With Summer on its Way, It’s Time for a Venerable (Though Much Maligned) Tradition
by Sean OBrien
Opening day is a ritual in many families. It’s the official turning point when winter changes over to spring. The birds are out, the water is still cool, and the trout are ready. Bass are beginning to spawn and sit on the beds, and lakes and streams and rivers begin to swell from the ice and snow melt. It’s beautiful, and calming, and very peaceful, and all of that can be changed in 5 seconds by a child who doesn’t want to fish.
It seems like kids fishing can pick up on the reeling in part of the fishing experience almost immediately. It’s the casting that gets them every time. And, often literally, gets the parent. As your dear child is learning to cast, my advice to you is to hide behind something. There is a very slim chance they will snag a hook on themselves, but, in my experience, there is a greater than 78 percent chance they will get you. Afterward they will not understand where the hook has gone, so they will pull as hard as possible on the rod, which generally sets the hook further into your neck. By the time you dig that barbed hook out of your neck, your child is either ready to recast, or is off staring at the water, or a butterfly, or wants to leave, or they’re thirsty/hungry/tired or some combination of all three. Meanwhile, you’ve barely unloaded everything the car and dragged it to the water.
Kids Fishing Equipment
One of the most important aspects of this entire process is making sure that you have the proper equipment for children. A three year old with a 6 foot pole is not going to have fun. I find that a small, roughly 2.5-foot micro light rod is ideal. This allows the child to have control over their rod and reel, and they will be learning to cast from the start with correct technique, since they won’t need to be using all their strength to hold the rod. In terms of lures, the rule of thumb is to use bait that doesn’t require technique. Worms, mealies, shiners, etc., seem to work the best for fishing with kids. Anything that’s going to elicit a big strike that will be felt works great. I know that I used bread when my then 18-month old daughter wanted to try fishing, and that helped ensure she hooked plenty of fish her first few times out. Now three, she has her own poles and tackle box, and she wants to learn to fly fish next.
So after your kid feels that fish hit their bait, and has successfully reeled in that monster, it’s time to take the fish off the hook. Now, it’s a well known fact that children won’t bait their own hook, or take a fish off their line if they happen to catch one. So, after not baiting the hook, and then not casting, then reeling the fish in, then not touching the fish to get it off the line, the kids have reeled in some line. That is the extent of their fishing for the day. Kids will say they want to touch the fish, handle the fish, etc. They don’t, and they won’t, and it will become your job. Try to remember that it’s fine, though, because you’ve already done what you set out to do; to have fun with your children, outside, on the water on a beautiful day.