by: Tony Peterson
In addition to my own 6-year-olds, I take a lot of kids fishing. A few patterns emerge with them that can lead to less-than-enjoyable fishing.
The first, and most noticeable, is that many of us aren’t giving our kids much of a chance when it comes to gear. Or more importantly, rods and reels. We hand kids way-too-short rods emblazoned with Disney logos and, more often than not, spin-casting reels. These are harder to use than we realize. If you want to give your kids a chance to successfully cast, set the hook, and actually fight a fish, provide something decent. Even small kids can handle fishing rods longer than we’d usually consider, and that makes casting much easier. It also helps when fighting fish.
As for reels, forget the spin-casting models unless you’re dealing with 2-year-olds. Actual spinning reels properly sized for small hands are much better for casting and retrieving.
If you’ve got the rod-and-reel situation squared away, consider a few other must-haves. A net, for one, is a great idea. Not only will they lose fewer fish beside the boat, but I’ve never met a youngster who didn’t want to run the net. They just do, and it’s just fun.
Once a fish is in the boat, handling them can be a dicey. Some kids are terrified of teeth and fins, or the general sliminess of fish. If you’ve got a cagey youngster in your boat, consider buying a pair of fish-handling gloves. One of my daughters got spined by a crappie and decided she would never hold another fish. I bought some women’s fish-handling gloves hoping that she would change her mind, and they are like magic. Now she holds everything we catch.
There are, of course, other things you can do to make it more enjoyable for kids. Snacks are a must, as is a properly fitting life-jacket.
On our end, as adults who will untangle more than a few monofilament messes, patience is the best thing we can bring into the boat. Lots and lots (and lots) of patience.