How To Introduce A Child To Fishing

How To Introduce a child to fishing
“My grandfather couldn’t quit laughing long enough to fish and encouraged me to keep on catching after he would bait my hook.”


The Importance Of Introducing A Child To Fishing


Looking back, I have many fond images burnt inside my mind from an amazing childhood.  I think of slip and slides in the back yard, eating pop ice until my head nearly exploded, forts made out of dirt piles my friend’s father dumped for us…man what could be better???

While all of these childhood gems are locked inside and will be looked back at fondly in my latter years, they pale in comparison to the days spent out on the water fishing!

I think back to an overcast day fishing with my grandfather from a boat ramp at Harrisburg Lake just outside of Galatia Illinois.  It was in the late 80’s when I would have only been 5 or 6 years old.  A low-pressure system was moving in, and we had been hard at work that morning finding worms to place on hooks at the end of cane poles.

The bluegill, sensing the impending front seemed to be feeding as if they’d not eat again for a week and with every swing out of the pole a sunfish would swing back in.  

My grandfather couldn’t quit laughing long enough to fish and encouraged me to keep on catching after he would bait my hook.  He’d then walk to the fish basket and place them inside and hurry back over to fetch another.  It wasn’t long before I was able to catch two fish before he could get halfway over to the basket which admittedly was my goal.

I laughed so hard after this accomplishment that he almost doubled over laughing.  Just then the sound of thunder rolled through the sky.  We hurried up and got into his old two toned brown and cream-colored van.  The rain began to pummel the rooftop. 

Hoping that the trip wasn’t over I asked if we’d be leaving…

No way he said, as he cracked open a Pepsi and handed it over to me.  After the rain let up, we went right back to catching them.  That was over 32 years ago, and I still smell the wet seat cloth, and though I no longer drink soda, the taste of sweet cola.


My Grandfather Had The Foresight Of Teaching Me About The Outdoors


I could never tell you the exact moment that I knew fishing was all I wanted to do.  It’s just been my way of life for as long as I can remember.  

My grandfather’s father took him on trips down to Reelfoot, and Kentucky Lake for vacations so you could just say I was destined to go down the same road.  I was the first grandchild and therefore got the treatment that came along with it.  

Grandpa was fresh off of retirement and ready to spend every available second with his new grandson fishing. 

We explored lakes all over Southen Illinois and more times than not would come home with a nice mess of panfish that grandma would be ready to fry up. 

I recall fishing a small lake in Franklin County Illinois, called lake Hamilton that had a railroad track you had to cross in order to access the lake on the eastern side. 

When we came up to it a train had stopped and wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon but we were fortunate to come upon one of the crewmen who radioed to the engineer telling them to let this grandfather and grandson pass under the train which we did.  You can only imagine the excitement of a young kid who had to explore.

After we got down to the lake, we realized we had left the worms in the van so we went with plan B.  My new assignment was to catch as many grasshoppers as possible so we could still catch a mess of bluegill which added an extra element of fun to the trip.


Will I Introduce My Children To Fishing?


There is no doubt that when the time comes, I will pack up some hooks, split shots, and bobbers, along with a delicious lunch packed by my wife and take the kids to a lake to see the tradition passed down.  Whether they take to it like me or not will be completely up to them.  I won’t force it as someone’s individuality is something to be respected.

I have watched several kids as a former high school coach of the fishing team, coming up and you can tell those who have the same sick obsession as me. 

The ones who just enjoy it as something to do for a few hours would be waiting for us at the ramp while the others would be pulling in on full pad shutting down right at the no wake markers so that they got that extra minute or two of fishing in!


My Formula For Introducing My Children To Fishing Will Involve Adventure

(Please note the example below is my scenario for me teaching.  If you’re a single parent, taking a niece/nephew, or are one of the amazing people who subscribe to the Big Brother partnership, then these tips are just as important and applicable to you!)

1.) Find A Secluded Spot


If you know a little pond or lake secluded in the woods, then you’ve just added an element of anticipation as you hike through trails.  You can look at nature, perhaps chase and catch bugs that can easily be used as bait.  Once you reach the lake’s shore the child’s anticipation should be high!


2.) Catch Your Own Bait


While it’s really simple to acquire bait at any sporting shop, catching your own will provide a small accomplishment along the way and many kids love digging worms!  After all, if you can’t find bait, you can’t fish!


3.) Don’t Worry About Catching Large Fish


We aren’t after a world record here, just enough action to keep a child’s attention.  Scout around and try to find ponds that have large populations of bluegill or small bass.  These fish will usually bite willingly at the first thing presented to them!


4.) Get Excited When The Child Starts Fighting Their First Fish!

This is a huge psychological step for a child which connects hard work with success!

While this likely won’t be too difficult as you’ll be as excited seeing this, really let them know what a great job they’re doing from start to finish!  The confidence will build as it should.


5.) Take A Break In Between For Lunch


Don’t forget about that meal your wife worked hard to prepare for the family!  Sit off in the shade with some lunch meat sandwiches and perhaps let them have seconds on desserts signifying that this is a special occasion and should be treated as such!  

This is also a great time to mention how much better they are at fishing then you were when you were at their age, thus building more confidence!


6.) Try To Save A Few Fish For A Supper


The child will get to see the trip come full circle whether they enjoy eating the fish or not.  It will help them to understand where their food comes from and give them an appreciation for the day’s harvest.


7.) Don’t End The Trip Too Early


Remember, you only get one chance at a first impression.  This is a memory you’re going to have with you for the rest of your life and possibly theres!  Don’t go to the lake with the idea of getting there and making a couple of casts then coming home.  Please think this one through or take off work for the day for just this trip!

Your goal is to have to drag them away so this is one of the few times I say let them dictate when the fishing trip will end.


Let The Chips Fall Where They Will


If you live and breathe fishing but your child doesn’t feel the exact way guess what… That’s OK!

We aren’t all expected to be cut from the same cloth and share the same interests.  Be grateful for the day you got to experience as it’s going to live with you for the rest of your life.

One day out of nowhere when your children are grown, they will look back fondly at that day reminding you of what a fun trip it was!  You won’t remember the bad day at work you might have experienced but rather the taste of that turkey and cheese sandwich while bringing your family closer together.

Then the grandchildren will come along and guess what?  You’ve got another chance at passing on the gift of fishing!



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