Fishing is a tradition that is normally passed from father to son or daughter. Watching your kid get his or her first fish is a precious moment in life. Most likely, they will not remember it if done at a young age, but that first fishing trip will set the foundations for a healthy development and communication between you and your kid. Outdoor activities form and mold a person’s character, and gives them a healthy alternative to today’s lazy electronic activities; even when those may develop thinking and decision process in the young, kids can loose contact with the natural environment.
We fishing parents are always thinking when and how to take a kid fishing. Many of us started from a young age and want our kids to follow the same tradition. I was three on my first fishing trip, so I also decided it was a good age to take my own kids for the first time.
It is important to consider that we are not living in the same times that our parents did. There were not a lot of safety concerns back then, and treating kids was totally different. Fishing for the first time was sometimes a hard experience, because we were basically forced to do things we didn’t want to (such as holding a fish for the first time or helping with cleaning them). 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, so make it joyful for your kid and you will have a fishing partner for life!
Bring your action cam if possible to shoot some video or continuous shots and capture those special moments.
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 you fishing that day. This special day is about the kids, not the parents.
Be Careful and Teach Them How to be Cautious
Fishing has inherent risks as getting hooked, falling in slippery rocks, water dangers and others. You have to make sure to minimize all these risks as much as possible, and be sure to let them know why it’s dangerous and what could the consequences be. You got to have total control over the gear and tackle, as well as the kayak to avoid any accidents.
Choose an Easy Lake
Kids don’t care about the size of the fish but the number they fish; if they get five small bass they will be happier and more entertained than if they get a single big fish. Choose a lake that is within a short driving distance and that has good numbers of easy-to-catch fish. Small ponds are ideal for this.
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 (500 or 1000-size) reel will also do fine. Sponge Bob rods 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. Bettle 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.
Take it easy on your kids. Go to their rhythm, keep them hydrated and safe with PFDs and sunglasses.
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, this is particularly important when high temperatures exist. Take sandwiches and fruit so they don’t get anxious. Bottled fruit juice, cookies or chocolates are not really healthy but are excellent options for this particular day that will provide sugars and energy for fishing.
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 that you enjoy, like birds, jumping fish or other things that you may not consider extraordinary but it may be the first time they see something similar.
You will most likely be making the casts during the first trip, and pass the rod to them when a fish is hooked. Be patient, don’t yell, if the fish goes away have a good laugh and enjoy it. It’s no big deal. When they land a fish, ask them if they want to touch it. It’s very likely they won’t do it at first but I assure you that if you don’t force it, they will want to hold them after the second or third fish (take a small towel or baby wipes to clean hands afterwards). Also offer them to release the fish if you practice C&R. It has a great impact on kid’s minds.
Have your kid’s safety vest 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, there’s no room for discussion here. Also make them wear sunglasses for eye protection from hooks, apply plenty of baby sunscreen on exposed skin and reapply often. Bring a first aid kit and cutting pliers as a precaution. And never, ever lose them from sight and within your reach if they are near water.
Don’t Forget Your Camera
This is an occasion that won’t repeat, so make sure the day before that you have a 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.
That first fish is always special. Something you will always cherish.