Fishing with Kids – PART 1
  |  First Published: December 2009

Fishing is one of the most enjoyable and time enduring outdoor activities that young people can get involved in and it is relatively inexpensive. For youngsters an hour or two of fishing provides a great thrill.

The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to teach a child to fish. In this series we will cover simple methods and exercises to help you start kids off on the right track and give you the best possible chance for them to succeed.

Firstly, the most important message for you to remember is to be patient.

Fishing is a simple sport where, like other sports, experience and knowledge can make you a better participant. But all of the knowledge you may hold on fishing will not be absorbed by a child in one session, so break it down and make it fun.

Planning the trip

Children love adventure and love to be a part of the planning process of any outing so they can own the event. While an impulse decision to take your child fishing is a good thing, you are also missing out on planning the trip with your child a few days prior to the event, which is a great experience for both parties.

Firstly your plan should focus on where you want to target the fish. Once the day is set, think about the type of fish you could catch at this particular spot and have some pictures of the fish to show the children.

It’s also a good idea to teach them there and then about size and bag limits for fish and how these rules help to protect future stocks. They can then learn the size of flathead, whiting and bream or whatever is the most prominent fish in your area.

Learning the tools

The next step is to teach the child to use the equipment that is needed to fish successfully, and it’s one of the most enjoyable events outside of actually catching a fish.

Discuss the workings of the rod, reel and line and show the kids how to set up the equipment. Once you explain, then demonstrate how it is done and ask if they have any questions. Don’t fall into the trap of talking while you demonstrate because then your child has two things to concentrate on.

Of course kids usually want to knock things over straight away so give them the reigns and let them loose, correcting them when things go a little wrong. Put the reel on the rod, tightening it up and then thread the line through the runners ready to attach the hook and sinker.

You may be teaching them to use a hand line here. At this point it is worth remembering that hooks can really hurt so let’s start this by reminding you to put safety first from this point on. If you think that your child is a little young then you do not have to teach them to tie a knot but give them the choice, as it is a skill that they will always remember and a time they will never forget.

Use an easy knot like a half blood or clinch knot. To tie the knot, go around once and round again, then back through the hole and pull. Most importantly keep it simple!

The Internet has many instructional videos available on how to tie knots so make use of them. Remember, kids have a low attention span and really need to succeed at the task reasonably quickly to get any benefit out of it. Use thicker rope with an oversize hook (with a blunt point) or a piece of wire to teach them so it remains easy to see and do.

Again it is simply a matter of explaining how to do it, then demonstrating, asking for questions and letting them loose. Once this has been achieved put on your sinker and tie on a hook. A good safety thing to do is put a little piece of foam over the point of the hook to avoid accidents.

Learning to Cast

The next day it is practice time with casting. Keeping it simple here is very important and remember the number one rule: be patient.

There are four simple steps to casting a spin outfit! Using a spin outfit is the easiest equipment for a child to learn on but if that is not practical then adjust the following steps as you need too.

1. Hold the line.

2. Fold over the bail arm.

3. Swing the rod to your front and release the line.

4. Place the bail arm back.

The worst case scenario here is that you can be knocked out or a window will smash next door so move out to a park or larger area to begin with. I had my boys cast over the fence into the park and practiced catching big fish when the lure snagged in a tree or something. It was fantastic fun, which is what it is all about building up to the big event.

I used old metal lures and removed the hooks to practice. Lead weights have a habit of screaming back at you like a bullet. Target practice is something that can come into this part of the journey at a later stage.

Final preperations

Now that we have prepared I just want to add one other thing that can enhance any trip or be used as another way to introduce fishing to the family: bait collection. Taking the kids down to the beach and trying to get a few worms or shuffle for pipis is another outing and experience they can enjoy. This can include jigging a bait rig from a jetty or pumping for yabbies and collecting them, you decide.

So by this stage you have already covered the following points with your kids.

1. Where are we going to fish?

2. What fish are we likely to catch?

3. Learning to rig the equipment.

4. Lerning to tie a knot (depending on age).

5. Get your equipment ready.

6. And lots of practice, practice, practice.

One good point to remember is mum, grandma and other members of the family need to see how well the kids have learnt something. So don’t be scared to share their results using heaps of praise.

At this stage you have already spent some quality moments with your child and started them on the path to enjoying one of the greatest sports around. All this and we have not even put a line in the water.

In the next article we prepare you to set the rules and head out to hopefully watch and record the very first fish that your child catches. This will be a day to remember forever, so we need to ensure that every possible step has been taken to give you the best chance of catching a fish. Have Fun!

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