Take a Kid Fishing!
  |  First Published: August 2015

Starlo espouses the benefits and identifies a few of the pitfalls involved in taking kids fishing, and offers some tips that can make the entire experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.

As keen anglers, most of us love the idea of getting our kids or someone else’s “hooked” on the sport of recreational fishing, and sharing the great outdoors with youngsters as we pursue this wonderful pastime together. But the fact is, with all the competition from other sources these days for the attentions and passions of our younger generation, we need to be rather clever about how we package the fishing experience if we’re going to truly sell the concept to kids.

There are many motivations for taking kids fishing, ranging from the altruistic and generous desire to share our passion, right through to a rather more selfish desire to get out fishing more often ourselves by dragging the rug rats along. Whatever the precise reason, we need to accept that adult-style fishing experiences can be daunting and unappealing for kids.

Standing for hours on a windswept beach in the dead of night waiting for a run from that elusive jewfish, or braving the ice cold chill of an alpine lake in mid-winter to chase a few trout might not be the best choices for that all-important first outing with the kids. The fact is, after such a start, you may find it very difficult to get them to go with you next time you suggest a family fishing holiday!

Personally, I reckon most adults need to totally re-think their take on selling fishing to youngsters. To begin with, we must always remember that kids generally have shorter attention spans than adults, and a greater need for immediate gratification. That definitely doesn’t mean seven or eight hours sitting under the hot sun grasping a trolling rod, or shivering on a river bank waiting for a big bite that may never come!

In my experience, kids need to be doing fun stuff and catching something — anything — right from the word go. It doesn’t matter if the fish they catch are tiddlers, or even unwanted nuisance species by our lofty adult standards, so long as the kids are actually catching fish on a regular basis. When they’re not catching, get them involved in berleying, bait collecting or some other hands-on activity, rather than simply sitting and waiting for a strike that might never come.

This was the greatest single lesson I learnt when my own kids were growing up and discovering fishing. For them, pumping yabbies or nippers for bait (complete with yabby pump fights that often saw them squirting each other with mud and water!) were far more fun than actually fishing with those baits, especially in the early days. Let them do the stuff they enjoy! Don’t project your standards and expectations onto them.

When the actual fishing process starts, deliberately aim low (again, by your standards) to ensure immediate action. Use little hooks and small baits, and consider the bread-berley-and-float approach. It almost always results in the kids catching fish, even if they’re all tiddlers and throwbacks.

Keep those impression-building first few fishing outings with the kids fairly short, avoid extreme weather conditions, and consider incorporating a treat like an ice cream or their favourite take-away meal on the way home. Be sure to take a camera (or phone), too, and record the event so they can share it with their friends. Do everything you can to create happy, positive memories.

Follow my five basic rules below, and I can practically guarantee you’ll have the ankle-biters queuing up for another shot at fishing next weekend! How good would that be?

1. Remember: kids have shorter attention spans than adults. Generally, the younger they are, the shorter that attention span will be. Keep it interesting and fun for them!

2. Get the kids involved in every stage of the fishing process, including gear preparation, bait gathering, mixing and distributing berley, fish cleaning and tackle maintenance.

3. Don’t project your hopes, dreams and expectations onto kids. Fishing achievements that seem significant to you might mean very little to them, and vice versa.

4. Keep those first outings reasonably short and avoid extreme weather conditions. Slip, slop, slap, take plenty of drinking water and fruit juice and pack some favourite snacks.

5. Consider rewarding the kids with a trip to the movies, playground, amusement park or favourite eatery on your way home from a successful fishing outing, or later that evening.

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