Fishing with small children is a passion of mine. I did it with my children, and I’m doing it with their children, my grandchildren. It’s one of the greatest positives in my life. And so, I’m going to devote another column to the subject.
Teach them to cast
Casting is a physical process that requires a certain amount of coordination and maturity. But, kids are amazingly good at learning the things they want to learn and at doing things they have fun doing. Don’t underestimate them.
I started mine out around 2 years old with a spincast outfit. You can buy cute rods and reels — SpongeBob SquarePants, PAW Patrol and any number of other ones — that work pretty well and they’re fairly cheap. Young kids love them.
When they had the physical skills to hold and release line with their finger, around 5 years old, I moved them up to spinning tackle.
Then, when they were somewhere around 8 years old, I bought them casting equipment. I started them out with heavy monofilament line because it’s easier to pick out backlashes with it, and they will backlash. Backlashes can be held to a minimum, however, if you crank the spool down fairly tight, and they can still cast a reasonable distance if you use a heavy casting plug.
We practiced in our backyard. I set up targets and made it a game. Sometimes they’d earn points for accuracy and they could turn those points in for prizes or treats. At other times they’d compete against other kids.
I did that to avoid putting pressure on them when we were fishing. I didn’t want them frustrated because they couldn’t hit the right spot to catch a fish. But, there’s one part of this that is important — they have to win part of the time. No one likes to lose all the time, and if they do they’ll lose interest, fast.
Note that I said catch fish. I did not say catch big fish, and I did not say catch bass.
Believe it or not, black bass are not the only fish that are fun to catch, especially if you’re a kid out having fun with dad or grandpa. The fun comes from seeing your bobber go down and fighting whatever’s on the end of your line back to the boat. A bluegill is just as good as a largemouth. They’re all fun to catch.
Make every outing special
At the end of every outing do something special. Go for their favorite food, ice cream or something else so that the day ends with them laughing and going to bed thinking they had a really fun day. It’ll make all the difference in the world in how they view the outdoors.
Never forget: It’s about them
I know I’ve said this before, but I’m saying it again anyway. It’s important. The world looks different to a small child. Don’t force your values as an angler on them.
Here are a couple of short stories that’ll help make my point.
One of my friends took his 3-year-old fishing the other day for the first time. He had an official PAW Patrol rod and reel, bobbers and tee shirt. Everything was in order for the boy to catch fish. But when they arrived at the farm pond his grandson announced that he didn’t want to catch the fish. He wanted to net them after pawpaw caught them.
In my case, some years ago, our family went crappie fishing. I thought my grandson would want to fish. The bite was fast and furious. He didn’t. He wanted to be in charge of unhooking the fish and putting them in the livewell. He had a ball doing that.
Both of these kids had a fun experience because they were doing what they wanted to do. It wasn’t about what grandpa thought would be fun. It was about what was fun to them.
Spend some time in the outdoors with small kids. You won’t regret it.