There’s something about dropping a hook and a line into blue Maine water that captivates kids. It’s hard to believe, but fishing is actually more fun than a monster truck video game or a Game Boy®.
The first time a child experiences the mysterious tug of a fish on the end of a line they’re hooked on fishing. I progressed from scup to flounder, to bait fishing for trout, to casting for blues, to pickerel trolling, to fly-fishing for striped bass. It was that first tug of a worm-caught sunfish that did it. Fishing never fails to delight.
The funniest thing about bringing kids fishing is that it brings out the kid in the fisherman. My real encouragement didn’t come from my father—he never liked baiting or taking the fish off the hook. It was my happy-go-lucky grandmother who grew up on a farm. She bought me my first rod and handful of lures and she dug the night crawlers with me. I’ve done the same with my kids and now I’ve got pictures of my two nephews, ages 6 and 7, each holding up fish we’ve caught off some lazy pier in Maine. I’m hooked on fishing with kids.
Here are a few pointers for you parents who would like to help your kids get caught by something fun and worthwhile that will give them a lifetime connection to the outdoors.
- Keep it simple. There’s no need for a lot of fancy equipment. An inexpensive (under $25) simple spinning rod and reel will do, a small tackle box helps them learn about organization, and a handful of lures, hooks, leaders, weights and a bobber or two.
- Get local knowledge. Maine has so much water. Remember that all water has fish and kids aren’t that picky. Go to the nearest lake or pond. Pan fish will do for starters.
- Rivers are trickier than ponds and lakes for small legs. To get kids started, find a dock on a lake or pond. Remember to have them wear a life preserver if fishing in an exposed place like a rocky point.
- Learn to cast a line before you go out with your child so you can teach them how. Once they learn to cast, they’re off and running. Your child will appreciate bigger hands helping out when things go wrong—which they will—including line tangles, lures caught in bushes, and snags on the bottom.
- Don’t insist that kids clean and eat fish. They may want to take the fish home just so they can keep looking at it and, maybe, eat it. They may want to throw the fish back. But they won’t know how to clean it. You’ll have to do that. If you do saute it up, a little lemon, garlic and salt makes the smallest morsel of fresh fish into a gourmet treat.
Fishing makes a difference. Find out how Maine educational programs are getting kids “Hooked on Fishing.”