Author: Cindi Lou Grant
Hero: Nature skills that will make you, your child’s hero.
Instilling a Love of Fishing in Kids
Fishing is a fun and engaging way to get kids outside. Patience from both the fisher-kid and the parents is essential to fishing and a valuable way to learn the life lesson. The first way to sabotage a family fishing trip is to tie an expectation to it. Fishing is full of variables so keeping an open mind and stoke for the experience will keep attitudes upbeat.
Choose a fishin' pole
Having their own equipment can really jumpstart the excitement around fishing. Smaller rod sizing and simple reels are important factors. However, it doesn’t need to cost a whole lot. In fact, if they are really young (think toddler) a simple stick with some fishing line, a bobber, and a little roll casting might just hold their fascination. For older kids, a spinning rod and reel, especially the no tangle auto reels, will give everyone more time fishing and less time untangling line. If you want to start them on a fly rod, it will take more involvement in teaching a proper false cast but it’s very doable with motivated kids.
For a spinner set up, a live worm or minnow spinner dangled beneath a small bobber and occasionally twitched is an effective tactic for youngsters. For kids who have less patience and want something more to do, teaching slow reeling or hopping minnow simulations will keep them entertained.
Scout a spot
When picking a location to take your child on their first fishing trip, find a place that is well stocked with hungry fish. Here in Utah, we have an awesome place called Willow Springs Trout Farm. They have some easy fishing that keeps the kids stoked and instills that drive to keep fishing. I also recommend looking for a place with a nice cleaning station to make that learning curve as easy as possible.
- Safety- Tie on and handle all the hooks with barbs for them. Barbs can also be pinched down with pliers for safer handling. For open water lake fishing, life jackets are a must.
- Strategy – Talk about how the bait is simulating a fish or bug. Let them use their imaginations and play the part of the creature on their line.
- Grip- Teach kids how to grip the handle of the rod. You can teach them to keep it in front of them in a 9 to 11 o'clock position. Explain how the reel’s handle turns and how to react to a bite to set the hook.
- Cast- A sidearm cast, is a great first lesson for kids. Start by teaching them to look over their shoulder to check that no one is in harm’s way. Bring the rod back and level. Swing the rod forward with a flick of the wrist and an abrupt stop. Release the line as it comes around and lands with the rod pointing at the target.
Offer lots of encouragement and practice for youngsters, this is really where your lesson in patience comes in!
Prepare the fish to eat
Introduce them to the whole process. Cleaning the fish, cooking it, and eating it together will make the experience even more rewarding! One simple technique for gutting is to cut the belly open starting at the anus and going up to the gills. Get a good grip on their head and twist. When well executed, all the guts and head come out with one swoop. All that is left is to get the black gunk out. Take your thumb nail and starting at the bottom of the spine, press all the way up to the top. Take extra care to get all the entrails and wash black gunk out for the best-tasting fish.
To season, I recommend lemon, butter, and seasoning. We make our own fish seasonings from rosemary, lemon pepper, garlic, and dill. Some of these ingredients come from our garden and it is fun to put all together in preparation for a day of fishing. I like to steam my fish in tin foil over a camp fire or on the BBQ. However, baking fish works well too.
The love of fishing is not hard to instill in most kids. The lessons that can come from setting the intention, mastering techniques, catching a fish, and providing a meal can all be very valuable experiences in growing into a self-sustaining outdoor lover. I highly recommend starting them young and letting them build up their confidence with multiple trips over their childhood. Memories of childhood fishing trips could be something that they cherish as they grow.