You know the saying: “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” As cliché as it may be, there’s some real truth to that expression. Teaching your youngsters how to fish isn’t just about reeling in record-setters, it’s also about demonstrating survival skills, connecting with nature and—perhaps most importantly, at least in this day and age—taking a break from the lure of ever-glowing screens.
On top of that, introducing kids to the world of fishing helps them better understand where food comes from while also cementing fundamental science concepts. And, if you didn’t know, getting your kids outside for some fresh air can equal measurable benefits, with research demonstrating that kids who play outside are happier, smarter, less anxious and better at paying attention. In other words, fishing isn’t just for sport or hobby. It’s also good for your family’s health, education, and wellness.
If you’ve been looking for a few pointers on how to turn curious kids into amateur anglers, follow this step-by-step guide.
Unless you’ll be doing the vast majority of your fishing in calf-deep waters, the first thing you need to do to prepare your future fisher is teaching her to swim. Though your kids should be supervised constantly around water regardless of if they’ve had lessons or not, the outcome of accidents is very different between kids who can swim and kids who cannot. Make sure your child is comfortable swimming before introducing any water-related activities.
Step 2: Cover All the Safety Basics
Step 3: School Them on Fishing Gear
Before you actually get out on the water, you want to make sure your kids have a strong grasp of fishing equipment and how to use it. It’s best to keep the gear lesson fairly simple for first-time fishermen, sticking mainly to basics like a fishing pole (preferably a child-sized pole for the little ones), a hook, a bobber, a sinker and a little piece of a worm. Gradually, you can introduce more complex pieces of equipment and even let your kids try out your more advanced gear.
Step 4: Get Out and Demonstrate
You love heading out for a long, relaxing day of fishing and boating, and you’ll get time to catch something too as you’re demonstrating basic angling concepts. After all, learning is partially about watching and partially about doing. Like your gear, you should keep the setting simple, starting out on a small freshwater pond or lake.
In addition to demonstrating the basics, like how to cast a line and reel in your nibbles, you should also emphasize the importance of proper baiting, hook removal and how to attract the big guys. If your children are under 10, it’s best to handle all baiting and fish removal yourself, at least until they’re old enough to be able to take over these tasks without hurting themselves.
This is a good time to show your kids proper fishing techniques, which will vary based on your climate, environment and target fish, and to fish ethically. Some important concepts to teach:
Encourage children only to keep what they catch if they intend to eat it or use it somehow. Otherwise, toss the fish back according to proper catch and release practices so it has the chance to thrive after being caught.
Step 5: Enter Your Child in Clubs and Tournaments
Getting out on a beautiful day and enjoying the serenity of a well-stocked lake or river is what it’s all about, but sometimes a little more excitement is required to get youngsters excited. Luckily, there are all sorts of fun, kid-centric fishing activities—from youth fishing tournaments to local clubs and organizations just for kids—that you can use to engage the kiddoes in the sport.
This is especially ideal for parents who want to encourage their kids to meet and mingle with others. Check with your state’s department of natural resources as well as the Junior B.A.S.S. Nation, The Bass Federation Junior Anglers and other kids’ fishing groups for great ways to get your future pro fisherman involved in the competition as well as leisure fishing.
Forging a Lifelong Love
Our best tip for forging a deep passion for fishing? Catch a fish! Nothing’s more exciting than reeling in the first catch of the day (or, for your kids, maybe even their lifetime), and that’s something even seemingly disinterested kids will remember forever. As long as you promote fishing as a fun, enjoyable activity while emphasizing the importance of safety, ethics, and conservation, you can bet that your little one will grow up to be a lifelong outdoors-lover just like you.