Fishin’ With KidsPosted on: June 27, 2019 By: FHMD
There are few things that bring me as much joy as a squealing child as he or she hoists a gyrating sunfish up on the bank. The fish is flopping, and the child is giggling as they try to immediately pounce on this incredibly interesting form of life we know as a “fish.” By my own claim, I caught my first fish, a humble bluegill, at the age of five…and I haven’t been the same since! For the next 60 years, most of my on-water endeavors have been very similar to those early days of angling. To introduce a child to the sport of fishing is both honorable and emotionally rewarding and with school out, longer days and warm weather, summer is the perfect time to start! And with June being National Great Outdoors Month, there’s no better time to start fishin’ with kids. Here’s how to do it…
Keep it Simple
Most children enjoy the actual catching of fish more than the nature experience. By targeting abundant, easy to catch panfish (such as bluegill) species you up the odds for success and subsequent appeal to the child. Look for shoreline areas that have lots of sunfish species or white perch in tidal environs that can keep those kids busy with watching a floating bobber as it dips below the surface. Those economical push-button outfits are good for starters and will even handle a good-sized bass or catfish when one comes along. Beginner kits are available at most big-box outlets and lines testing 8 or 10-pound test will cover many bases for the young, beginning angler.
Use #6 and #8 hooks that will catch the majority of the fish but seldom be swallowed. Those snap-on, plastic bobbers work well, but keep them at one-inch in diameter or use the “pencil-style” floats as a better strike indicator. Place floats about three-four feet above the hook and have the child learn to cast from a dock or boat ramp.
There are many bait possibilities, but simple garden worms from the flower beds or a dozen nightcrawlers from the local convenience store will serve well and catch most any species of fish. Prepared baits such as Berkley Gulp! AngleWorms or Waxies can be a great backup option when worms are not available. Mealworms, available at pet stores, are also a versatile bait. Before heading out, select places where there are piers, docks or shoreline access options even with picnic tables or shaded areas for respite and comfort.
Keep it Safe
Even if the fish are biting, at some point children are going to get hungry and thirsty or just simply want another “thing to do.” Having a good supply of preferred snacks and sodas and water will not only jump-start the kids, but it keeps them hydrated and content when the bluegills aren’t co-operating. Essential safety items like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a small first aid kit can go a long way in making the day safer and enjoyable should there be mosquitos or biting insects.
Light-weight, portable lawn chairs can often save the day when a child gets tired or the fish won’t bite. Keep a sharp eye out for any shoreline hazards or rocky, treacherous areas where foot travel could be difficult or even dangerous and always obey any and all signs indicating such dangers. For our kids’ fishing events we like to utilize places that have adequate shade in case the temperatures start to soar. Always be aware of your surroundings and roadways and weather conditions for the day and evening hours. Avoid outings whenever storms or rain is predicted.
Keep it Fun
The main goal is for children to enjoy the experience of catching, touching, observing and respecting fish and other wildlife that you may encounter. This is their day afield, not yours. They may stray from staring at a bobber in favor of catching a crayfish, watching a bullfrog or just wading and playing in shallow water on a hot summer day. My granddaughter Elena just turned nine and she has a passion for kayaking, but she is only moderately interested in fishing. With a keen eye for wildlife, she often spots deer, hawks and other animals as a part of the total fishing experience.
Understand that a child’s passion for angling may not be equal to yours. As time marches on and they grow in their outdoor heritage, you will know whether or not fishing is the sport for them. The days of trophy bass or rockfish are down the road. But for now, willing bluegills and perch are usually all that is needed to kick-off a lifetime love for fish and fishing. Keep it simple, keep it safe, but above all…keep it fun!
- Children’s Fishing Events…the Maryland Department of Natural Resources lists a number of children’s fishing events and derbies throughout the year and this is a great way to get started if you need help.
- My First Fish Awards…the Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers First Fish Awards for youth and beginning anglers of all ages and all species… a great way to celebrate a landmark event and keep the fire burning!
- Take advantage of any and all youth day hunts, fishing events and Free Fishing days in Maryland waters.
- Familiarize yourself with any angling regulations that would apply to any areas you plan to fish before venturing out. Know the seasons, creel, length limits and secure applicable licenses, tags or stamps that are required for those areas you plan to visit.
The state of Maryland also has a significant number of free fishing areas. These areas are great for adults who may not have a fishing license and want to give it a try.
Make sure you have a valid fishing license. Even if you are helping a child out, any adult who is directly involved in the fishing outing (handling of rod and reel, getting fish off-hook, etc.) must hold a current Maryland Fishing License.
Whether you’re planning a few hours on the water or a longer family getaway, check out the Plan Your Trip section of our website to find lodging options, fishing charters and guides, and outdoor retailers to get the most out of fishing in Maryland.
And, if you’re looking to turn your fishing trip into a road trip, there’s no better way to experience the beauty of Maryland than traveling its scenic byways.
This post was written by Jim Gronaw
Images courtesy of the author