How to make a youngster’s first fishing trip a success
Fishing is one of the best ways to get a kid excited about the outdoors. With a little planning and some basic knowledge, you can help any kid learn how to catch fish—and have fun doing it. Here are ten tips for making that first trip to the lake a memorable one.
- Go where the fish are. Make sure you’re fishing where the fish are! Nothing sours a kid’s first fishing experience more than not catching any fish. Be sure to pick a fishing spot where you’ve caught fish in the past. There’s nothing that’ll make a kid want to go back to their video games faster than a fishless day on the water.
- Go for variety. Fish in places where there’s a variety of fish species. Bluegill are certainly the most abundant and easiest to catch of all Wisconsin fish. Yellow perch and crappie are eager biters too. Throw in a few bass, a couple catfish and some pike and you have an exciting array of fish for the new angler to identify.
- Nightcrawlers rule. There’s no single bait more versatile than a nightcrawler. Many anglers make the mistake of being stingy with the worm, using only a small piece or hooking the worm in such a way that no fish could take it off the hook. The key is to use smaller sized worms and hook them once or twice in the midsection so that they can squirm in a way that fish can’t resist.
- Cane poles are cool. Sometimes even simple spincast reels can be hard for some kids to operate on their first outing. Consider saving everyone some frustration and just use good old fashioned cane poles. Cane poles are not only excellent for catching panfish—they’re inexpensive and virtually unbreakable.
- The bobber is your friend. Nothing is more exciting than watching a bobber get pulled to the right, then the left, then straight down under the waves. When the bobber disappears, you set the hook—it’s as simple as that.
- Consider staying on shore. Boats are nice, but they can add too many challenges for a youngster’s first time fishing. A proven shorefishing spot or pier is ideal for teaching kids the basics of fishing.
- Take a break. The biggest mistake we can make is turning fishing into work. Kids get bored more easily than the average adult. Be sure to take some time to eat lunch, catch frogs or tell a few fish tales.
- Be prepared. Bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, a dry set of clothes, extra nightcrawlers, extra fishing rods, snacks, water and whatever else you think would make everyone’s fishing outing more comfortable.
- Know how to unhook a fish. Every grown-up knows how to unhook a fish, right? Actually, no. So, before you take a kid out fishing, be sure you know how grab hold of a fish, remove the hook and safely return it to the lake, all without hurting yourself or the fish. If you’re not sure about your fish unhooking skills, bring another more experienced angler along (it shouldn’t be hard to find someone—most anglers love sharing their knowledge and teaching others basic fishing skills).
- Bring a camera. This might be the most important item of all. You will regret it if you don’t take a picture of your youngster with their first fish. Everyone remembers their first day fishing and the grown-up who cared enough to take them. So, why not have a photograph?