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Fishing with your Children

Get the kids a small tackle box with a few of the sinkers and swivels they will need and take the hooks and crush or grind the barbs flat. Why? so if they happen to stick one in themselves they can be easily removed without a trip to a surgeon.

Think of a fishing area where bites and hookups are very likely, they don't have to be big fish but they should be in such numbers that there will be a more than even chance of them hooking something to keep their interest up. Fish like whiting and herring or any other species that is happy to take a bait and has very few spines or teeth are great targets.

Consider additional activities that will be available. On a beach catching worms, crabs, digging pippis, pumping yabbies or other bait can be fun, while a jetty or shore might include looking under rocks, skipping stones or just watching different boats going past. In boats in particular some proven toys or games might be the way to go, or sitting at the wheel "driving the boat" with the motor off can also amuse the young mind. Simply consider things that will keep them from getting bored.

Take a change of cloths for them, they are going near water so they are almost certainly going to find a way to get wet and with luck might even get some slimey smelly stuff on them from either a caught fish or at least some bait. Bring plenty of water, hats, sunscreen and anything else to avoid sunburn or dehydration in the sun and maybe a few snacks or treats because we are making certain this is going to be a good day.

Ok we have arrived at our fishing spot, one last run through with the little ones on what to do. Iflook dad I caught a fish they can do something themselves let them, if they can't let them try at least once, then do it if they can't. Talk them through everything, why something is done that way, how it is done, what they can expect, then start on the guessing games, do you think a big one will take your line? have you had a bite? stay ready these fish are tricky and will sneak up on you, wow look how much this one is pulling your line, all delivered in an excited voice as it is infectious and your enthusiasm will transfer to them. If something doesn't go right use an "ah well doesn't matter" type tone and just correct the problem.

If casting isn't going so well offer to cast for them and practice a few more times at home before you have your next trip. Just remember if you are fishing off a jetty the fish often the fish are sitting in close to the piles so distance casting isn't always necessary. You may however need to replace a lot more hooks if fishing close to the structure.

Don't expect to hold their attention for much more than 10 to 20 minutes at a time, this is why we have other options to go to. At the first hint of them losing interest and drifting away change to a new activity, then when that gets old say "hey do you think the fish might be biting now, lets try fishing again" in a positive excited voice, they should follow.

If all goes well a small whiting or bream should find juniors hooks and after a *huge* struggle be landed, with a huge fuss being made of the capture "Woooohoooo your first fish, how cool is that, I thought it was going to pull you in". A quick check to make sure the fish is safe for them to handle, if not remove it for them, and get out the measuring stick / tape measure. Regardless of whether it is obviously over or under the legal size limit for the species we are going to measure this fish for a lot of good reasons. One, this is their first ever fish so it is good to have all the stats for them. Second, it's something that expands on the experience and a new activity. Third, it is good practice to get them into being aware there is a size limit on different species and that keeping undersize fish is against the law. This final one also helps to explain why if the fish is too small we have to let it go.

Before we go any further I strongly recommend NOT allowing your kids to kiss a fish before releasing it. It may make good television for personalities developing their brands but it is a very dangerous practice for children. Fish are slippery suckers and children most times will have a very light grasp of them. Allowing biting teeth and sharp fins to get anywhere near to a childs face is in my opinion a stupid thing to do, and just asking for trouble. A scarred lip from a bite or an eye blinded by a fin spike is not my idea of a fun day out. Saying "bye bye fishy" "come back when you are bigger" or "see you next year" and giving him a wave as he slips back into the water and shoots back to the bottom is enough.

In summary,

  • try and remove problems before they become a problem
  • practice the basics at home
  • continually talk excitedly about even the smallest things
  • plan and have alternate activities and change them before they become boring
  • have trips by yourself for serious fishing, so YOU don't become bored and frustrated
  • have fun and don't expect too much too quickly

Maybe I am biased but I think kids that fish are calmer, better behaved and a lot more grounded. As they get older they seem to exhibit patience beyond their years and their powers of observation are usually far better than other children their age. The added bonus is in the future they might take YOU fishing one day and give you a few lessons on the latest greatest methods available. I hope your days fishing with your children can be even half as good as those I have spent with mine.


Teaching kids how to fish

Taking your children fishing