Fishing with Kids - Pass the Torch

By Mike McQuitty - April 1, 2006
There is nothing more fulfilling to me than to watch a child's expression when they have their first fish on the line, after you have taught them the basics of fishing. This is a universal language not divided by religion, politics or race. The exhilaration is spontaneous and the excitement contagious. I almost feel as if a child has been shorted if they don't experience this feeling.

After that first fish, it is our responsibility as sportsmen and women, parents and mentors, to keep the interest brewing. Having kids myself helped me stroll through the mine field of what to do and what not to do as far as keeping kids interested in fishing.

In my humble opinion, they are as follows:

  1. Start them out at a young age. Every child is different, but 2 years olds seems like a good starting point. Show them fish in an aquarium and watch fishing shows on TV. Expose them to pictures and walk along lakeshores and piers and feed the fish. Most of all, show your excitement towards the fish.
  2. Start them out slow. Go for pan fish with bobbers and live bait. First take them along to the local lake or pond and let them watch you catch fish. Show them and let them touch the fish. Release the fish and have them watch the fish swim away. At this point I wouldn't traumatize the child with gutting and filleting, quite yet. Again, show your excitement and positive outlook towards fishing.
  3. Don't let the kids get bored. I don't care how good the fish are biting, if you feel the kids are loosing interest, take a break. Go to lunch, catch some frogs, go swimming, do something else.
  4. Buy them their own equipment. At about 4 years old, kids can become apt at casting small kid's spin cast equipment. Hopefully the excitement of receiving their own equipment will parlay itself to the water. Have them practice in the back yard a few times. Don't over practice, this isn't boot camp. If they show signs of boredom, take a break.
  5. After they get the hang of casting, take them out on a nice day to a local lake or pond and catch pan fish with live bait. Worms are in my opinion the best to get started with. Let them touch the worms; even if it makes a mess. Kids are washable. Bring handi-wipes if you are really concerned about clean hands. Important note: don't let them mill around in your tackle box if there are exposed hooks, obviously this could put a damper on the day.
  6. If you are out in a boat, practice safety. Even if you a little careless when you are out with the guy's, now is not the time. Wear your life jackets.
  7. If you're in a boat, fish shallow. There is plenty of aquatic life on shore and next to the boat to keep a child's interest, look for frogs, turtles and ducks. Deep weed lines get old quick.
  8. Finally, the tip I'm guilty of, don't lose your temper or over discipline while out fishing. This is supposed to be fun for you as well as the children. Negativity has lasting effects on the child's future interest in the sport.
On April 8th, fishing clubs from around Southeastern Wisconsin in conjunction with the D.N.R. will conduct fishing clinics at various parks. This FREE event will give kid's the opportunity to learn the basics of fishing by going through a series of stations, learning sportsmanship and ethics, knot tying, fish identification, and casting technique. They will receive a certificate of completion and are then taken for a hands-on fishing instruction with a club member. They learn how to bait, cast and catch stocked fish. For more information, contact the D.N.R. or call 414-263-8614. If you would like to volunteer to help at the clinic, contact a participating club or email me at calofdawld@aol.com.

So, let's briefly recap some of the Don'ts:

  1. Don't force feed fishing
  2. Don't let them get bored
  3. Don't be negative or lose your temper
  4. Don't break them in on trophy game fish, stick with pan fish
  5. Don't fish deep weed lines - stick to the shore and shallow areas
  6. Don't forget their short attention span, take frequent breaks
These tips that I listed seem obvious to many, but I notice these simple rules being broken all the time when I am out on the water. These are some good guidelines for families that are new to fishing, to help introduce their kids to the traditional, wholesome sport of fishing.

Today's day and age poses many challenges for kids. There are too many negative influences out there. Give children a positive outlet. Take a kid fishing - Pass the torch and keep this age old tradition going for generations to come.

See you on the water!

Author Mike McQuitty
Mike McQuitty
I've been tournament fishing for over 20 years. I've fished Red Man and Midwest Bass Circuits; qualifying for their regional's and classics. I fish many open tournaments with a top ten percent finish most of the time. I fish the Wisconsin Bass Federation often qualifying for the zone and state championships. I'm also a licensed guide, fish educator, seminar speaker and product rep. My sponsors are M-W Marine, Ranger Boats, Mercury Motors, Lowrance Electronics, Remy Batteries, ISG Fishing Products, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Fenwick, Mitchell, Johnson, Trilene, Stren, and Baby's Birth Benefits.