If your child has always been interested in your weekend hobby and is finally old enough to handle a reel, it may be time for his or her first fishing trip. Between keeping your child safe on the water and hoping he or she will love the sport as much as you do, you’ll have a lot to think about as you plan this milestone adventure.
Keep the following tips in mind to make your child’s first angling experience a great one.
Get Pumped Up
Announce to your child that the two of you are going fishing, and mark the day on a calendar so the countdown can begin. In the meantime, go to a sporting goods store so the two of you can get a fishing license and some new fishing gear, such as a reel, lures, tackle, life jacket and tackle box. If you have extra tackle at home that you haven’t used in a while, pass it down to your child as a gift; he or she will think this gesture is very special.
Before the big day, show your child how to clean and oil a reel, how to assemble or disassemble it, and how to put a new line on it. Next, use a lightweight sinker to practice casting in your yard. Some parents like to set up targets, such as garbage cans, so their kids can practice building accuracy.
It’s also important to plan where you’ll go fishing together. Take out a couple of maps, even if you don’t really need them, and show your child some options. Explain the pros and cons of each location and let your child help you figure out the best place to go. Do plan, however, on going to a location that is likely to yield fish, or the trip could be a bust. Avoid fishing in areas that are steep or slippery. If going out on a boat, don’t plan to go far away from land.
The Night Before
The night before the big fishing trip, plan your snacks and lunches with your child and get them ready. Gather all the supplies and fishing equipment you’ll need in one spot so it’s easy to pack the car. You should count on getting wet, so it’s a good idea to dress in layers and pack extra clothes for you and your child. Some other items to pack for the trip include sunscreen, hats, your own life jacket (you have to teach by example), first aid supplies, hand sanitizer, paper towels and a couple of blankets.
Have your child pack a small bag of activities, too. Keep in mind it’s not very likely he or she will be reeling in one fish after the other, and you don’t want boredom to color your child’s first fishing memories. Make a mental list of other activities the two of you could do on your fishing trip, as well: learn to skip rocks, go on a hike, go geo-caching (if you have a GPS unit), catch frogs, have a fishing competition, etc.
The Big Day
Wake your child up early on the day of the fishing trip. Not only will this allow plenty of time to get ready, but kids tend to remember occasions on which they had to wake up early. After getting dressed, have a special breakfast either at home or at a diner.
When you arrive at your fishing destination, have your child help you unpack the car and take the equipment to your fishing spot. Give the child your full attention as the two of you prepare and bait your reels. If your child is old enough, let him try to bait his own hook. If not, do it for him.
When your child gets his or her first bite, let your child reel the fish in alone as you coach and cheer from the sidelines. If he or she loses the first fish, then help with the second one that bites. Remind your child that it’s normal for a fish to get away, and explain that it’s common to not catch a lot of fish during a trip.
After the trip is over, make sure you loudly brag about what a great job your child did on his or her first fishing trip; this will help complete the experience.
A child’s first fishing trip can be a make-or-break experience. If done successfully, you’ll have a fishing partner for life.
~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2010