Fishing is a tradition that is often passed from parent to child. Watching your kid get his or her first fish is a precious moment in life. Most likely, a young child will not remember that first fishing trip, but it will lay the foundations for healthy communication and shared interests between you and your kid. Make that first trip go smoother with these suggestions from one fishing parent to another.
That First Fishing Trip is One to Remember
Fishing parents are always thinking about when and how to take a kid fishing for the first time. Many of us started from a young age and want our kids to follow in our footsteps. I was three years old on my first fishing trip, so I decided it was a good age to take my own kids along.
Before you embark on such a trip, it’s important to recognize that we are not living in the same times as our parents. As they always have, outdoor activities shape a young person’s character. They also provide a healthy, down-to-earth alternative to the online activities that so dominate our modern lives.
Back in the day, fishing for the first time was sometimes a hard experience, because we were basically forced to do things we didn’t want to—hooking a wriggling worm, or helping to clean a fish. Many things have changed since, and it’s important to consider that this is a special day that will be forever engraved in your memory. Make it a joyful experience for your kid and you will have a fishing partner for life.
8 Tips for Your Kid’s First Fishing Trip
1 Be Patient
Young kids are naturally impatient and active. Their brain has not developed fully to implement control mechanisms, so bear in mind that young kids sometimes just can’t control themselves. It’s not their fault; it’s a development process. So be prepared to spend all your time taking care of them and forget about your own fishing plans. This special day is about the kids, not the parents.
2 Teach Them How to Fish Safely
Fishing has inherent risks, such as getting hooked, falling on slippery rocks, dangerous water conditions and more. You have to make sure to minimize all these risks as much as possible, and be sure to let the kids know why it’s dangerous and what the consequences could be. You must maintain total control over the gear and tackle, as well as the kayak to avoid any accidents.
3 Choose an Easy Lake
Kids don’t care about the size of the fish but the number they catch; if they get five small bass they will be happier and more entertained than if they get a single big fish. Choose a lake with good numbers of easy-to-catch fish that is within a short driving distance. Small ponds are ideal for this.
4 Keep Things Simple
Take just one rod for your kid. If possible, don’t take yours and focus on the kid’s fishing. A short, medium-powered baitcasting rod with a pistol grip and a spincast reel is a good option, or a small spinning reel (500 or 1000) will also work fine. In a pinch, a Spongebob Squarepants rod will also do the trick.
Bring a handful of lures that will not hang up easily and that are proven fish catchers. A surface popper, an original floating Rapala, or a nose-hooked fluke on a weedless finesse hook are excellent options. Beetle spins and smoke-colored grubs on 1/8 or 3/16 round jigheads are also great. Be sure that everything is stowed in a small container and nothing is loose on the kayak floor.
5 Bring Food and Drinks
Keep your kid well hydrated. Take their favorite drink or treat them to a sports drink—it will keep them hydrated, which is particularly important in high temperatures. Take sandwiches and fruit so they don’t get anxious. Bottled fruit juice, cookies or chocolates are not really healthy, but they are excellent options for this particular day that will provide sugars and energy for fishing.
6 Don’t Overdo It
Listen to your kid. You may fish for half an hour and then do something else. Make short fishing bursts and then go to the bank to stretch legs, get your feet wet or collect shells or flowers. Also, bring to their attention other aspects of the outdoors that you enjoy—like beautiful birds, jumping fish or other things that you may not consider extraordinary. It may be the first time they encounter these things.
You will most likely be making the casts during the first trip, passing the rod to the child when a fish is hooked. Be patient, don’t yell, and if the fish goes away have a good laugh and enjoy it. It’s no big deal.
When the child lands a fish, ask them if they want to touch it. It’s very likely they won’t agree at first, but they will likely get curious after the second or third fish if you don’t push it. Take a small towel or baby wipes to clean hands afterwards. Also, offer to release the fish if you practice catch-and-release fishing.
7 Safety First
Have your child’s PFD ready. Before they get off the vehicle, put it on and make sure it’s properly adjusted. Kids sometimes act before they think, so they make a run to the water as soon as they get off the truck. Make sure they wear the PFD at all times—no room for discussion! Also, make them wear sunglasses for eye protection from hooks, apply plenty of sunscreen on exposed skin and reapply often. Bring a first aid kit and cutting pliers as a precaution. And never, ever lose sight of kids or let them outside your reach if they are near water.
8 Don’t Forget Your Camera
This is an occasion that won’t repeat, so make sure the day before that you have an action camera ready with fresh batteries and free memory, to keep that moment alive forever.
The moment you decide to take your kid fishing depends on your kid’s character and how excited he/she is for going fishing. As I mentioned earlier, they probably won’t remember this particular day if they are very young, but a picture will always be there to remind them. Be patient, relax and enjoy the day, laugh a lot with your kid because this will probably be one of your best memories, one that will certainly stay with you forever.
Kids will be kids. Have a lot of patience and enjoy their first fishing trip as much as they do. And bring an extra set of clothes! | Feature photo: Alejandro Pérez-Arteaga