If you were to ask most anglers what their favorite childhood memory was, I would bet 8 out of 10 would tell you about fishing with a parent or grandparent. So how do you create these memories for your kids and give them a lifelong love of the sport? Well here are a few tips to help make their time with you out on the water one they will remember.
Ryley paddling at sunrise on Lake George
Keep it simple
Most of us have enough gear (some of us take it all with us) to outfit a whole fishing village. But with kids you want to limit what you bring along. One rod will do it for them and limit what you bring for yourself. With older kids that are in their own kayaks I will keep a spare rod with me so I can rig it with something different and swap it out when the bite changes or if it becomes tangled.
Be a Guide
Remember you are their guide and the best guides are teachers. Explain to them why you are having them do things and what you see. Have patience and try not to get frustrated, they might not get it right the first or tenth time, but when they do it will be well worth your effort. Don’t let younger kids get frustrated by having them do too much, they don’t all bait their own hook at first. Give them a break soon enough they won’t want your help.
Braden with a nice Crappie caught off my Gator Hatch of my X-Factor
Keep things interesting
Live/cut bait is usually the best bet to get kids on fish but if the action is slow switch it up and tie on a plug that they can pop across the surface for a few minutes. It might not catch a fish but it will break up a slow day. Kids like catching big fish as much as we do, but a day full of catching smaller fish can be a lot more fun for them. With older kids let them explore the area you are fishing or take a break and let them jump in and swim.
Braden and his first “solo” yakfish
Choose the Right Kayak
For younger kids I like kayaks with a rear facing front seat. This keeps back casts away from your face and lets you help them a lot easier. There are several kayaks available that have these options and on the plus side a lot of them work just as well as a solo kayak. When kids start to get into their own kayaks pay close attention to the width of the kayak. A narrower kayak will keep them from beating up their knuckles and take less effort to paddle. Stability is less of an issue for them due to their lower weights and well, just being a kid.
Braden and his personal best LargeMouth from a Malibu Gator Hatch
Keep Them Safe
Get them a comfortable PFD, they need to wear it the whole time so if they aren’t comfortable in it, it could ruin the trip. Don’t get in over your head, remember it’s not just you that you need to save if your kayak tips, and adding the extra weight to your kayak will make it react and handle differently. Kids get tired quickly be prepared to tow them when you run into current or wind, a short bungee cord tied into your tow rope will make this easier on you.
Ryley and his first Redfish at the ChuckTown Boondoggle.
The Little Things
Pay attention to the small details like sunscreen and sunglasses, if they get a bad sunburn they will remember that. Don’t plan on staying out on an epic all day trip, keep it short at first and steadily increase the durations, soon they will outlast you. Bring along special snacks, I like to pick up a few things that they don’t normally get at home. Start or continue traditions, I remembered going to get breakfast after early morning striper surf casting trip with my grandfather. Now my son wants to stop at the diner and sit at the breakfast bar and talk fishing with the old-timers after our striper trips.
Most importantly make it about them and they will remember it, and maybe one day they will pay you back and take you out!