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It was orange, tiny and terrifying in the hands of a kid. Something about giving a five-year-old a pointy stick with a metal hook on it made me think twice. Still, she had it and was having the time of her life with it. She picked the pole out at the store by herself. “It’s Tigger, t-i-double-guh-er.”
I spent more time that day untangling line than I ever had. It was frustrating, not to mention painful a few times when she got excited enough to jerk the pole to set the hook while I was baiting the line. Still, we sat there and fished. Until her patience ran dry. And she proceeded to run along the shore, and eventually fell in.
She’s 18 now, and she still remembers that day of fishing and falling when she was that young. My other daughter has similar memories. She even used the same Tigger pole that her sister used, though she had her own Mickey Mouse one.
Fishing is a great way to build knowledge, confidence and problem-solving skills, while you have a little fun by the water. It teaches conservation, ecology, science and more. From basic anatomy to life-cycles and food chains, a lot can be learned sitting on the bank with a pole in hand. I learned a ton from taking them, too.
Make sure they are water safe. They need to know how to swim, and provide life preservers if necessary.
Be patient. They are going to need you to bait, to untie tangles, to fetch and probably cry on your shoulder when faced with the realities of what you do once you’ve caught a fish.
Keep an eye on them always.
Use live bait that’s not much bigger than your hook. Earthworms, crickets, meal worms and minnows work great. Artificial bait can be a good option as well.
Use smaller bobbers, which makes it more likely your fish will actually be hooked instead of taking the bait and running. The line will be more accommodating to the pressure of the fish as opposed to working against you.
Be prepared to have fun, even if you aren’t successful. Fishing is one of those activities where there may be no prize if you don’t make any catches. But make it fun for your kids and the outing is still likely to be a pleasure.
Be prepared: have plenty of snacks and water, sunscreen, bug repellant, sunglasses and a few tricks up your sleeve if they begin to get restless.
Now that they’re almost all grown up, we still fish. Sometimes, they even go without me. Something about me getting the line tangled, laughing and then them having to fix it. Don’t tell them it’s payback for years of doing the same for them.
Make it a point to take your kid fishing this year. Even try to take their friends, if you can. It will build memories that last a lifetime and teach lessons that can only be learned on the water.
And be sure to catch The River Reporter’s FISH magazine, in next week’s newspaper and at venues around the region throughout the season.