As the weather warms, the desire to go fishing is undeniable. And if you love fishing, there’s only one thing more enjoyable than catching a big fish – watching a kid catch a fish.
This fishing season, the folks at Rapala fishing lures encourage adults to take a kid fishing. Why? Because kids represent the future of fishing. According to the American Sportfishing Association, kids who are introduced to fishing at an early age by a trusted adult are more likely to fish as an adult.
Here are 15 quick tips from the folks at Rapala on how you can introduce a kid to fishing this year:
Get them on good bites – The number one thing you can do to hook a kid on fishing, says legendary angler Al Lindner, is to get lots of bites for your child. “Taking kids fishing between the ages of 8 and 12 years old is a critical time. Try to get them on good bites. Their attention span is short. You will quickly know if fishing will be a part of their life in the future. They are either going to like it or not. But they have to get bites. I can’t say how important that is. You gotta get ’em on a bite.”
Start them on bluegills and sunnies – The easiest bites tend to be panfish – bluegills, sunfish and bream. As your kids watch you catch bass, walleye and other gamefish, they’ll want new challenges. Keep a panfish pliers handy to remove hooks from small panfish.
A small fish can be a monster fish – To a child, a small sunny can be a trophy. Don’t downplay a small fish. Every fish caught is a huge accomplishment.
Keep it simple – Start your kid fishing with a single hook. They’re much easier to remove from fish. It could be a hook and a bobber or a single hook soft bait, such as the Storm 360GT Searchbait. As your kids get more experience, let them graduate to a lure such as an Original Floating Rapala.
Bring the snacks – Whatever your kids like for snacks, such as chips, cookies or fruit chewies, bring them! You’re sure to work up an appetite catching all those fish. And don’t forget the wipes for sticky, slimy little hands.
Keep it short – With younger kids, especially, avoid overdoing it. Start out with short trips – a couple hours at most, and if the fish just don’t seem to be cooperating, cut it short and go have an ice cream cone. Gradually increase your time out on the water and trying different types of fishing approaches, such as fishing with soft baits or trolling with crankbaits.
Create traditions – One of the best things about fishing with a kid is creating little traditions to which they can look forward in the future. For example, stopping for a donut on the way to the lake, or giving fish pins whenever your kid catches a new species.
Bring a friend – If your child has a good friend, invite them along on the fun, too. That kid may turn into a lifetime fishing buddy for your kid.
Take pictures – Don’t limit yourself to just fish photos! Take photos of the entire experience – stopping for donuts on the way to the water, eating snacks, collecting rocks or seashells, feeding the ducks. Turn your photos into a photo book or create a slide show with music that the kids can watch later. When fish are caught make sure the most important people in your kid’s life see their fish photos.
Watch the weather – Sometimes the weather doesn’t always cooperate. You may think the fishing is best on an overcast, windy day, but that may not be the case for kids. Instead, watch the weather and choose a warm, clear day and get out early when the fish are most likely to bite.
Bring a life jacket – It only takes a second and you may find a kid in the water. When on a boat, kids should always wear a life jacket that fits properly (in many states, it’s the law). Use caution when fishing from docks, piers and shorelines, too.
Avoid sunburn – Make sure your kid is wearing a comfortable fishing cap and together, apply your sunscreen to ears, noses and other exposed skin.
Handle fish gently – Fish are slimy, prickly and wiggly. With young kids, adults should handle fish at first and let kids gently “pet” them before they’re released. As they become more experienced, show kids how to carefully land, hold and release their catches.
Fish with topwater – Watching a fish explode on the surface for a lure gives young anglers an exciting visual that will keep them coming back for more. An X-Rap Pop or Skitter Pop are amazing baits to throw from shore or the dock for heart-stopping topwater action.
Keep a few – If your kids want to try eating fish, keep a few fish and cook them up. Don’t make an entire meal out of it though, as eating fish is an acquired taste. Use a trusty batter recipe and serve with French fries.