Many fishing enthusiasts dream of the day their children will join them on the water. If your child is finally old enough to handle a reel and you’re getting ready for that milestone first fishing trip, here are some tips to help you make the experience a memorable one.
Once you’ve announced to your child that the two of you are going fishing, mark the day on a calendar and commence a countdown. Help engage your child in the planning by going shopping together for a fishing license and some new fishing gear. Choose some extra tackle from your own box and hand it down to your child as a gift to make the occasion special.
Let your child help choose the location. Point out a few options on a map, explain the pros and cons of each spot, and decide on the best place together. Try to avoid steep or slippery locations, and look for a spot that is likely to yield fish.
Before the big day, teach your child how to clean and oil a reel as well as assemble, disassemble and put a new line on it. Allow your child to practice casting in the yard with a lightweight sinker; you can even set up a garbage can or other target to help build accuracy.
Let your child help you get everything ready the night before, including snacks, lunches and fishing equipment. Nothing spoils a fishing trip like being cold, so bring plenty of layers and extra clothes in case you get wet.
To help keep your child occupied during down time, bring a small bag of activities and keep in mind some other activities the two of you can do in case the fish aren’t biting: Go on a hike, learn to skip rocks, catch frogs, go geo-caching (if you have a GPS unit), etc.
The day of your big trip, wake your child up early to allow plenty of time to get ready and share a special breakfast, either at home or at a diner. Kids tend to remember occasions on which they had to get up extra-early.
Once you arrive at your destination, let your child help unpack and give him or her your full attention as you prepare and bait your reels together. The first time your child gets a bite, let him or her reel it in alone as you coach and cheer from the sidelines. If the first fish is lost, then help with the next one. Let your child know it’s common for a fish to get away.
Back at home, make a point of bragging about what a great job your child did. If you’ve played your cards right, you’ll have a fishing partner for life.
~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2010