Get your child hooked on fishing

Published 11:43 am Thursday, July 5, 2012

Take a child fishing and introduce them to the sport. Photo provided by Bob Riege

Bob and Ginny Riege

Herald columnist

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

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—Lao Tzu Chinese proverb

If you had a chance this past weekend to attend the Kids Fishing Contest as part of Freedom Fest at East Side Lake, you probably witnessed this.

One of the best ways to get your child hooked on fishing is to make it fun and easy to catch fish. Outfitting your child with inexpensive fishing tackle is easy to do, but knowing where to find plentiful fish is sometimes the greatest challenge.

To put your child onto some great fishing action, look no further than your local lake or reservoir.

Docks and boat hoists provide protection and cover for a variety of bait fish which attract panfish, bass, catfish and carp. The result is a bounty of fishing opportunities for young anglers.

Since most docks are private property, you must always ask permission to fish from a dock. If you’re courteous and respectful of boats and other equipment, you’ll be surprised how many people will gladly let your youngster wet a line.

To find fish, start by casting under and around dock pilings. For even greater success, here are some tips for catching panfish from the dock experts at Midwest Industries:

Use light tackle, a jig with Berkley Gulp. Closed-face spinning rod/reel combos with 6- to 8-pound Berkley Trilene line are inexpensive and easy for youngsters to master. Don’t forget other essentials including a stringer, sunscreen, pocket first-aid kit, personal flotation device, nail clippers for cutting line and a small plastic tackle box in which to carry it all.

Use size 10 or 12 hooks. Long-shank hooks are easier to remove from large-mouthed species such as bullheads and catfish. Snelled hooks, those with a short length of leader and a loop already attached, will make life a lot easier for a beginner until he masters more complicated knots.

1⁄2”- to 1”-diameter bobbers fit the bill. Rig the bobber about 18” above the hook, adjusting the depth of the bait until you find fish. Experiment to find what works and stick with it.

For bait, try nightcrawlers or minnows. They’re easy to find at any bait shop and they work well for most freshwater fish.

For sunfish, perch or crappie, use pieces of worm; not the whole worm. Just thread the worm onto the hook so that the entire hook is covered. Place your offering about 1’ from the end of the dock. Keep moving from dock to dock until you find a school of fish.

Cast carefully and be quiet. Panfish might be plentiful and relatively easy to catch, but they can be wary.

With beginning anglers, the size of the quarry is secondary to numbers. Kids get bored easily unless they catch something, and there’s nothing better to shake off a case of restlessness than finding a school of bluegill, perch or crappie.

Set a good example. While out on the water wear a life jacket and stress the importance of wearing one at all times. See if you can get one that looks like theirs. Kids love to imitate their idols.

Kids love to eat. Keep them involved in all aspects. The planning, making the lunch and snacks. Take time out and enjoy the lunch together.

Fishing trips should take place when the weather is nice. Plan to spend about four hours on a trip rather than all day. If the kids get restless, allow them to play skipping rocks etc. This allows a break in day and change in concentration. If you keep it simple and emphasize fun, your child will reap great rewards from his or her fishing experiences. But don’t forget about another benefit of introducing your kids to fishing, the day will come a few years from now when they’ll take you fishing.

All of these got me hooked on fishing. To this day I don’t remember if my father and I caught fish or not. The memories we had together will always be there. The time my father spent with me fishing still pays dividends today.

“You get a line, I’ll get a pole. We’ll go fishing in the crawfish hole.”