In my early twenties, when I was ignorant to the cold, harsh reality of parenting, I imagined taking my kids fishing on a regular basis. I naively envisioned a picturesque setting sun, a quiet calm that allowed us to hear the gentle lapping of waves against the pier, and the occasional tight line being yanked away by a healthy, little bluegill. I often thought about the kid sitting on the other end of that fishing rod next to me, perhaps their cute, nugget head in a fisherman's hat just like Dad's. Every now and then, he or she would look up at me with warm eyes and say, "Dad, this is the best. I love fishing with you." They'd be in harmony with nature, focused, and more than anything, they would listen.
Oh, what a dreamer I once was!
Fishing with my boys these days is entirely the opposite of that once silly notion of parenting, and if I am being incredibly honest, it's one of the most stressful and dangerous things I do with my kiddos. Dangerous you say? Come on, Chris, it's fishing! What are you talking about? If you've ever seen an eight-year-old try to cast a lure from a rod, even after you specifically asked him not to do so and warned him about what could happen if he tried it, you know what I am talking about. Teddy, while he shows an interest in fishing, is still working on that whole coordination thing. Watching him try to send a very sharp hook off into the distance only but a few feet away from his little brothers is absolutely terrifying. We've been lucky so far that nobody has been hooked, and every single time we go, I do a quick little sign of the cross, say a prayer, and hope today is not the day.
There are so many other things to be aware of when you're out fishing with the kids- especially with my three sons. It's easy to get lost in the excitement of a fish tugging at the line. You want nothing more than for your kid to reel it in, lift it up out of the water, and see what his patience has given him. However, there's no worse feeling than when you're helping one kid get a fish off the hook, teaching him how to properly hold it so as to not harm the fish, when all of a sudden...SPLASH! One of your other kids has fallen off the pier and is now flopping around in the water! Thankfully, you're responsible and safe enough to know that whenever your kids are by the water, they should be wearing a life jacket. You scream in sheer panic, and even though he only has been in there for no more than a few seconds, you go into dad/mom mode and yank that little booger out with all your might in record time. Let me tell you, those handles they have on the back of life jackets are PRICELESS.
After both the hysteria and the adrenaline starts to dissipate, and once you’ve convinced yourself you’re not in fact having a heart attack, you valiantly try again to find tranquility and teach your kids how to fish. Here’s an important tip. Keep an eye on the minnow bucket because your youngest will either try to find a way to dump it all over his/her head or grab one of those unsuspecting victims and make lunch out of it.
Have I convinced you yet to take your kids fishing? Likely not yet, but hear me out. I won’t lie, it’s incredibly taxing and oftentimes it’s easier to just stay in the house and watch a cartoon with Teddy, Tommy, and Joey, but I’m making an investment right now. My wife reminds me of this when I want to give up, send them home, and try to catch some bass all by my lonesome. As I’ve said before on this blog, our kids are constantly bombarded with a plethora of negative distractions that, in my humble opinion, negatively affect their mood, patience, and attention span. Have you ever read about Spongebob Squarepants and its connection to ADHD/impaired attention span? I’m not normally one of those parents who takes stock in such theories, but it nonetheless is something to keep in mind. Here’s an interesting read on the debate:
Again, I don’t know how much I believe about this Spongebob issue, but it’s worth sharing, and it brings me to my point. Despite the fact that fishing with children is difficult and extremely demanding, the benefits of it far outweigh the negatives. I need to get over the fact that it’s “hard” for me and that I don’t actually get to cast a line when I am with them. The truth is, it’s necessary that my kids practice patience. It’s important that they learn internal dialogue and self-reflection- both of which happen a lot when you have time outdoors. With running the risk of sounding like a tree-hugger, learning to respect nature and practicing self reliance is essential for them to become independent adults. Those of you closest to me know that I am a non-stop type of person. Although never diagnosed, I’ve had conversations with previous doctors about being evaluated for ADHD. I never did it because I’m an adult now and have learned ways to cope with my attention deficiencies. Fishing helps me more than you can imagine and forces me to stop and focus on only one thing. It encourages me to let all the other stress and drama sink below into the same shadowy depths I seek to find that giant bass. Teach your kids to slow down. Teach them to relax and let go of all the other things that nudge us towards anxiety. Teach them to respect the world around them and pick up the trash at their local pond so that their kids and grandkids can enjoy it in the future.
Some of you are comfortable with fishing because you grew up with it. Maybe you’ve lost it over the years and haven’t made time for it with the kids, and I encourage you to squeeze it into your schedule over the next few days. Others reading this post are probably thinking, “Nope, not for me. I have no idea what to do.” It can be intimidating, but I assure you, any other angler you meet at the water will be happy to see you trying to teach a young kid a passion they love so dearly. They might even offer to help out! I have. One time, at a Boy Scout’s fishing derby, I was so impressed and inspired by a mom who came with a new fishing rod and other new gear. She walked out onto the pier and said, “I’ve never fished. I have no idea how to do this, but I want my son to have this experience.” If you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s okay. There are so many resources out there to help you get started.
Throw out a line, be patient, and use this time to talk with your kid and appreciate the quiet moments life has to offer. Have you ever taken your kids fishing? What was it like? Share your stories in the comments! Have something else to add? Let’s hear it!
If you have no idea where to start, I’ve listed some tips and gear below to get your started. It’s not that expensive to begin, and I hope you find the basic setup below helpful.
Rod and Reel:
I recommend getting a spincast reel. These are super easy to operate and a great way for kids to learn casting on their own. You press the button, hold it down, and make your cast. To release the lure/bait and send it flying, let go of the button. If you’ve never done this, it takes some practice, but you will get it! Do NOT get a kiddie themed fishing rod. Get your child a rod and reel he/she can grow into. Get one that can stick with them throughout the years. You don’t need Spider-Man helping you reel in a bluegill. Usually they come with line on them already, so you should be good with that.
I use these bobbers:
Very simple to use. Decompress the end with the metal loop on it and wrap the line around twice so there isn’t any slippage. Make sure you leave a couple of feet between the bobber and the hook. This bobber will lay down flat on the water, and when a fish grabs it, it’ll stand up straight.
HUGE tip here! Whatever hook you end up using, make sure to take your pliers and bend down the barb. The barb keeps the hook from backing out of the fish’s mouth, but that means it also keeps it from backing out of your kid’s arm. I’d rather lose a fish than deal with that. Flatten it out, and in case it does happen, you can hopefully back that hook out instead of cutting the hook and pulling it through (Get a pair of diagonal cutters on Amazon). Of course if this happens, they’ll likely never want to go fishing again, so BE CAREFUL! Undivided attention when fishing!
I use circle hooks for small fish like bluegill. I’ve found the circle hooks stop the fish from swallowing the hook whole. If that happens, you simply cut the line above the hook and leave it in. Tie a new hook on. It’s believed that the fish will eventually work the hook out. If not, well, you’ve assisted in the circle of life and made that bluegill an easy dinner for larger predators.
How to tie on a hook:
Use the palomar knot. Easy to do after a few practice tries.
You can use live nightcrawler worms or live wax worms. If touching worms freaks you out, use artificial ones. I’ve attached a link.
These work great!
Have some pliers with you to help take out that hook.
If touching a fish freaks you out, don’t let that stop you! Use a glove like this one:
That’s about it. Get out there and enjoy with this really basic setup! If you don’t have kids and are reading this, get out there yourself and give it a try!
Tight lines, friends!