The red and white bobber bobbed on the surface of the small fishing pond. Although it was still early in the day, summer insects buzzed and whirred in the warm, still air. But, my eyes were glued to that fishing bobber until they were almost crossed.
Then it happened. The unmistakable ‘plop’ of the bobber going under and the slight tug on my line that meant I had a fish. I was six; it was summer; and I was fishing with my mom. What could be better?
When looking for things to do, fishing is the perfect summer activity for kids; it’s fun, and being outdoors has many health benefits. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, interacting with the outdoors has positive influences on a child’s development - intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and physically. They tend to show improvement in the areas of self-esteem, problem solving and motivation to learn. Besides that, memories to last a lifetime can be made during summer days spent fishing; and all you need are water, a little gear and some time.
Remember to involve your kids from the beginning, keep them busy, teach them new skills and plan family fishing trips.
If you are starting to teach a youngster about fishing for the first time there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure the experience is enjoyable, rewarding and worth repeating. Here are a few things I remember from that summer of long ago, but they still apply today:
Tips for Introducing a Kid to the Idea of Fishing for the First Time
#1. Keep it short and simple. Limit the first fishing experience to one or two hours at the most. Kids have limited attention spans especially younger ones. Instead of fishing from a boat, bank fish on a pond, creek or small lake. This way, if the fish aren’t biting, kids are not stuck in a boat and can do other things like explore, swim or picnic.
#2. Select a spot that will ensure fish are caught. If young kids catch a fish they are more apt to get ‘hooked’ on the sport. Go to a small pond that has been stocked with game fish or a dock where plenty of bluegill and crappie hang out. Check with your local conservation or department of natural resources office for locations. And the key is to have the kids fish—not the adult.
#3. Bait and gear should be simple too. For me, digging for worms was as much a part of the thrill of going fishing as anything else. Kids can still dig their own or you can take them to the bait shop so they can pick out their own and learn about worms and minnows as well. Gear can be anything from a bamboo pole, line and hook to a simple combo like the Bass Pro Shops TinyLite Spincast rod and reel combo.
#4. Don’t forget safety! Be sure youngsters are outfitted with a properly fitting life vest anytime they are around water. Bass Pro Shops has a nice selection of life vests and jackets for kids like the Bass Pro Shops Mesh Fishing Life Jacket for Youth. Also, take a snack, plenty of water, band aids, sunscreen and insect repellant.
#5. Finally, this is the perfect time to teach simple conservation messages. Even young children can be taught some important lessons about taking care of the earth around them. Teach them the concept of ‘catch and release’, picking up litter and cleaning up after themselves, and even water quality.
The rewards for taking a kid fishing are many—seeing their faces light up when they land their first fish, reliving your own similar experience, and making memories to last a lifetime. And, by helping to pass on simple traditions like this you are doing your part to help ensure a future outdoors for others and inspiring others to do the same. This summer, go grab a fishing rod and reel and a kid and go fishing.