Christie: The secrets to fun family fishing

Remember that fun fishing is supposed to be relaxed and laid-back. Most of all, it’s about passing along the tradition of fishing.

With spring unfolding throughout the southern states, a lot of folks are going to be heading to the lake for some family fun. I think it’s great when parents or other relatives can take kids fishing, but I also know from personal experience that the right mindset can make a big difference in how the trip turns out.

And when I say “how the trip turns out,” I’m not just talking about how many fish you catch or how big they are. Those things matter too, but not nearly as much as the kids’ overall experiences.

How much fun did they have? How relaxed was the atmosphere? Did they have to follow orders or did they get to do what made them happy?

These are the meaningful measurements of a fishing trip’s success.

Now, I don’t think I’m an expert by any means, but more than 15 years of taking three daughters of my own fishing – and other people’s kids – I’ve picked up on a couple things that will help any adult show kids a fun time on the water.

For example, when my oldest daughter was about 4 years old I can remember flipping bushes and putting her on the back of the boat with spinnerbait. I told her you have to catch a fish behind me, and to be honest, that probably caused her to lose some interest.

Later on, when I took my middle daughter, I didn’t give her the baits that I thought would catch the biggest fish; I gave her finesse baits that she could catch anything on. She caught perch, crappie and a few bass.

I remember my parents taking me fishing – a lot of that was sitting on the bank watching a bobber for crappie. That wasn’t much fun because I’m not the type to sit there and watch a bobber, and I think a lot of kids are the same.

My dad would be sitting there crappie fishing, and I’d be walking the bank around the cove we were fishing and throwing a crankbait.

My kids are a lot like that. We went trolling for white bass recently and even though we were catching them pretty steady, that wasn’t what they wanted to do. They’d rather be casting and aiming at targets.

I didn’t think that was what we needed to do. To me, we were catching fish so we should’ve continued trolling. But that’s what they wanted to do.

So I pulled up to a bank and one of the girls ran the trolling motor and the other one was on the back and they just went down the bank fishing.

I’ve found that every kid’s personality is different, but one thing that I’ve found is that it doesn’t take a 6-pound bass to make most kids happy. To be honest, it doesn’t even have to be a bass.

I do think that the younger the child, the more action you have to have. It can be crappie, catfish – the variety of it all. I’ll take my girls out and run jugs for catfish – just something different.

The point is, my kids don’t go fishing with me – I go fishing with them. I try to do things on their level. Some days they want to fish five or six hours and some days we’re lucky if we make it two hours.

I try to have lots of snacks and drinks and just let them go at their pace. Sometimes their attention span is shorter and when it’s time to go to the house, it’s time to go to the house.

A few other important points I’ve learned:

Don’t assume you know what they’ll like: I took my middle daughter dropshotting because I thought she’d like being able to see them on the screen. We were catching them but after about 10, she asked if we could go to the bank and cast.

You just have to find out what your kids like and let them do what they want.

Give them gear they can handle: You want your kids to feel comfortable with what they’re using, not frustrated and discouraged, so give them gear they can handle. If they want to use a baitcaster, make sure you adjust it for minimal backlashing. That’s easier on them, it’s easier on you and you all enjoy more time fishing.

In my case, I don’t hand my girls a 7 1/2-foot flipping stick and a big worm; I give them a 6 1/2-foot rod and a forgiving reel. This is something they can fish with and not have a whole lot of trouble.

And take several outfits. You’re going to get some of them tangled up, but you just don’t want to run out of fishable rods.

Keep it all in perspective: I feel like if you can take a kid fishing and let them catch a fish, what they do with that is up to them. But I want to say that if you make sure they have a good time and they feel like they got to enjoy the experience the way they wanted, a big percentage of them will want to go back.

You just have to avoid putting them in a situation that’s too serious or too demanding. Remember that fun fishing is supposed to be relaxed and laid-back. Most of all, it’s about passing along the tradition of fishing.

Now, when I take my kids fishing, I put them on the bow with me. I let them take the first cast at the sweet spots and sometimes I don’t even fish.

I think that if you make it more about them than you, they’ll be more excited about going fishing again.

Maybe someday, they’ll take you and me.