More Than a Tacklebox: Tools of the Trade to Accomodate Young Anglers
By Jason Durham
Ask a six-year-old what they want to do when they grow up and the response you receive may be baseball player or even a ballerina. These are obviously highly esteemed activities, and deserve adult encouragement, but in reality very few people will experience these activities throughout their adult lives.
Fishing, on the other hand, is an activity that lasts a lifetime. There is no criterion for age, race, or gender, only attitude. These attitudes need to be cultivated over time, although it doesn’t take long for kids to become passionate about angling, yearning for additional time at the lake.
Taking a child of any age on the water can be one of the most rewarding experiences you, and they, will ever experience. But keep in mind that preparation is the key. Before leaving the dock, discuss your expectations. Not all kids have had the same experiences in a watercraft, so lay out the ground rules to avoid unnecessary negotiations that can take away from fishing time. If your young partner is adamant about leaving the lifejacket in storage, be firm and don’t depart from the dock until they put it on. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for their safety.
Then, approach the trip as an outdoors adventure, not simply a fishing trip. Catching fish is the icing on the cake. Everything in between is the cake.
Some kids are diehard, embracing the expectation to catch fish on every trip, which seasoned veterans realize is essentially impossible. These are the toughest critics. Keep them interested by showing them a variety of techniques and allow them to try numerous baits. One of their greatest interests will be rummaging through your tackle-box to discover the plethora of baits you have stockpiled over the years. Don’t forget to add the stories that accompany each weathered lure.
Other children lose interest in fishing within a few casts from beginning. That’s why you need a back-up plan, a bag of tricks if you will, to combat the three factors contributing to a child’s loss of enthusiasm for angling; Temperature, hunger, & boredom. When it’s chilly always have the child dress warmer than usual for the time of year. Bring an extra jacket, and keep an extra pair of child size mittens and a stocking cap in dry storage, especially throughout the spring and fall. When it’s hot, take a 20-minute break from fishing to swim, or stop by the marina for some cold sodas.
Always stock a small cooler full of kid-friendly snacks, keeping in mind that a youngster’s tastes and preferences may differ from your own. Kipper snacks in mustard sauce probably aren’t your best bet, so lean towards favorites like juice boxes, crackers, and cookies. To ensure your young guest’s perception of success remains untainted, fulfill your duties as entertainment director of the ship. I always have the Aqua-Vu on board when kids are along, attaching a 5-inch portable t.v. and placing it under the console of my Crestliner to act as a sun-shield. This allows more than one person to see what’s happening underwater, eliminating arguments, and giving the kids educational insight into a fish’s underwater world. Another great activity for those whose enthusiasm quickly wanes is Lego’s. Even though they won’t catch a fish while constructing vehicles and spaceshuttles, it’ll give them an outlet, a temporary divergence until they’re ready to pick up a rod again.
Finally, keep in mind that you are an adult and role model to the aspiring angler on board. Your attitude affects their attitude, positive or negatively. Turn misfortune, a broken rod, a flat tire, into a positive learning experience, making it a memory that you both can reflect upon years later and laugh.
Editors Note: Jason Durham is a professional fisherman from Park Rapids, Minnesota. He owns and operates Go Fish! Guide Service