The Joy Of Fishing With Kids

By Dave Duwe - August 1, 2012
I have been a professional fishing guide for over twenty years. I have had thousands of people in my boat, from NFL Players to an 80 year old coal miner from West Virginia. Besides the good laughs and interesting stories, we have caught a lot of fish. Only 3 times in 20 years has the boat been skunked! Out of all of the trips, the most enjoyable trips I have had are when I've been teaching a child to fish and passing along the skills to make them a better fisherperson. I have been allowed to teach and watch children catch their first fish and soon after their biggest fish.

My favorite trips of the year are usually the lowest paying; those trips where I get to take my own kids fishing. When I first taught my children I started with shore fishing. It is a safer option than a boat. Additionally, when children are very young, it gives them the opportunity to run around, pick flowers and throw rocks in the water. On the shore, there is also a lot more room to really learn how to cast. The easiest way to learn is with a spincast or spinning outfit. A good cast is all about the timing. If 12:00 o'clock is straight above your head, release the spincast button or line at 2:00 o'clock. Don't let your kids or you become discouraged if the first casts aren't good ones, the timing of your arm movement and release takes some time to learn. The casts tend to improve with practice. After a few shore fishing trips, it's time to move up to the boat which adds excitement to the trip.

The number one rule of taking a child fishing is patience. The adult needs to go into the trip with the proper attitude. I know that can be hard, but remember fishing is supposed to be fun, not stressful. Never set a plan for how long you are going to fish. I can't ever expect to fish as long with a child as I do with adults. The worst is a very bored child, things tend to get broken in the boat and everyone's attitude diminishes. Plan to bring some snacks and drinks as they keep the energy level up and create a nice diversion when necessary. The occasional boat rides also seem to raise the spirits when fishing gets slow.

Keep it simple for young anglers. Bobbers, hooks and sinkers are all that is really required. When your children are ready, bring along a few lures to practice casting. Make sure your young angler is proficient with casting before the treble hooks start flying. The way I like to rig the poles is the standard bobber rig. A small hook with the bobber positioned 2-3 ft above the bait. A small split shot will aid in casting further. In deeper water, for more advanced anglers, I will use a split shot rig, a small hook and a round split shot positioned 12-18 inches above. By using a round split shot, the chances of getting hooked on weeds are reduced. The deeper the water, the bigger the split shot needs to be.

For bait, worms and nightcrawlers are a must. When my children were really young, I would bring a long some minnows, even if the fish weren't biting on them just for their entertainment value. When I can, digging my own worms always adds a little extra to the trip, and as a bonus it can save a few bucks.

Now that you've planned for the snacks, patience and fishing supplies, the priority before leaving the dock is safety. Sunscreen and a hat are a must, nothing makes mommy madder than a sun burnt child. It goes without saying that life jackets that fit properly are a must in the boat.

I have noticed that a lot of young anglers want to keep everything they catch. I don't know if it's just to show mommy when they get home or if it's to play with the fish. This is a good opportunity to teach about conservation and only keep what you are going to use and release the rest.

Other than patience, the other important rule to remember is that you need to catch fish. It's never about your catching fish; it's always about the kids catching fish. That makes the memories!

On the way home, I try to leave enough time to stop for lunch or a snack. My own kids sometimes think this is the highlight of the trip.

With a little teaching and some practice, a child can become very proficient. At the age of 9, my own son is already talking about taking over my guide business when I retire.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .