It’s that time of the year again when I devote this column to promoting the idea of taking a kid fishing.
Now that the weather is pleasantly warm and our streams, lakes and rivers have settled down, it’s time for some parent/child weekend fishing trips. For the last two weekends, I’ve visited a few local fishing holes, and there is definitely a shortage of young rod-holders in boats or on the shore alongside an adult. Why should adults be having all that fun?
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Here’s something I’d like you to try. At dinner tonight, casually ask the kids if they would like to go fishing this weekend. If they say “no,” you’ve tried, but I’m willing to bet they will say “yes.”
And once they do, here are the next steps.
If your kids have their own tackle, your work is mostly done, but if they don’t, here are a few suggestions as to what they’ll need.
The investment is minor compared to the lifetime rewards you and the kids will experience. Hand-me-downs will work, but young anglers will become a lot more enthusiastic if they receive their own new outfit. Fishing equipment costs are really nominal, and the actual buying process can be a fun thing for both the kid and the adult. Taking your kids to a tackle shop/sporting goods store to select their tackle can be a wonderful family experience.
When buying their rod and reel outfit, be sure it fits them. I’m not a fan of those Snoopy and Walt Disney-type rods/reels, but if the child is 5 years old or younger, those are probably good choices for the first year or so. After that, step them up to the regular Shakespeare, Zebco or any of the brand name rod/reel combinations. Try to keep the rod length about the height of the young angler, if possible.
As for the reel, you can’t beat those with push-button releases. They’re perfect for teaching the two-handed casting method to young anglers. The following directions are for right-handers. Lefties can learn right-handed or merely reverse hands and follow the moves. Here’s how it works.
First, tie a quarter-ounce bell sinker on, leaving about 12 inches of line below the rod tip. With their left hand, have them pinch the line tightly against the rod a few inches above the reel, and then with the right hand push the line release button on the bottom (or top) of the reel. Be sure they hold the line tightly so it doesn’t fall.
Now they’re ready to cast. Have them grasp the rod grip beneath the reel with the right hand and, still holding the line with the left, raise the rod with the tip vertically. Then, using only their arms, make a short arc cast forward, releasing the line just after they start the cast with the left hand. It will take them a few tries, but I’ve found it doesn’t take them long. And they love watching their bait/lure fly out there. The key is to release only the left hand — a two-handed release could send you back to the store to replace the one just thrown in the water. This is something that can and should be practiced in the backyard prior to the fishing trip.
One other very important piece of equipment they’ll need is a tackle box. These young anglers, just like you and I, have to have their own “stuff.” A small, single-tier tackle box is very inexpensive, and there are some that come with tackle in them. I don’t recommend lures in the early stages of their fishing, especially if the kids are very young. Lures, especially with treble hooks, are too dangerous for youngsters, and accidents can happen. Stay with the bobber, hook and sinkers and some of the small plastic baits, like twister tails and worms.
And speaking of safety, when you’re in the backyard practicing before the actually trip, be sure to stress, more than once, the dangers the sharp hooks present. Before every cast, make them and look behind them to be sure no one’s there. Make sure they know they have to do this before every cast.
In the early backyard practice, hooks can be covered with a small bit of plastic worm — easy on, easy off and cheap.
Once they have a tackle box, there’ll be opportunities to surprise them with new lures and other tackle on Christmas, birthdays or any time that’s right. As they progress, you can also buy them different types of hard crankbait-style lures, but remove the hooks. This will allow them to use the lures to practice with on the water, and when they get older and more responsible,the hooks can easily be re-attached. Any of the many tiny, one-hook spinner baits can be given early in their fishing career. The best one I’ve found is the RoadRunner by Blakemore. This little bait has been around for years, and it still catches plenty of fish.
The key to holding a kid’s interest in fishing is action.
That little rod has to bend frequently to keep their attention, and that’s why I recommend fishing for panfish only. Sitting on the shore or in a boat watching a big bobber with a six-inch shiner beneath it is boring to a child with a short attention span. They, and you, are out there for fun, and the more times that little bobber goes sub-surface, the better. Find a school of bluegills, rock bass or crappies, and toss out a fat, juicy garden worm. Or better yet, how about catching your own worms. Does anyone do that anymore? After a heavy rain, go out after dark in your back yard or a grass field with the kids, and give them flashlights. Then see how many night crawlers you can pick. It probably won’t be too many, but it’ll be fun. Another good bait is small minnows. The’re excellent panfish bait, and are fun to fish with.
There’s one potential problem when using live bait with kids — baiting the hook. Not all youngsters are willing to put a hook into a squirming worm or lip of a minnow. Show them how to do it the first time, then ask them if they want to do it. Do not force them, and do it for them as many times as you have to. It may take several outings before they do it, but they’ll come around.
The same goes for taking the fish off the hook. Show them how to do it several times, and let them touch the fish while you’re holding it. When the next fish is caught, have them help you take it off, with you holding the fish and them removing the hook. On fish number three, you take it off and ask them if they want to throw it back in the water. Once again, do not force them to take it off, wait until they’re ready.
The first panfish I caught, my father wanted me to take it off, and I refused. He took it off and put it in my back pocket. That fish stayed there all day and on into the evening, and I finally removed it. It worked, but it’s not a method I recommend.
There are some other things necessary for a fishing trip. First and most important, a camera so you can take a picture of their first fish and send a copy to me with the details for my Fish Tales column. The remaining list includes a hat, sun screen, sunglasses, lunch, snacks and drinks, chairs if fishing from shore and, most importantly, patience.
When is the best time to take a kid fishing? Anytime! I recommend you start this weekend, and continue it on a regular basis for the remainder of the summer. Come winter and hard water, introduce them to ice fishing, also. I’ll be bugging you about that in December.
FAMILY FISHING DAYS
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is offering a number of free (no-license required) fishing days throughout the state. These also include family fishing clinics, ideal for parents who don’t fish. They can learn along with their kids.
Here are the three in our area with contact phone numbers:
— June 5, Iroquois Lake, Schenectady Central Park, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (402-8896)
— May 26, Cobleskill Reservoirs, Cobleskill-Richmondville High School Clinic, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (234-3565)
— June 26, Grafton Lakes State Park Fishing Clinic, noon to 2 p.m. (402-8891).
Youth fishing tournaments are another way to introduce kids to fishing, and they’re free, fun events. This year, there are several that have been around for quite awhile.
— May 8 is the 18th annual Indian Kill Open House and Fishing Day at the Indian Kill Nature Preserve, Hetcheltown Road, Glenville. The event is limited to Schenectady County youths 15 and younger. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to noon. Pre-register before May 5. Registration forms are available at Taylor & Vadney Sporting Goods, Goldstock’s Sporting Goods and The Boat House. For further information call, 386-2225.
— Helderberg Bassmasters will host their 30th annual Kid’s Fishing Tournament May 15 at Six Mile Waterworks, off Fuller Road, Albany. Open to all youth up to 12, hours are 9 to 11:30 a.m., registration is 8 to 9 a.m. Everyone wins something in this contest, and there is also free food and drinks. For further information, call Ken Bingham, 765-3071.
— The 12th annual Ryan’s Produce/Make-A-Wish Kid’s Fishing Contest will be held June 6 at Six Mile Waterworks. The event is open to all youths up to 16. Contest hours are 9 to 11:30 a.m. There’s also a fishing clinic at 8:30 before the contest for those who need it. There will be prizes and raffles with all proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Register the morning of the contest or stop by Ryan’s Produce at 111 Railroad Ave., Albany.
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