Take A Child Fishing

By Eugene Kruger

picture by Sue Babich

Research undertaken in America has shown that if a child is introduced to fishing before 13 years of age, the chances are very good that that child will continue with recreational fishing in adult life. As that tired old adage has it: "our children are the anglers of tomorrow (or citizens, tax payers, tennis players, whatever).

Too true, but I know of instances where a child has been forced to ‘go fishing’ and the accompanying adults, while well intentioned, caused such trauma that those children will never go fishing again. I don’t know if anyone has even tried to determine how old a child should be before they are taken on a fishing outing. As soon as possible and practical, I would say.

I was very fortunate that the adults who took me fishing for the first time, I think I was 4 years old, were seemingly also experts on child raising. I cannot remember one bad incident and well remember the impatience for the weekend to come so that I could go fishing again.

And I suppose I am one case that proves the American finding: at over 55 years I am still fishing!

Here are some pointers when taking your children fishing.

  • Make it a Fun Thing. Don’t burden the child with techniques and complicated tackle and don’t be concerned about catching a big fish. To a child, catching a small fish on simple tackle can be a major achievement, and besides, hooking into a really big specimen might be quite frightening.
  • Keep it Straightforward and Easy. Try not to make the fishing trip a big production. Children can only take in so much information at a time, and if you make it all complicated you will only cause frustration. You don’t need the latest range of hi-tec tackle, you don’t need a fancy boat. Fishing from the bank will do just as well. Bear in mind that your child just wants to spend some enjoyable time with you.
  • The tackle Must work. While it is not necessary to use hi-tec tackle, do make sure that the tackle can indeed do the job at hand. Using a reel that breaks is very off-putting.
  • It’s an Adventure. Planning a fishing trip, even a one-day one, is great fun and creates a sense of adventure. Going fishing needs some planning. Involve them when you check the weather forecast. Take your child with you when you buy tackle. When the fish just refuse to bite, take your child exploring the bank and surrounds, or dig for worms, make a lunchtime braai.
  • Keep the Concentration. It’s a fact that children have a short attention span and soon lose concentration. Choose a fishing spot with easy access to toilet facilities and playground. Take along enough snacks and for small kids, even some toys. And don’t make the mistake of forcing your child to keep fishing for hours on end. In many instances a child will be happy to fish for as little as half an hour and then go playing along the bank or in the shallows.
  • Handling the Catch. When your child does catch a fish, don’t force him or her to handle it. Take it off the hook yourself, but make sure your child sees how you do it. Remember that imitation is very often the best teacher.
  • catch rate. It’s far better to have some small success quickly than having to wait interminably for a big success. It’s therefore important to choose a spot that can produce fish quickly, even if they are small. Children don’t really care about size but they do want to catch something.
  • SAFETY. No matter where you are fishing, from a boat or from the bank, on a big dam or a small farm pond, water needs to be respected. Teach your child to act safely around water and use the fishing trips to practice what to do should they get into trouble in water.
  • Like the Outdoors. Children react positively to anything that develops and engenders a love of the outdoors. While you are fishing, point out the scenery, the birds, the water itself, and chat about easy ways of keeping the outdoors clean and beautiful. Show your child how to properly dispose of used fishing line and other refuse.
  • To release or Not? Don’t belabour the ethics of catch and release. It’s far better to let the child make the decision on its own and there’s nothing wrong in allowing the child to take a fish or two home to show off to the family or friends. After all, the child has achieved success! But also teach the child how to handle a fish properly if it is to be released. Whatever the child decides, give a lot of praise for a new skill that has been learnt.
  • Memories. You won’t know if your child will become an adult angler or not, but for the present capture the outings and successes on film so that they, and you too, have something to share with friends and family. And of course for them to show their kids much later on. So always have a camera on hand.
  • Give Your Best. Going fishing is a perfect opportunity to show your children how to be a caring, responsible adult. Children love to imitate an adult that they love and look up to. So take care to be a good role model and make a good impression. Investing time and money in being with your children in the outdoors and going fishing can pay huge dividends as they grow older.ends

Fishingowl says "Well read, Well said and hear hear!!"