Taking Kids Fishing – Tips for getting kids started learning to fish

Taking KIds Fishing
Taking Kids Fishing. Cartoon by AJ Maguire.

Taking Kids Fishing

by Stephen Coote

There are good reasons for taking kids fishing and there are things we can do to make the activity safe and enjoyable.

Civilisation seems to move people further from nature. Basic skills and activities have less emphasis placed on them. We may feel, at times, that those at important posts in society have lost touch with practicality and with what really matters. Our children will be running this Earth’s affairs soon. We have a big responsibility to impart our highest values to them. We must give them the basic skills and knowledge they can build on. Fishing for yellow-eyed mullet is a great place for kids to start out.

Many elders bemoan the fact that so many children leave school nowadays unable to spell or do basic maths. They shake their heads as they relate stories of shop assistants who can’t give change, or of teachers who can’t spell.

What about teenagers who can’t tie a decent knot, sharpen a knife, bait a hook, row a boat or clean a fish? These skills may be merely “handy” for later on. They may also provide a basis for worthwhile recreation, a job or even be essential to survival. Who knows what challenges our children may have to face?

Fishing can give us a slight understanding of how our ancient ancestors lived and how some fellow humans still live. It develops our appreciation of the environment and its fragile resources, no matter how involved we’ve become with computers and high finance. It reveals a rationale for conservation.

Taking Kids Fishing – Here’s a list of ideas to consider:

  • Make fishing safe. Follow the rules we’re bombarded with constantly.
  • Get comfortable, and maybe attractive, lifejackets for the kids. My kids would hate to wear a government surplus Mae West.
  • Sunshine attacks kids from all angles. Don’t forget to take sunhats and sunblock.
  • Take time to help children and explain what you’re doing. Let them do things like steer the boat or cut the bait. Time spent like this is a wonderful investment.
  • Set a good example. Children arrive without guile and naturally follow rules. Don’t throw rubbish into the sea. Don’t exceed the bag limits or keep undersized fish.
  • Use hassle-free tackle. My kids have landed all sorts of fish on rods not much taller than themselves using cheaper eggbeater reels. Kids love to have their own gear.
  • Consider using the short square setline hooks. These seem to snag less on the sea bottom and human bodies and are often easier to extract from the fish.
  • If a child just has to cast the line, try rigging a running sinker straight on top of a single hook. This stops the hook swinging wildly around during the cast. The rig requires only one simple knot and
    seems to snag and break less.
  • Make sure the kids have a plan to cope with any serious situation which may arise. Be sensitive about how you discuss this so you don’t freak them out. Such a plan can build confidence and eliminate panic in such a situation. Scenarios to consider are: ‘ Capsizing. Someone hooks a big
    one (Don’t all rush to the side of the three-metre dinghy). Fire. Adrift without power.  Having a big shark swim close to the dingy. Being boarded by pirates!
  • Fast boats don’t often have safety belts. Make sure children hold on and keep away from
    dangerous objects. A sudden stop or a jerky manoeuvre could result in junior losing front teeth
    early (or for the second time).
  • If some kids aren’t all that keen on fishing, add some interest, explore the surroundings. Go to new areas. Take games and plenty of food. Feed the gulls. Let them bring friends along. By not getting grumpy with bored children, we can often turn things around to keep the atmosphere happy and the occasion enjoyable.
  • Let kids be kids. Allow for their lack of experience. Listen to them. (I’ll bet when you were their size you enjoyed cutting fish up to see what was inside).
  • If you haven’t got kids of your own, you could offer to take out somebody else’s. Maybe their parents would like to come too. The rewards of giving yourself can be great and you’ll be making an investment in humanity’s future. Besides, they might take you fishing one day.