Have you ever thought about teaching your kids the art of fishing? Of course there’s the romance of little Huckleberry Finns sitting on a dock with a string and a stick. And then there’s the possibility of catching dinner. And teaching kids that all food doesn’t necessarily come from a supermarket. But the photos you’ll get? Priceless.
We spent a week this summer in the New York Finger Lakes swimming, casting and paddling. But the best memories were on the dock. When ‘Uncle Brad’ gave a fishing rod and tackle to my eldest son, the eyes lit up and hours were spent learning about sinkers, hooks and worms. Taking them all out and organizing. Sleeping with them. Uncle Brad is quite the accomplished fisherman, and I convinced him to share his tips for teaching kids the art of fishing.
1. Rule #1: Size does not matter. Any fish is a good fish. And catching one and handing them the rod can get them ‘hooked’ for life.
2. Start the teaching of casting using foam fish and a foam hook. When attached to a line, the foam hook can be used to retrieve the floating fish form in the water.
3. A kid’s rod is shorter with an internal reel and button. (Bait casting reel as opposed to a spinning reel). Shakespeare makes great ones for boys and girls and they are readily available at Target and Walmart. (You can even get Disney, Star Wars, Spiderman and princess themes).
4. A dock on a calm lake from 6-8am is usually the best time to nab the critters.
5. Use pliers to flatten the barbs on your hooks. It’s nicer for the fish.
6. Always remove hooks from the lines when you are done so as not to invite any injuries.
7. Make the kids look around prior to casting. My son caught a 5-foot-eleven man named ‘Uncle Brad’.
8. Encouraging the kids to drop the fish back into the water will excite them. (And then you don’t have to touch them).
9. Live worms are an easy and plentiful bait.
10. Try to teach about the species of fish as you catch.
11. Patience can be a challenge for kids. But having quiet conversations as you set your lines can form the best memories and bonds between parent and child.
12. Make sure at least one adult isn’t squeamish about baiting the hooks or taking fish off the line.
13. Rod and reel are not necessary. A string tied to a bamboo pole with a hook works just fine.
14. Fish under a certain number of pounds must be tossed back. Check in the jurisdiction you are in. And keeping anything as a pet is just a bad idea.
15. Hats, sunscreen, fishing license, water, band-aids and snacks should never be far away.
Next step? Tying their own flies and mastering the art of planking a salmon. Oh – and never make the mistake of asking first if they caught anything. As a good friend once said, “I’m going fishing. Not fish-catching.”