Take a kid fishing, and they’ll have fun for a day.
But teach a kid to fish, and they’ll make memories that last a lifetime.
I’ll never forget my first fish. My family was enjoying a summer weekend at Camp Dearborn in Michigan. I was using a blue-and-white Snoopy pole rigged with a worm and a bobber. My parents told me to keep an eye on that bobber, and I don’t think I blinked the entire time.
At long last, the bobber started moving. A tug and a few cranks later, I hoisted my first catch from the water. It was a yellow perch, maybe 4 inches long. That perch was easily released back into the lake.
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I, on the other hand, was hooked.
Fishing has always held a special magic for me. My younger brother — like most little kids — would get bored and start throwing rocks in the lake if the fish weren’t biting. But I was more than happy to stay out there all day, even if the fish weren’t cooperating.
I recognize that my willingness to fish all day isn’t the norm. And it was especially weird for a young kid.
So I wouldn’t expect to take little ones out and have them completely transfixed for hours on end. Shorter trips to spots with easy access and plentiful fish are the way to go. Here are some tips and tricks for helping your youngsters get hooked on fishing:
▪ Make it fun: Having fun the first time is the best way to keep kids coming back. Bring lots of snacks and make it a special occasion. Catching fish should be the icing on the cake — but the rest of the cake should taste good, too.
▪ Help them learn: It’s a fine line, but letting kids learn for themselves rather than doing everything for them is the best way to instill a sense of ownership. Show them the basics and let them have at it (just be ready to step in when they need help).
▪ Size doesn’t matter: For kids, catching any fish is a thrill. So taking young anglers to a pond where they are likely to catch 10 small bluegill is preferable to a lake where they might catch one nice bass.
▪ Species doesn’t matter: My first big fish was a carp. And I couldn’t have been happier about it. The excitement of successfully landing a big fish far outweighs the prestige of catching a “game fish.” So when your little angler reels in a big ole sucker, celebrate like crazy and get the camera out.
▪ Take my class: I’m teaching a fishing class for kids this summer through The College of Idaho’s Community Learning program. The class runs June 14-15 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. It will include an introduction to the basics, some time on the water and a fishing pole that each student gets to keep. Register at www.cofifun.com or call 208-459-5529 for more info.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.