If your goal is to provide your child an appreciation for nature, an enjoyable fishing experience, and memories that last a lifetime, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your success.
1. Think Age Appropriate: You know your child and what they are - and aren't capable of. Asking an energized 5 year old to sit in a boat, or on a shoreline, with a pole in his hand for three hours would certainly fall into the category of "off to a bad start". If the fish aren't biting, take a break. Let the kids wade in the water or look for critters, take a family hike or pass out snacks; let them catch minnows, skip stones, or "play with the bait". The purpose of the trip is to have fun, so when you see they've had enough - be ready to call it a day.
2. Plan, Plan, Plan: Bring plenty of snacks and drinks - pack a picnic lunch - nothing stays off boredom like food. Give each child a disposable camera and let them snap away to their hearts content. A kid sized net and bucket are fun too. Don't forget to bring hats, sunscreen and insect repellent. Include a change of clothes, dry socks, and jackets; if you're going by boat the ride in-and-out can get chilly - and a cold kid is an unhappy kid.
3. Keep It Simple: You don't need a boat or expensive equipment to take a child fishing. A pole, some line, a tiny weight, and a hook and bobber are all you need. For bait use something like live shrimp, minnows, or worms. Fishing with a bobber is not only simple; it's exciting and likely to hold anyone's attention. Who doesn't feel their heart beat a little faster when they see a bobber go under!
4. Stock Up On Patience: You wonder how anyone could possibly lose their cool when taking their child fishing. What's the worst that could happen? Well...suppose your favorite pole snaps in two or disappears into the drink, maybe your overzealous child gets soaked while horsing on the dock, or...heaven forbid...someone gets hooked. By smashing the barb at the end of the hook with a pair of pliers it will be much easier (and less painful) to remove. Remember, the finger you remove it from may be your own!
5. Better Safe - Than Sorry: Before the first line touches the water help your child understand the safety rules and why they're so important. If going by boat, explain why life jackets are necessary. Now is also a good time to discuss sea life and why we don't throw bits of fishing line into the water. If someone forgets or makes a mistake use the experience to teach them how to do it properly. Your calm reaction and response throughout the day will make you a hero! The lasting impression of their fishing trip will have more to do with your enthusiasm and patience, than the number of fish they catch.
6. Celebrate: Anything on the end of their line - short of a shoe - is a big HOOAH! Be sure to snap a photo of your child with their catch before releasing it. If you decide to keep the fish it's a good time to teach them about conservation and our responsibility to bring home only what we intend to eat. Explain that when we release a fish it can grow-up, have babies, and be around for someone else to catch another day.
A wonderful opportunity exists for one-on-one quality time while fishing.
There's a great connection between "he-who-holds-the-pole" and "he-who-helps"!