Katie Mitchell has sweet memories of her childhood, especially those fishing with her mother. She remembers bamboo rods, learning how to bait her hook, and watching her red-and-white bobber plunge beneath the water’s surface.
“My mother introduced me to fishing when I was in kindergarten,” she said. “She’d take me to a little pond where I grew up in north-central Texas, where we’d catch a lot of panfish. It was such a great experience, and one of the main reasons why I’m still fishing today.”
Babe Winkelman and his then young daughter Karlee hold up a nice largemouth bass.
Little did Katie know that those early mother-daughter-fishing trips would be the catalyst for her future occupation as the public relations coordinator for Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo.
“I probably wouldn’t be working in the outdoor industry had my mother not taught me to fish,” Mitchell said. “I’m glad I started.”
As fishing seasons come and go, more and more kids will ask their parents to take them fishing. Sadly, however, one or both parents don’t know how to fish.
Here are some tips for parents to remember when taking their children fishing, courtesy of Katie.
1. Fish For Success
While adults might want to target walleyes or smallmouth bass, Mitchell recommends fishing waters that hold bluegills, crappies or stocked trout. Catching a lunker is the dream of all kids, but fast action — not size — is the key to keeping them happy and content. “Kids want to catch fish, that’s the bottom line,” she said. “Walleyes and bass are often favorites of adults, but those species require more patience and skill. Panfish can provide more consistent action, which is a great way to get a kid hooked on the sport.”
2. Fishing Isn’t Just Fishing
Kids have short attention spans, so they’ll need diversions. Mitchell recommends that parents plan other activities for their children when the fish aren’t biting. Swimming, playing a game, having a picnic, and watching the birds are all good ways to pass the time and enjoy the day. “Keep it simple and short,” she said. “Kids want to have fun, so make it as fun as possible.”
3. Don’t Plan On Fishing Yourself
Parents should focus solely on the needs of their children. Make the outing special; shower them with attention. Concentrate on keeping their poles rigged and hooks baited. “Make it a positive family experience,” she said. “If you do, they’ll (kids) want to come back for more.”
4. Make It Easy
You may want to fish from shore rather than in a boat, particularly if the kids are young. Fishing from a dock is another option. “If the fish aren’t biting, kids will get impatient if they’re stuck in a boat all day,” Mitchell said. “Once they’re a little older and develop a little more patience, that’s the time to take them out in a boat.”
5. The Magic Of Bait
Kids are curious souls so include them in every aspect of the outing, including a stop at the local bait shop — an entertaining place. Don’t underestimate the appeal of worms, minnows and leeches to kids.
6. Bring Food And Drink
Bringing food and something to drink is mandatory, said Mitchell. Bring snacks that are wrapped individually and impervious to water. Bring cans of pop instead of bottles. And always clean your mess up before you depart. “A kid that has a snack is a happy kid,” she said. “Press the importance of cleaning up after themselves, and that littering is bad.”
7. Think Safety First
As a general rule, kids should always wear life jackets, and they’ll wear them more readily if they fit well. Also, don’t forget the first-aid supplies, bug repellent, sunscreen, and other essentials.
8. Future Conservationists
Along with learning how to fish, kids need to understand the importance of clean water and other environmental education. “When you take a child fishing, consider it an opportunity to touch upon some of the issues that impact fishing, one being clean water,” Mitchell said. “Conservation is a big part of fishing. They go hand in hand.”
9. Timing Is Everything
Mitchell said that parents should limit fishing trips to three or four hours, perhaps less for younger children. There’s no surer way to make kids dislike fishing than to force them to stay longer than they want to.
10. A Gift!
I have five daughters, all of whom fish. Teaching them the sport has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life as a father. I encourage all parents to teach their children how to wet a line. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
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