A Fishing Guide’s Tips For Taking Kids Fishing

There are few things more rewarding than a smile on a child’s face. I have the good fortune to see it pretty often because in my profession as a fishing guide I take a lot of kids fishing. My approach is patterned after my own childhood experiences with my uncles, who took me fishing and hunting a lot while my father was employed overseas. I learned to master the casting mechanics of rod and reel before I could recite my ABCs!

Fishing with children requires some patience, and I practice the “KIS rule” (Keep It Simple) when fishing with young kids. I get plenty of bait and fish for willing species. A child’s attention span is pretty short, so I try to keep things moving. I do a lot of drifting, putting out the anchor only when the fish are biting or the current requires it.

Jeremy Johnigeans first cobia assisted by Capt. Billy Jordan.

Kids — and more than a few adults — have a natural inclination to start reeling in as soon as you hand them the rod. To thwart this I employ long limber rods that cast far. I try to encourage them to be patient and wait for a bite, but it’s not enforceable as a hard and fast rule. Kids will be kids, so I do lots of casting!

For kids who can handle a rod, I will sometimes let them toss a lure. I learned the hard way, however, that this should be done with barbless hooks. It also pays dividends when handling fish with prickly, toxic spines protruding from their fins.

Limit Trips To Four Hours
I also limit trips with young children to four hours, which is about right for most kids, but a little long for some. I’m not afraid to quit early if a child gets fidgety and inattentive. The best way to teach a kid to hate something is to make him do it when he doesn’t want to.

Questions are a good thing, even when asked over and over. It shows interest. I also volunteer lots of information — explain why we are fishing at a particular spot, why we are using the bait we are using, and things like that. I’m trying to hold their interest.

Kids tend to try to do things their own way. If they want to fish with the spinning reel upside down and use the wrong hand, fine. I show them the right way and explain why it’s better to do it this way, but if they persist, I just let it go. They will generally figure it out on their own.

Growing up, I was quick to notice the kids who hunted and fished were mostly kids who stayed out of trouble. This is no mystery. Fishing teaches the natural order of things, and those of us lucky enough to have folks like my uncles can learn an awful lot about right and wrong from the unwritten rules of fishing and good sportsmanship.

Jack crevalles are willing favorites for kids.

I handle saltwater catfish for catch and release with the same respect I would show a snook, a redfish or a trout. From a child’s point of view, one species is no more important than any other as long as it pulls on your line. I certainly don’t want to be the guy to introduce “trash fish” into a child’s vocabulary. That a fish is fun to catch is enough for any child, and ought to be for anybody.

When the catching is slow, I try to stress the difference between fishing and catching, and most kids pick it up quicker than some adults. Kids are pretty easy to please, and they offer a refreshing outlook on a pastime that is often lost in a competitive game of numbers and sizes. To a kid, every fish counts, and every fishing trip is a success.

Captain Fred Everson has been a licensed fishing guide on Tampa Bay in Florida for 13 years. He has also written three books, and is a 20-year active member of the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America. You can visit his website for more information at http://tampabayfishingguide.com/

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