There is no better way to teach a kid to fish than to take him or her fishing, preferably often. But in this pandemic time, gathering at a local body of water may not be either wise, practical, or even – temporarily – legal.
You can, however, be teaching fishing to kids, or teaching the fundamentals of fishing to them, while you’re staying at home. It’s good preparation for the times when stay-at-home and travel restrictions are lifted, and a good alternative to video overindulgence.
This is an opportunity to learn more than just the catching part of the fishing experience. It’s a chance to take a holistic approach to the sport with a youngster. Think about the two most important things related to taking a youngster fishing: First, things are going on in the water. Kids want to know about what’s happening out there relative to the fish, the bait, and the habitat. Second, there is the mechanics of fishing, which especially entails the proper use of equipment. If you want kids to fully enjoy angling, they’ll need to learn to do basic things themselves.
With that in mind, here are six actions you can take off the water that help teach a kid to fish and/or teach them about things important to the act of fishing.
1. Learning About the Fish’s Environment
Lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, tidal waters, bays, inshore estuaries, offshore environs, beachfront surf – these all have their own characteristics and fish species. They may be shallow or deep, warm or cold, fertile or infertile. A youngster can learn what characterizes and what differentiates these waterbodies, and how they fit into the web of aquatic life. Look for appropriate age- or youth-based information on these topics from conservation organizations, state natural resource (fish and game) agencies, public aquariums, and books at your local library.
2. Learning About the Fish Present in the Places You’ll Go
In the development of an angler it helps a great deal to learn about the species that you target and/or are present wherever you’ll be fishing. There’s plenty of information available on this, including the sources previously mentioned. Guidebooks are very helpful as reference material. Especially look for species information from your state natural resources agency, as the details they provide will be most relevant to your locale. Any source that has a quiz about identifying species or fish behavior is worth checking out. For general info, you can start on the fish species pages of our website.
3. Learning About the Forage
Since angling is all about catching fish by presenting them with a natural or imitation food item, nothing could be more basic to the sport than learning what the natural food (forage) is of the fish that you seek, where that is found, and what its habits and habitats are. That food ranges from tiny aquatic insects for stream trout to 1-pound menhaden for coastal striped bass. Look for this information from the same sources already mentioned, especially if it’s not too technical.
4. Teach Them to Cast, Then Practice in the Yard or Other Open Space
I wrote a detailed post about how to teach children to cast, which ideally occurs off the water before going fishing. Check it out. You need the right kind of tackle, set up properly, with practice casting plugs, and with safety a constant theme. Once they’ve learned the mechanics, set up targets for practice, and if you involve other family members it can be among the fun family activities that you do.
5. Learn to Tie Basic Fishing Knots
Whether you use a lure, fly or bait hook, it has to be connected to the line with a proper knot. Teaching fishing to kids eventually will entail knot tying. Kids only need to learn one knot to start with – a Uni or Improved Clinch would be my choice – and our site has info on knot tying. Don’t start with a light or fine-diameter line, which is harder to work with than something with thicker diameter. A supple 10- or 12-pound-test monofilament line would be good for learning. Then practice. Once kids know how to repeatedly tie a good knot, you can trust them to attach the line to their own hooks or lures, which they’ll find more satisfying than having someone else do it for them.
6. Let Them Help Get Tackle and Other Gear Ready
Most adult anglers find preparing to go fishing – getting gear ready – an enjoyable and anticipatory exercise. Showing a youngster how you get your tackle box organized, your hooks sharpened, your reels filled with line, etc., involves them in the process and may lead to having them take over these chores later, so it’s not a bad idea to interest and involve them in readying.