ore than 48 million Americans enjoy fishing
on a regular basis, accounting for a billion-plus outings. About one-fourth of all self-described fishers are under the age of 18,
and when it comes to kids in the 6- to
12-year-old age group, almost 80 percent say
fishing is fun. But fishing is more than mere amusement; it also
promotes good health (nearly 30 percent of those kids say they
enjoy fishing for the exercise), encourages environmental stewardship, and teaches the value of patience. Sometimes, we even get
a fresh-fish dinner out of the deal. So, what’s stopping you from
taking your children or grandchildren fishing? Nothing, we hope.
But it can be a bit challenging if you’re not an experienced angler
who’s accustomed to honing the experience for youthful boaters.
Don’t worry — follow these simple guidelines, and you and your
kids are bound to get some action on your fishing lines.
Taking kids out for a day of fishing is quite different than
taking adults. First and foremost, that means dropping the “must
catch fish” attitude that many anglers have. Put the kids first,
not the activity. Owners of fishing boats such as center consoles,
which may give up creature comforts for optimal fishability, may
need to do some retrofitting before they take Junior angling.
Fishing leads to long stretches of time sitting still in open
water, so sun protection is a must. Especially on small, open
boats, you’ll need some form of shade either from a portable
top such as a Taylor Made Anchorshade or a Pro-Techt Mantis®
shade, or from a more permanent Bimini top such as Taylor Made
Boa Tops™. On open boats, excessive heat can also be combated
with a misting system, and cabin boaters who don’t have air conditioning already will find that the kids are a lot happier if they
add a portable unit. You’ll also want to make sure you have head
facilities available, regardless of what type of boat you’re on, or
the fishing day is bound to be cut short. Finally, consider your
rod holder situation. Kids tend to pick up and put down their
fishing rods constantly, and they’ll need a secure spot to do so.
If you don’t already have a good selection of rod holders on your
boat, consider adding them; rail mounts (several varieties are
available from Smith, Scotty, and West Marine) can be installed
in a matter of minutes and get the job done well.
KISS The Fish
No, not on the lips — we’re talking about the “K.I.S.S.”
method of fishing (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Simplicity is incredibly important because kids get frustrated easily, and if you try
to introduce them to complex gear and tactics early in the game,
they’re likely to become overwhelmed. Kids need fast action to
hold their attention, so forms of fishing that target lower numbers
of larger-sized fish, such as trolling, can be boring. So, it’s usually
best to start off kids by bottom fishing for panfish.
No matter where you boat and fish, there are sure to be panfish in the area, usually in large numbers. Better yet, they’re also
usually willing to bite and, unlike some larger gamefish, panfish
aren’t too finicky and will usually take a wide range of baits.
In freshwater lakes or rivers, suspend your bait two or three
feet below a bobber to catch sunfish, trout, crappie, and bass.
Eliminate the float and let your offering sit on bottom, and in
most areas catfish can be added to the menu. Worms, minnow,
and crayfish are the most common freshwater baits, and with
56 Boat U.S. Magazine OCT/NOV 2010
Boredom between bites is the biggest problem you’re likely
to face when you take kids fishing. But there are a couple of
ways you can keep young anglers entertained even when the
fishing is slow. If you have a live well on your boat, fill it with
minnow or any small fish you may have caught earlier in the
day. Secure the top open, and kids will have a great time playing in the “hands-on” aquarium you’ve just created. There’s no
live well on Mom’s Mink Get a portable model or simply bring
along a five-gallon bucket and a battery-operated aerator (see
the May issue for details).
Another great form of entertainment for fishing kids is your
boat’s fishfinder. When the bite is slow, park Junior in front of
your fishfinder and ask him to give a shout whenever fish swim
below the boat. There aren’t any fish on-screen at the moment?
Turn the sensitivity setting to manual, and raise it until you see
a few false echoes.
Finally, you can come prepared to combat boredom by
buying a few bags of different-colored soft-plastic lures (without
hooks, of course) and mixing them together. Dump them out
onto the deck, hand your kid several different plastic baggies,
and ask him or her to help you sort them out. Offer up a plastic
squid or crab as a reward for their help, and they should have
plenty of motivation.
FYFI (For Your Fishing Info)
Check out www.takemefishing.org. This website, operated by the not-for-profit Recreational Boating & Fishing
Foundation, has information on opportunities for anglers of all
ages. In it, you can find guides to different species of fish and
when and where to catch them; links to government websites
where you can buy state fishing licenses; basic knot-tying and
gear guides; even selections of interactive fishing games and
links to websites that are designed for kids who enjoy fishing