Fishing is a great pastime for family outings and a fantastic way to give kids a true appreciation of nature and the outdoors. There are reasons for what we do when we fish and how we do it, but learning the ins and outs and becoming proficient at them take time. For kids, introducing various elements one at a time and helping them to organize their skills and knowledge can set them up for success — and prevent scary feelings of being overwhelmed.
If you’re hoping that your kids will learn to love fishing as much as we do, here are some kid-friendly activities and ideas geared to charter fishing trips. We want to help you help them develop a lifelong love of fishing and all that it offers.
Make water safety a top priority. Fishing takes place on or near deep bodies of water, so children need to know how to swim. The leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths for children 1 to 4 years old, drowning is often silent and can happen in as little as 20 seconds. Before ever stepping foot on a boat, your kids should be proficient at swimming and feel comfortable near bigger bodies of water.
Teach respect for natural resources. If we want our children to be able to enjoy fishing, we need to be sure that they understand that they are caretakers of the fish, the associated wildlife and the environment. In many cases, that means learning that we have to obey the laws that control things like how many fish we can catch, which species of fish we can keep versus which species we must release if we catch them, and how big a fish must be to keep it.
There are also rules governing when you can fish in certain locations, what types of fishing you can do in a given area and where boats are allowed to go at a certain time, for example. In addition, many of the tools used in fishing—fishing line, lead weights and hooks, for example—come with personal responsibility for their appropriate use and disposal.
Explore fish species for recognition. There are thousands of species of fish. You might be surprised by how much time a kid might spend exploring pictures of fish or learning about the types you and your family catch. Fish identification is an important part of responsible fishing, so the earlier they begin to learn the different types in their local ponds, the better fishermen they’ll become.
Get kid-appropriate equipment, and let them practice with it. Kids love having their own equipment, so get them the basics in a size they can handle—and do it at a price you can handle if they end up breaking something. Kids need rods that are appropriate to their size and simple reels that they can manipulate easily. Kids also need time to practice learning that side-arm cast and checking to see who’s near before they do it.
A small, bright tackle box is sure to become a prized possession—especially if it rattles with a few kid-appropriate fancy bobbers, plastic worms, lead-free fishing weights, spinner bait, tiny pliers, a small measuring tape, and maybe even a pair of crimpers and some simple hooks. Having their own tools lets them get that practice and helps build a sense of responsibility.
Visit fishing sections in stores to stoke curiosity. Yes, someone may get a case of the “I wants,” but those long aisles bursting with mysterious, odd-looking and sometimes smelly packages are a resourceful way to get a kid thinking and curious about fish. They’re also good for building knowledge and familiarity with the items regularly used out by the water.
Many of the tools we use are tailored to the species and setting, and seeing the variety lets kids learn how to determine what might—or might not—work for them. Catalogs are also great ways to learn about the sport. When you finally take your young person on that big fishing trip, you might be surprised at just how much they recognize and the confidence it builds.
Teach equipment safety and situational awareness. Many of the tools used in fishing can be hazards—from hooks and line to fillet knives, dry ice and offal. Children need to learn what items are off limits. They also need to learn to be aware of who is near and where they are at all times. Whether you’re fishing on a river bank or a charter boat at sea, you need to teach them to be aware of everything above, beside and beneath them at all times—especially where their feet are and what or who is behind them.
Keep the first fishing trip short and simple. Choose an outing that is likely to yield a relatively easy catch. The fish may be smaller or more common, but for a child, it’s their first fish on their first trip. You want something that they can catch to light their fire.
Keep the party small. The more people there are, the more things you’ll have to manage. For some kids, having a lot of strangers around can make them nervous—especially if they feel put under the microscope. If your child tends to be self-conscious, a smaller party of familiar people might be the better choice for a first trip.
Don’t make them do things they can’t handle. Kids’ senses are often more acute than adults’. What bothers them now—live bait or cut bait, for example—might not be an issue a month or two from now. Keep the experience positive.
Stay hydrated and energized. Just like adults, kids are at their best when they’re well hydrated and fed. Dehydration and hunger are most certainly guaranteed to make the experience less positive for your kid. After all, a “hangry” kid out fishing is almost guaranteed to result in a meltdown.
Take breaks. Kids cast their line and expect something to happen. Fishing teaches patience, but it’s a skill to build over time. Remember those snacks? Maybe it’s time for one. Or, break out the binoculars to let them see what they can see. As long as they don’t get motion sickness, give them a loose-leaf sketch book so that they can journal everything they want to remember. Let them switch out their bobber or lure or weights. Teach them how to tie a knot or two. Having lots of things to do will take their attention away from not having tons of fishing reeling in.
Prepare for the elements. Sunburns, bug bites and rain can be trip breakers. Use plenty of lotion sunscreen, and take breaks to reapply as needed. Wear long sleeves and a hat, and spray clothing in advance if mosquitoes or biting flies are likely to be a problem. Once kids are itchy or in pain, tolerance wears thin. Bring rain gear in case a shower breaks out.
Be kind. Your child will probably be excited about going fishing, but some children may also be shocked by the death of the fish. This is why explaining the rules, our laws and the value of conservation is so important. If we eat what we take, we waste nothing. Equally important, however, is to always give a young person the option of catch and release.
Follow-up post trip. Chances are, your child will either fall fast asleep on the way home or won’t be able to stop talking about their first fishing trip. At some point, however, you’ll want a small debriefing to ask a few questions and hear what they have to say.
What did they like most?
What didn’t they like?
What did they think about the experience?
If something went wrong, why do they think that happened?
What should they do next time?
What might they like to try next time?
Teach them to cook! If your child was lucky enough to catch a keeper, you might want to invite them to help you cook it. Children are more likely to try and enjoy food that they’ve helped to prepare. Most importantly, if they enjoyed their first fishing trip, getting to see how the fish are used can help round out the experience for them.
Every kid only gets one first fishing trip, so make sure theirs is perfect. If you’ve been thinking about taking your favorite young person—or people—out on the water, the charter captains at LouisianaCharterFishing.com are here to help plan an unforgettable excursion. Contact us today, and let us help you find the perfect charter for your needs. For more great fishing tips and insights, be sure to explore our blog.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6675807/ lead weight poisoning of wildlife/fish line
https://k945.com/10-must-have-items-for-your-kids-tackle-box/ tackle box items for kids
https://www.lawrencebay.com/6-important-life-lessons-fishing-can-teach-your-children/ situational awareness
https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body kid hydration
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