We love fishing. We care about what is going on with our fisheries, conservation, recovery, promotion of the sport and more. Some of us are members of national organizations such as Bass Anglers Sportman Society (BASS), National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO) and Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). In fact there are over 37 national fishing organizations, which promote fishing and the conservation of our sport. We may also be active members of one of our many local fishing clubs.
Some anglers are so interested in fishing and its future they are involved in the political side of our sport. Since many of us are members of some type of club or organization, in essence we also support our lobbyist and those who fight for us politically.
But can we do more? Of course we can. We can encourage others to join clubs. When we have a few extra dollars we can donate a little more. But we really need to think ahead. We need to think about the future of fishing. We need to think about those who will pick up after us when we are in our golden years and beyond.
We need to shape the hearts and minds of our young anglers. That means we have to start by taking a kid fishing. Now I am not talking about a trip here and there, but something with some consistency. Kids have so many activities that are easily available with consistency. The internet and video games come to mind right away. While the internet and video games has its place, I want to make sure my son has other interests which are consistent throughout his young life.
So what is involved in taking a kid fishing? Maybe it is not your child at all. Maybe it is your niece or nephew. Maybe it includes your kid’s best friend. More importantly, how often does the fishing trip really focus on the kid?
Both my sons have been fishing since they were old enough to hold a rod and reel. I can say with certainty they have not always paid attention. At times, it was like they had ants in their pants, with no possibility of catching a fish. When you do have fish, the kid wants to play with the fish so much they are not interested in catching another fish at all. It’s ok, kids will be kids. Be patient. As long as they are having fun, does it really matter? The more often you take a kid fishing the more and more interested they become in the art of fishing.
Recently, I took my 10 year old son, Connor, evening trout fishing on a local lake. As usual he was excited to go. I decided to really make this trip about him. After launching the boat, I told him he was in charge. I explained that I would run the boat and help rig things up, but he was going to make the decision on how, or where to fish.
Connor asked me how we might fish for the trout. I explained we could sit on anchor and still fish or we could troll around the lake. I told him I thought the fish were still hanging up near the surface and trolling might produce more fish. While I was preparing the boat, I could tell Connor was giving a lot of thought to what we would do. After thinking for a minute he said he wanted to still fish.
Connor told me where to go and so we did. I set us up on anchor and we fished. It was then I saw something I did not think I would see for several more years to come. He sat back and started talking about fishing and the outdoors. He did not talk about his favorite X-Box game or something from the internet. We even talked about what was going on at his school. This went on for a few hours. I could tell he was just absolutely having a great time. I really could not believe the patience he was displaying. It is a moment in time I will remember for the rest of my life.
He had me move a few times and after fishing for a few hours he said it was getting late asked if we should head home. I told him I thought that was a good idea. When we got to the boat ramp, there was another angler loading up his boat. Connor asked him how he did. This angler said he caught his limit, showing Connor five nice trout. Connor asked him how he caught his fish and the angler told him he trolled the surface of the water for an hour or so with a Dick Nite Spoon. I said, “Maybe we should have trolled.” Connor said, “Yeah, but I really had fun sitting still and fishing the bottom.”
I was good with that!
Sometimes it just is not about how many fish you catch, and sometimes it is. If your kid is at that point he needs to have success in fish numbers then make it about catching fish, but do not do it at the kid’s expense. The point is we should endeavor to make the trip more about the kid. Do not get frustrated with their curiosity.
We have all seen adults fishing with kids and it seems as though the adult spend more time yelling at the kid for the most minor things. It is almost like they the kid is just hindering their ability to have a good time. Yes, we need to parent and keep our kids in line and keep them safe. However, we can do this and still make the trip about them.
Kids of different ages have different needs and interest in the experience. You have to find out what that is and be supportive and encouraging. If we get kids into fishing and feed that interest they will have the desire to fish.
Positive alternative activities like fishing build life skills that will last a lifetime. This is our future far beyond anything else we can do right now. These kids will pick up what we have started and what we have also carried on, after we are gone.
Here are a few tips to help you out.
- Bring snacks! Kids get hungry and need snacks.
- Have a rod and reel that fits your kid. Some kids are just too small to use the same stuff you do.
- Let your kid do something that keeps them involved. Whether it is how to fish or where, or just baiting up.
- If the young ones want to play with the fish, let them. Make a learning experience out of it. Name the fins and various parts of the fish. Talk about the lifecycle!
- Be safe! If you’re in a boat have a life jacket that fits them! Kids don’t want to wear a life jacket that is too tight or too big.
- Most importantly, have fun!
If we get our kids involved and make fishing a part of their life, when they grow into adults they will follow in our footsteps. They will keep fishing going for themselves and for their kids. This is a cycle we have to keep strong.