Taking kids fishing
  |  First Published: December 2014

It was Saturday the 1 November 2014, 9am, only 3 hours before the east coast barramundi fishing closure, so I thought it would be a last chance shot at a barra. Two hours earlier, my 12 year old son was still in bed and I was having trouble getting him up to go fishing, now he’s glad he did!

Due to the terrible northerly wind forecast, I decided to fish the Mary River for barra and threadfin, not the most exciting thing for a child as due to their short attention span, hours between fish drives them crazy and can quickly put them off, but it was my best plan B I could think of.

The day started with a 115cm thready on the first run, this got his attention going, the next 50 minutes was another 2 threadies, 74 and 104cm as well as dropping 3 more, great! The day was already a success, we were both happy, keeping the smaller one for a meal and releasing the other two larger fish.

Another two trolls were uneventful and on the third I was thinking of heading for home when Jacko yelled “I got one”. I dropped into neutral and cranked my lure in, meanwhile his fish pulled off some serious line and then arced back up current, I knew this was a good one!

A solid 20 minutes later I was thinking this thing must be foul hooked as it kept powering on, but slowly Jackson worked it to the top, me still thinking it was a foul hooked thready. I saw a bit of colour but still not enough to identify it, then it jumped clear of the water, big barra!

Finally we landed the brute and it measured 132cm, not bad for a 12 year olds first barra. This was a wild salty and not a stocked fish and on 20lbline too! After we released it (Jacko swam it) he said his legs were like jelly. Best feeling in the world for a dad, I can tell you.

Taking kids fishing can be one of the most rewarding things a parent can do with children, the fish don’t have to be big, kids just want action, especially the younger kids. When I was operating a guiding business here in Hervey Bay for 9 years, on days off I just didn’t want to be out on the water so naturally my kids didn’t get to fish much, when we did I was pretty focused on fish, this is the last thing you need to do when fishing with kids. Be warned, you can quickly turn kids away from the sport by pushing them too hard.

Time should be fun for the kids, small fish and lots of them, winter whiting, small bream even toad fish to keep them going and when things get slow or attention starts to decline take them into the bank for a walk, look for hermit crabs, flathead lies… anything that keeps interest and not just sitting in the sun waiting.

One good trick I have found is to take plenty of food and drink, it’s a good idea to have a tasty snack to surprise them, my kids like chocolate (like me) and a mars bar or something similar is a great way to have a break while fishing.

Remember, kids like variety. I remember taking my children crabbing, getting them to pull pots and hearing there screams when a big buck came up in a pot. Squidding and cast netting prawns is another good trick, all sorts of goodies come over the side and it’s a good starter to teach them the ethics of catch and release. Jacko is really keen to release his fish and although I like the occasional fresh fish, it doesn’t bother me at all to release everything.

Quality tackle is a must, the last thing a child needs is for tackle failure to ruin a day, and it just frustrates them and can turn them away. I don’t mean $500 Certates or the like, just good mid-range reels on suitable rods, most manufacturers make good stuff for $150-$200, kids can be rough dropping gear so that’s another good reason to have moderately priced gear.

Don’t over gun them either, 2500 sized reels are a perfect starter, Jacko is now 12 and can use a 4500 with 30lb braid while 2 years before it was just too hard. Remember, it’s always a good plan to have some calm water spots or land-based areas up your sleeve for those windy days. While some kids love a bumpy boat ride, some just don’t and can be frightened and never want to go boating again, it can take a long time to regain their confidence.

Always give them plenty of praise whatever happens, my kids have had a few good fish lost boat side due to angler error but I have never scalded them for it, just reassure them and say it happens and we will go get another, yelling doesn’t help. Remember the day is all about the kids, don’t brush them aside to get to a fish first, make it enjoyable and they will be hooked for life and as the first few paragraphs read in this article, that one good fish will sow the seeds for their future.

The one thing I really look forward to in the next 5-10 years is spending some time on the water with my 2 kids fishing, telling tales and camping out. My little girl is a horse nut, we live on acreage with a couple of ponies, but she will jump into the boat if I tell her we are going onto the flats to look at turtles and dugongs and when she’s out there she grabs a rod and has a cast, loving every minute of it.

A good trick is to keep trips short, with younger kids up to 8-10 a few hours is ample; I purposely purchased a 3.7m Sea Jay nomad with a 15hp just to throw into the river with the kids. This is easy to do with a little boat and the few thousand dollars it cost has paid dividends already just in those short 2-3 hour trips early before it gets too hot. I also let the kids drive (while supervised) at low speeds, they love it and it gives them a little bit of confidence and responsibility.

I show them fish on the depth sounder, teach them how to pump yabbies, throw a cast net and tie on a hook, make it fun and they will always come back for more. Even when you get home after a trip, assign them duties, however small like washing rods, tackle or even hosing the boat (they will miss most of it but it gets them started).

Most importantly, take plenty of pictures! I have an couple of SD cards full of the kids fishing pics, like their first fish, Georgie’s was a dart and I think Jackson’s was a whiting. Now 8 years on they’re catching fish that any adult would die for like a 52cm jack, 110cm queenfish, snapper to 7kg, longtail tuna, marlin and the fish that started this article, 132cm of salty barra. These are all memories that last a lifetime.

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