Growing up in Missouri I loved to fish. My dad introduced me to fishing at a young age. It was one of the things I loved to do with my dad. Just my dad and I and some fishing poles. It seemed like we always caught fish. But even if we didn’t, we had a good time. I have four older brothers so when dad would go fishing with just me it made me feel like I was getting a special treat. As you can imagine with five boys in the house getting one on one time is hard to come by.
When my boys were old enough, I would follow in that family tradition and introduce them to fishing. At a young age my older two boys loved it. But as they grew older their love for fishing wore off. Probably because my two older boys were just not the outdoors type in their teen years. My youngest however he was born to live outside. If I would let him, he would camp outside every night and live off the land. He wouldn’t make it long without modern comforts, but he likes to think he could survive for days in the outdoors.
Even with my older boys they do like to fish. If the conditions are right, they would go fishing if I asked them to. Typically, every year we take a trip to Arkansas to do some trout fishing. Everyone in the family from my brothers and their kids and my kids get up at the break of dawn and head out to do some fishing. And my boys usually want to be there and fish. Usually the weather is cooler at that time in the morning and the fishing is good as we try to fish at a stocked lake. So those factors help in their decision to go.
My youngest son is a different story. I would be very surprised if he out grows fishing. It seems like every day he asks me when is the next time we can go fishing. In the summer when he is out of school and the days are longer, he wants to go every night after I get home from work. And if we are not busy on the weekends, he always asks me every Saturday and Sunday. “Dad can we go fishing today?”. Most of the time it’s a yes from me.
Why take them fishing?
When you take a kid fishing it gets them outdoors and away from electronics. One of the toughest things to do is prying my kids from their screens. Be it video games, online videos, or just regular TV, they are always trying to sit in front of a screen. As parents sometimes we use that screen as a baby sitter when they are younger to keep them entertained. But that habit continues and amplifies as they get older and their minds crave that addiction. It is a hard habit to break even for adults. There are also a large list of health benefits of being outside and getting exposed to the outdoors.
Fishing with your kids also provides a unique bond. This bond happens any time you spend one on one time with your kids where they get all of your attention. All of those times I fished with my dad made a precious long-term memory of good times. I will never forget those times he took me fishing. And if you keep it fun and encourage them, they will never forget the time you spend with them.
Fishing also teaches your kids patience. In a day and age where everything has to be instant, patience is a hard skill to work on. In 1995, we had the internet. But we also had dial up internet. I imagine people today would go nuts if they had to use the internet on a dial up connection. That is because most of us have lost the skill of patience.
Where to take them fishing?
Depending on your kids age there are quite a few options here. If you are starting out and you yourself have never fished, I recommend a stocked pond or lake. You can ask around with friends or family and if you live in a rural area most likely they will know someone that has a stocked pond on their property. A privately-owned property is good to start since you won’t need a fishing license for yourself if you want to fish. In most states kids under 16 can fish anywhere. Anyone older than that typically has to have a state fishing license. If you can’t find a family or friend with a stocked pond another option is a pay to fish lake. These are privately owned ponds where they charge you by the fish or pound of fish you caught. This can get pretty expensive but it usually guarantees that you will catch a fish. You can also check local parks. In my area there are parks designated by the state as Fishing in the Neighborhood (FINS) parks. The state stocks these with different fish depending on the season. They even post the type of fish stocked and the months they are stocked. This helps when determining the best time to go to catch that particular type of fish.
If you are an experienced fisherman then take them somewhere you know. I typically started my kids at a small lake or pond where the bank is well maintained and it was easily accessible to fish. I also try to make sure there wasn’t a lot of trees around. There is nothing more frustrating than losing hooks and line to tree branches. If the location has a dock to get further away from shore and trees that is a good place for a starting angler, just make sure they have a life jacket if they don’t know how to swim. Small creeks are always a good choice for beginners when they are younger. If they get bored easily with fishing then let them wear swimming trunks and after they get done fishing you can let them play and splash around in the water.
What are you waiting for?
Fishing with your kids is an amazing experience. One that can build bonds that will last a lifetime. You can go to TakeMeFishing.org to find out more information about your local state’s guidelines. Or you can research more on your state’s wildlife/fish conservation website (their names vary state to state). Always remember to read up on the fishing rules and regulation before heading out for your state but always remember to have fun first. Because if you are not having fun then you’re not fishing.