The best day on the lake

There’s a long list of things that parents look forward to with their kids, and for me one of those things is my annual father-daughter fishing trips. Basically, I allow my girls to take a day off from school so we can go fishing.

We’ve been doing this the past few years because I’ve been on the road so much, we need to make time for this family interaction. I have to admit that my daughters were the ones who pushed for the day off from school but I’m glad they did, because these are special times that have provided a much-needed break from those long stretches away from my family.

My oldest and youngest daughters (Ali and Jaselyn) like it when they’re biting, but Anna the middle one will stand up and fish all day. She’ll stand toe to toe with me, but after about an hour, the other two are down there eating cookies.

But you know, either way is fine. I don’t put any expectations or demands on my daughters when we go fishing. I just want them to enjoy their time with me, so I try to make each trip a relaxed experience and we just let the day unfold comfortably.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things that have helped make these fishing trips more productive – and I don’t mean just catching fish.

Personalize It: I like to take my daughters fishing one at a time because that way we get some one-on-one time. Each girl has their own personality, so when we go fishing, all my attention is on them.

Now, I’ve been guilty of giving my daughter a rod in the back of the boat and then I’d be on the front fishing. I’ve stopped doing that. Sometimes, I don’t even fish.

These trips are all about them, so I let them throw at the good stuff.

Make It Fun: My daughters like throwing spinnerbaits and Booyah Pad Crasher frogs – something that they can see and watch the fish bite. There might be a better way to catch fish that day, but it doesn’t matter. I always remind myself: This isn’t a tournament – it’s about their enjoyment.

For this very reason, I recently purchased a Ranger aluminum center console just for family fishing trips. That way, my daughters aren’t always fishing out of a wrapped boat with lots of sponsor logos. Nothing wrong with that, but in our aluminum boat, they feel more relaxed and that’s what you want.

Instill Perspective: I’ve found that it’s important to teach my daughters that every fishing trip won’t be about catching big fish. Some days might offer those opportunities, but others won’t.

Now, I’ll tell you, my girls do luck into big fish now and then. For example, last year, Anna caught a 7-pound, 4-ounce smallmouth on Lake Tenkiller all by herself. On another trip, Jaselyn caught a 6 1/2- and a 5-pounder on back-to-back casts. They might not be trophies to an adult, but to an 8-year-old girl, it was pretty special.

Those are great experiences, but they won’t happen all the time. When one of my daughters catches a big fish I always let them know how proud I am, but I also explain that you can’t expect that on every trip.

It’s important to not let kids become spoiled with big fish because then they won’t enjoy the more average trips. We don’t make it all about big ones; we make it about having fun fishing together.

Building the Bonds: My kids are getting older and they’re susceptible to things I don’t want them to do. That’s why I use our fishing time to dig a little deeper. I want them to trust me to talk about anything.

You have to have the father-daughter relationship but you also want that buddy relationship where they feel comfortable talking to you. It’s easy for them to tell you about the good stuff but the more time you spend with them, the easier it is for them to talk about whatever’s going on in their life.

For me, fishing is a job, but I still love it and whenever I take my kids or my wife, that really digs back into the love for fishing. This reminds me to just let my daughters enjoy our fishing trips however they want to. My kids are all about watching the turtles fall off the logs. Other kids might want to look for bald eagles.

When they want to fish, try to put baits in their hands that will catch not only bass but al lot of other things like crappie and perch. This would be my advice to any parent who’s taking their kid fishing – keep it simple and do your best to keep the activity rolling.

On their first trip, you don’t even need to focus on bass. Take your kids to where there’s not a lot of down time. At first, most kids can’t handle just a few bites a day, so take them to where there’s non-stop action and work up that patience level.

I’d strongly encourage all parents to figure out an activity that you and your child can enjoy together, commit to a plan for when you’ll go and then just do your best to keep the focus where it should be – on the kids.

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