish released back to the environment.
Whatever you do, don't forget the camera! Take pictures of your child's catch even if it is just a mackerel. They will have so much pride in their accomplishment and want to show it off to all of their friends.
Hopefully these tips will result in an enjoyable day on the water for both yourself and the child. Remember that kids are like sponges and they soak up what they learn from adults. Let's teach them right from the start so they will be responsible stewards of our marine environment for years to come.
As always, if you have any questions about this article or The Sportfishing Conservancy please feel free to email me at -email- or call at (949)813-7831.