June 2, 2014
Studies conducted by the American Sportfishing Association show that 90 percent of today’s anglers got their start in fishing before they were 20 years old; 70 percent were introduced to fishing by the time they were 12. Most of us started fishing even earlier than that. Many education experts agree that age 10 is a good time to introduce a child to fishing, and that kids as young as five can pick up the sport—and benefit from it—with a little guidance.
With National Fishing and Boating week coming up in June, there are events organized from coast to coast to offer opportunities to get kids hooked up. Anyone who’s tried and failed realizes there’s more to teaching a child to fish than inviting your grade-schooler along on your next bass fishing weekend. In fact, a common suggestion from those who have a lot of experience teaching children to fish is to leave your tackle at home altogether. You may want to leave the boat in the driveway as well, according to studies that show that anglers whose first fishing experience came while fishing from shore were more likely to continue their interest in the sport.
Here are 10 more tips from the experts that may assist you if you plan to expose a youngster—or an oldster, for that matter—to the joys of fishing this season.
Ten tips for teaching first-time anglers
Tip #1: Start the fishing lesson at home, even days prior to the trip, by visiting the library to get books on fishing or by going to a local bait and tackle shop with the child, allowing the youngster to be a part of the entire process of selecting tackle and asking around about a good place to go fishing.
Tip #2: Practice casting, knot tying, and bobber-setting at home or at the local park, where errant casts can’t catch in overhead trees or stream-side brush and knots and bobbers can be figured out without the hurried anticipation of catching fish.
Tip #3: Keep the child’s fishing equipment simple. A bamboo cane pole is a great first fishing rod, especially for younger anglers. Simple spin-casting tackle, such as the special youth models now offered by several tackle manufacturers, are good choices. Allow the child to have his or her own tackle box to store hooks, bobbers, and sinkers.
Tip #4: Consider trading in your tackle for a camera for the day. By leaving your tackle at home, you are more likely to stay involved in the child’s activities—and less tempted to get caught up in the catching yourself in the event the fishing gets fast! With a camera, you can record the day’s activities, including that most momentous of events: a child’s first fish.
Tip #5: Select a place to fish from shore that offers an abundance of easily caught panfish, such as bluegill, crappie or perch. Docks or piers are excellent places to start, because they are clear of trees and other obstacles that snag casts, and provide cover below the water for fish. Open shoreline areas along ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams can be good as well. Boats can be used, but keep in mind that kids need space when fishing, and often feel confined when having to stay aboard a boat for any length of time.