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65% of Fin & Field members got started fishing or hunting with their parents. If you add people who started fishing with any family member or friend then the percent goes to 85%. Here are 7 tips for introducing a child to fishing.
Before your child is old enough to hit the water for real, make fishing a popular game in the house. There are loads of magnetic fishing games where kids can simulate the thrill of a fish on the line. There are toy rods with functioning reels and even toy fly rods! Making fishing part of play time will make it a seamless transition for the youngster when it is time to try out the real thing.
When it is time to plan an actual trip, start talking about it in advance. Let the kid know it is a special activity and that you are excited about it too. Discuss the details like where you are going, what fish you are targeting, will you keep them, what kind of bait/lures etc... These conversations will help build excitement and also give them some knowledge to build on.
For the first few outings the trips should be short and simple. Build up slowly to longer trips. Make sure that the amount of time that passes from leaving the house to starting to fish is as short as possible.
For kids under 5 years old 30 minutes might be the max travel time before they lose interest. Once you start fishing the clock is ticking again, don't be disappointed if they lose interest quickly it doesn't mean they didn't have fun. Be prepared to go with the flow and don't make them fish longer than they want.
Also, make sure the style of fishing is simple. Throwing flies is probably too ambitious, so is hooking live bait. Give them the option to do everything themselves, teach them how, but be happy to bait the hook or cast the lure for the youngest anglers. In other words, YOU aren't going to do much fishing on this fishing trip.
Target fish that are plentiful and not too difficult to catch. Panfish are a great choice!
Kids will appreciate the immediate reward after you have built up the trip in their minds, and it will keep them coming back. They wont have the same appreciation as we do for trading patience for larger fish or better game species.
Kids will be put off by being too cold, too hot, wet, and generally uncomfortable. This may seem counter intuitive, I've seen plenty of kids jumping in muddy puddles and throwing a fit when they have to stop. But when an activity requires focus or patience suddenly environmental factors are a concern. Also, the first fishing trip isn't a good time to find out if your son or daughter gets seasick! Stay on land if you are not sure.
If everything is going well and your young fishing partner is catching fish and having fun you better have some snacks. Keeping your crew fed and hydrated will make for a longer and more enjoyable day. Bring healthy, high energy snacks to make the most out of the snack breaks.
Kids will do best with a spinning rod 5 ft or less, paired with a small spinning reel loaded with 2-6 lb line. Don't get a character themed toy rod, invest in small size actual fishing gear because the quality will be much better and it will last trip after trip. But selecting appropriate gear doesn't end with the rod and reel. Use lures that are easy to cast and retrieve or bait and bobber. Make sure you have kid friendly sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, seating, and safety equipment.
Just remember to have fun. Enjoy being with each other and don't have any big expectations.
Check out the Fin & Field blog for more info on enjoying your time in the great outdoors.