If you are an avid fisherman, you want your kids to share in the enjoyment you get from being out in the water, hooking into a spirited species, bringing it to boat and, perhaps, enjoying it for dinner that night! If you’re a grandfather, that desire increases exponentially! (We imagine mothers and grandmothers have the same feelings, but perhaps not quite as instinctual as among the males of the species!).
Taking the tykes out fishing can be a great adventure for all involved. And it can indeed lead to a lifetime of fishing fun for the kids. But a little forethought and planning is always a good idea before setting out to sea, and that includes a fishing trip when kids are involved.
Here are a few things to think about.
Attention span. Smaller kids get bored easily; so do older kids and they are the ones most likely to let you know about it in no uncertain terms. And going fishing does not always result in catching fish. So it’s a good idea to keep a reasonable time limit for a fishing trip with kids. Smaller kids, under 10 years say, will generally do fine for two or three hours, max. Older ones will start looking at their phone screens after a half day, even if the action is hot and heavy. Plan a reasonable time out on the water and keep to it.
Patience. Fishing, of course, requires plenty of patience. This is especially true if you’re trying to introduce the sport to kids for the first time. They’ll need lots of explanations as to why you’re using a certain kind of bait or lure or tackle; lots of practice casting or retrieving a line; and especially lots of encouragement if and when a fish is actually on the line.
Safety. PFDs for everyone, of course. Hats and sunblock as well. Make sure the kids stay hydrated (water or juice). Have some crackers or something to eat. Stress the need to stay alert around sharp hooks or knives, fish with sharp teeth, or stray gear on board that could cause a trip or stumble.
Start small. Junior’s first trip out to sea should probably not be a bluewater trip in search of some pelagic species. Better to keep it close to shore, with smaller fish that a kid can comfortably handle. Think of some nearby reef or rocky point where you know there are always lots of smaller bottom feeders and try to hook into those. Live bait is better at attracting nearby fish than artificial lures. Once the kids get used to the experience of riding out in a boat and casting lines over the side, you can get them into deeper water and hopefully bigger fish.
Keep it fun. Our first fishing trip was with grumpy old Uncle Vince, who motored us out a few hundred yards, handed us a rod and reel, uncovered the bucket of nightcrawlers and pointed over the side. Then he sat there smoking his pipe and didn’t say much for the next three hours or so! We remember it as fun, once we got the hang of it. But you may want to be a little more proactive in talking, helping and educating your kids on all the joys of fishing. After all, it’s something they may enjoy doing the rest of their lives.