Seasoned fisherman and granddad Jim Mize shares advice based on lessons he's learned about fishing with young children.
Taking children fishing is one of those privileges we can enjoy simply because it makes us kids again. Seeing the outdoor world through young eyes renews our sense of wonder and fascination. Hearing the squeals of excitement allows us to cheer alongside them.
Tip #1: Remember it's about the Adventure
Although we may think we are going fishing, little ones see it more as going on an adventure. The outdoor world is a big place, full of the unknown. Along the way, we will encounter frogs, water snakes, dragonflies and turtles. Herons will fly overhead and perhaps stop in your fishing hole to catch their lunch.
These encounters with nature along the way may be more memorable to our little companions than the fish they catch, so take time to enjoy them.
Over years of fishing with kids, we have taken time to catch salamanders, float in our life jackets on a hot afternoon, and lay on our bellies on the boat deck to watch creatures pass in the shadow of our boat. We have drifted quietly in coves listening to gobblers answer the “gronk” of herons passing overhead. And on night fishing trips, we have spent countless hours leaning over the side of the boat to watch swarms of minnows circling our lantern in hypnotic repetitions.
All of these tales became the first-told part of any synopsis of our outing.
Tip #2: Keep Them Occupied
Little ones get bored easily when nothing is happening. Providing amusement while fishing is an easy task.
My son loved sunflower seeds, so our food sack on any fishing trip contained a bag of these seeds for him to pass the time with. He would sit for hours munching on the seeds and spitting the hulls overboard. I didn’t have to look back to see what he was doing because I could hear the steady sound of him spitting for distance and leaving a trail of hulls floating down the lake. By the time we left, the hulls that didn’t clear the boat left the impression I had been fishing with a hamster.
All the tricks I have used for amusement have been simple. For instance, a tube of crickets is fascinating to youngsters as they crawl across the screen that contains them. Nightcrawlers are equally entertaining, and kids love passing bait to other fishermen.
The fish, themselves, can be more entertaining than any aquarium. When fishing with kids I always want a bucket handy. The first small fish goes in with a quantity of water to keep it alive. Invariably, it will start swimming laps and the youngsters will be leaning over the top watching. When the next small fish comes aboard, the first is released and the new one takes a turn.
Tip #3: Aim for a Lot of Little Fish Rather than One Big One
When my children were small, their favorite fishing trip was to take a bunch of crickets and fish the bluegill beds. The action was predictably steady and the fish willing. We always came home with enough to brag over right through the dinner of fried fish and hushpuppies.
Occasionally we found larger fish in schools. Once on a saltwater fishing trip, we drifted over a school of bluefish so thick a spoon couldn’t reach the bottom without a bite. If you did manage to get your lure past them, a sea trout pounced on it when it hit bottom. The time passed quickly as the two kids grunted and giggled.
I had to stop fishing to remove the kids' catches from their lines while they stayed busy reeling in fish after fish.
Tip #4: Enjoy yourself, too!
After a day on the water using these tips, you'll likely find yourself naturally noticing all the little things the children have been pointing out all day.
Grooming fishing buddies is perhaps the easiest and yet most rewarding fishing experience we can have. Mostly, it’s just a matter of letting nature provide the entertainment, and when you can find a few fish, let them take over.
Photos courtesy of Jim Mize.