Take a kid fishing! Just keep it simple

By: Mike Pehanich

Summertime… And the fishing is easy.

It can be, at least, especially if you are into just plain catching fish – and lots of them!

Kids‘ fishing events are popular this time of year. I myself will be involved in three of them over the next month. And as simple and basic and back-to-your-roots as taking a kid fishing may be, I take it seriously. I make it a point of conviction and honor to see that every kid under my watch – – especially if he or she is a total newbie to the game – – catches a fish and, ideally, a whole lot more than one.

Years ago, I refined my approach to this wonderful ritual, and I have simplified the message and tools even further over the years. 

First off, establish in your mind the simple fact that kids need action, the twitch of a bobber, a tug at the end of the line…They need to feel the throbbing energy of a fighting fish no matter how big or small. You can try to teach them a little bit along the way, but keep your message short and light. Don’t try to force discipline or sophisticated techniques upon them. Your only goal should be to set the stage to experience the fun of fishing.

Bob Long, head of a Chicago Park District summer fishing program that exposed thousands of city kids every year to fishing, operated under the principle that if you do not expose someone to the thrill of catching fish at a relatively early age, the chances of hooking them later into becoming an avid fisherman are slim. He kept his tackle and his targets simple, and  countless kids benefited.

Keep the session short
It is better to have the kids anxious to return to the water than to bore them to death on a tough day. Most of our derbies are two hours long, And that seems to work out extremely well. But with some kids, 45 minutes may be about all they can handle. Keep in mind the age and temperament of the individual kid.

Set them up for success
Plan the outing on a body of water that has an abundance of fish. You may not personally fish that community lake with a huge population of stunted sunfish on your day off, but it may be an ideal location for this introductory outing. If you have the luxury of picking your day, let weather guide your scheduling. No, don’t pick that comfortable bluebird day after a cold front has wiped out the haze and humidity. Those are usually the worst days for action. Stable conditions with cloud-filtered sunlight are better. And don’t be deterred by overcast days either unless a storm is in the making.

A light and simple rig
Keep your gear simple. If you are starting out with rod and reel, stick with spincast or spinning tackle. But it might not be a bad idea to have a cane pole at hand. You will deal with fewer problems.

As for your terminal tackle, keep it small and light. Leave those giant Beachball bobbers at home. Go with small tapered floats balanced to your hooks and bait if you can. Small round bobbers work fine as well. Light line of 4 to 8 pound test is usually all you need. Keep the hooks and bait small,  too. Wax worms and red worms will catch more fish than big nightcrawlers and nightcrawler chunks. Size 8, 10, and 12 hooks are perfect for these small baits, and sometimes tiny ice fishing jigs are even better yet.

I always carry small artificial baits such as those jar baits in the Berkley Powerbait line. Honey Worms are a favorite. When small bluegill are biting, there is nothing better than a Honey Worm on a horizontal ice jig. Often I will cut off a few segments of the worm for a more compact presentation and greater hook up ratio.

Keep it balanced
You can size up your bait and tackle if bigger fish are in the area. But keep the tackle balanced. With a perfectly balanced tapered float (bobber) rig, you can detect bites when fish come up with the bait as well as when they pull it down. The float will fall on its side with the uptake.

There are a lot of other tips to share about taking a kid fishing, but it is probably best to keep with the theme here and leave the lesson simple. Just focus on the kids and stack the deck for Action You may find you are having more fun on the water than you’ve had in years!

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