Take a kid fishing

Boy with bluegill
Young angler CJ Dietrich showed patience beyond his years in out fishing his grandpa and catching a great stringer of nice bluegill. (Photo by Mike Roux)

Of all the outdoor activities I write about, this is one of my favorites. It combines two of my top ten loves in the world – my children and fishing. In the past 23 years, since my wife Nancy and I married and combined our families into one, I have had five of the most enthusiastic young anglers a father could ask for. Now I have four wonderful grandkids and, not only do they love to fish, they love the outdoors, and for that I am very grateful.

I remember a month ago when my grandson Connor, better known as CJ, and I were turkey hunting. As much as he liked putting on the camo and using the calls, his first question was, “Can we hit a farm pond after we get through hunting?” I smiled and answered affirmatively. We were both tickled with my answer.

I asked CJ what bait he wanted to use, as we arrived at the pond about 9 a.m. “Worm and a bobber,” he said, as if he had been doing this for 20 years. He said that way he might be able to catch bluegill and crappie. Where did this 9-year-old learn so much about fishing? Silly question, huh?

As we worked our away methodically around the 2-acre impoundment, studying each cast before we made them, CJ picked a spot and never moved his feet for over an hour. He varied his casting direction and the length of his casts, but he never changed positions. He out fished me on bluegill three to one.

When you take a kid fishing, be prepared for one thing – communication. It is a great opportunity to listen and communicate with your youngster, and it will be an experience you will both treasure for a lifetime.

It can be a chance to talk about nature, his or her school, friends and things they like or dislike. You get the idea. Plus, it builds a foundation that will keep that youngster focused on this great American sport for many years to come. Make it the most pleasurable outing you can imagine for the child.

Plan your trip to some place that is easily accessible and is sure to produce some catching – a city pond stocked with trout, crappie or bluegill, a fishing pier, or even a pay-per-catch pond or lake that is heavily stocked.

When you plan that first trip for a youngster, it is very important to make it a short, but exciting adventure. A child’s attention span can be short, so hold your trip to two or three hours, just long enough to catch a bunch of fish. Do not drag out the event for several hours and let the kid get bored.

Remember, catching is the key to keeping their attention. Target the easiest to catch species in the particular water you are fishing. Not every child has fished as much as CJ and may not be satisfied catching one or two fish a trip. Panfish are the best bet, and a can of worms or a tube of crickets will usually get the job done.

Most any fish will hit these live baits, and there is nothing more exciting for a kid than to see their bobber disappear and know there is a fish on their line. They feel that vibration and the tug on their rod, and they often get hysterical they’re having so much fun. Therein lies the magic of teaching your child to fish.