As a father of young children it is sometimes difficult to go fishing. And even when I do, there is sometimes the guilt factor that I'm out enjoying myself and leaving the family at home.
Thankfully my daughters are still young enough to want to hang out with dad and they seem to like adventure, so when possible and appropriate, I try to bring them along on expeditions.
However doing so isn't as simple as grab the rod and go. When going with kids there are lot's of things that need to be considered and prepared.
Making sure the kids are safe and happy has to be the priority but trying to involve them, if possible, is also important. It could be as simple as winding the handle on the reel during a retrieve, or carefully touching a fish.
If they want to be involved it's important to try and include them so they are enjoying the experience and don't just feel like they are being dragged around by dad.
However you can never be sure that things are going to go smoothly, no matter how well you plan. For example on a recent trip I ended up with a treble hook in my thigh (ouch!) and my youngest daughter threw my phone in the river (I still have no idea why) after taking a happy snap of me with a fish. This ended up with me getting soaked with shoes, wallet, keys and all as I raced in to retrieve it.
So when I take the children I leave expectations at home. I have learned to put the kids experience first and expecting to do some serious fishing last. This way everyone has a good time. And if we catch a fish it's a bonus.
Kids and fishing? How on earth could they mix? One word, PATIENCE!
There is no perfect set age, every child will vary with their capabilities and level of interest. When they request to go fishing is probably a good age to start.
Make them feel involved through participation and be PREPARED to repeat yourself over and over again! Understand that you will encounter fluffed casts & tangled lines. But practice makes perfect. A must is approaching a fishing outing with a positive attitude, the experience should be fun and the child needs to feel fully involved.
DO NOT make fun of your children's efforts! Any new skill takes practice, practice and more practice, and lots of patience! Never make fun of your chlids failed attempts to learn.
If starting very young, look at starting them off with a few basic casting skills with a junior rod & reel. Kids Kits, make it much safer for adult & child. Be careful not to buy a line that will be too heavy for the rod and reel being used. Children have hard enough time casting without adding difficulties.
There are great combo's on the market in this day and age that can ease your child into fishing!
Actions speak louder then words. Children 8 years and up benefit most from being shown a physical demonstration rather then just being told. It is important to use simple language; take it one step at a time and always talk to your children while taking them through the exercise.
Don’t expect too much from younger children. When it comes to fiddly things such as knots, fine motor skills come into play, so it will depend on each childs abilities individually whether they are capable yet or not. Let them have a go and remember, patience, patience, patience.
Remember to get children to look at the spot they are aiming for when they release the line while casting.
When teaching a child to cast, concentrate on accuracy rather than distance. It’s the constant repetition that leads to greater distances in time. You can allow junior anglers to fight the fish. Always set the drag on the reel just right, so that the line won’t break easily or the fish won't run off easily taking line.
Always be aware that children need constant supervision around waterways of any nature.
Basic first aid kit is a must, as well as sun and skin protection like hats, should be considered as essential as the rod 'n' reel. Life Jackets may also be required.
Make sure the area you fish is safe for both child and adult. Always check what sort of dangerous marine life is in your area and their most active time of year. Don’t let children handle fish you are unsure of. And check the weather forecast before heading out.
Avoid fishing too close together as this will make it harder for casting with children. Allow at least 2 rod lengths distance between anglers. Tangles with other anglers are not really appreciated by anyone.
No matter what the child wants, ALWAYS return undersized fish and fully explain why you need to do so.
Take a tape and measure your fish as per state rules, do the right thing and your children should follow suit. And also take the camera for a happy snap!
Last but not least, enjoy the experience and the bond that will develop between yourself and your children from shared adventures.