Tips for introducing kids to fishing

12:05 pm May 6th, 2014

For kids with short attention spans, fishing from a dock helps keep them from getting bored in boats if the fish aren't biting.

For kids with short attention spans, fishing from a dock helps keep them from getting bored in boats if the fish aren’t biting.

By Bob Brown
For anyone contemplating introducing a youngster to fishing, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure the child’s first experience is enjoyable and worth repeating.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this undertaking, but it is recommended to keep the fishing adventure short and simple. The following tips are by no means a guarantee for a successful fishing trip, but it might provide some guidance especially for parents who are relatively inexperienced anglers. Children have limited attention spans, especially younger ones; therefore it is a good idea to keep the time fishing down to a couple of hours.
Where to go fishing can be a quandary, but fortunately we have a number of lakes and ponds in our area that are stocked with huge numbers of spiny ray fish. Perch, crappie, sunfish and catfish are not difficult to catch and once hooked can produce some exciting rod action. It doesn’t matter if those fish are small because caching is the key, not catching big fish. Also, remember it is important having the kid’s fish and not the adults. The chances are if a youngster catches a fish, they are more apt to get hooked on the sport
Instead of fishing from a boat, have first–timers fish from the shore of a pond or small lake. Fishing off resort docks are another option. This way if fish are not biting, the kids are not stuck in boats and can do other things like exploring or visiting with other youngsters.
Gear and baits should be simple. Going overboard purchasing gear is not necessary. An open-face spinning reel with a six pound test monofilament line; a dozen or so number 8 snelled hooks, an equal number of small snap swivels, some split shot sinkers and five or six small, round bobbers. Small, red and white round bobbers are important because they will let you know if the fish are biting. Avoid giving the child an adult-size rod because it could be difficult to use and may end up frustrating them and could sour them on fishing forever. A light, five or six foot spinning rod is recommended.
For bait you might want to add a jar of salmon eggs to the shopping list, but common garden worms are just as good. Once at the pond or lake look for a spot with room to cast. Allow the youngster to select his/hers’ own worm and assist them in baiting the hook. Place the bobber on the line roughly 18-24 inches above the hook, then help the child cast. Remember, long casts are not necessary. Once in the water, if the bobber doesn’t start dancing in 10 to 15 minutes, move to another spot. When fish are found and are attacking the bait, try to keep the youngster from setting the hook until the bobber is completely under the water.
Don’t forget safety. Be sure the youngsters are outfitted with a properly fitted life vest any time they are around water. Also take along a small lunch, plenty of water, band aids, sunscreen and insect repellant. This is also a perfect time to instruct youngsters on conservation such as how to catch-and-release, picking up litter and cleaning up after themselves. The rewards for taking a youngster fishing are many, especially seeing their faces when they land their first fish. Whether the outing was as successful as hoped, one thing is for sure. Neither you nor the youngster will ever forget your first fishing experience together.

Other fishing news

Joe Hymer of the WDFW reported Cowlitz River anglers have been catching a mix of spring chinook and winter steelhead mostly between the hatcheries. During April 14-20, Tacoma Power recovered 836 winter steelhead, 80 spring chinook, eight jacks and one cutthroat trout at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. Flows have been between 8- 9,000 feet per second with visibility about 10 feet. Also, to be noted the south side of the Cowlitz from Mill Creek to barrier dam will close to all fishing May 1 through June 15.
Earlier this month, six California sea lions known to frequent the Bonneville Dam area and observed feasting on spring chinook were trapped and euthanized. Five other California sea lions were also trapped, branded and released because they did not meet the criteria for lethal removal. They were branded so biologists could identify them and assess their behavior at the dam and elsewhere. There are now 54 California sea lions on the list of animals eligible for removal, but 20 have not bee seen for four or five years and may have died of natural causes. The average life of a male California sea lion is about 15 years. Wildlife managers have federal authorization to use lethal measures to remove problem sea lions, but the state’s first priority has been to relocate them to zoos and aquariums.

Bob Brown is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at

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