Build Your Own Fishing Buddy

By Nick Carter

To a father and an angler, there’s nothing sweeter than the phrase, “Daddy, can we go fishing today?”

I heard those words the first time several years ago from the open face and high-pitched lilt of a 6-year-old boy. It was the reward for years of careful cultivation.

We’ve fished together since he was a toddler. Before, it had always been my idea, a way to drag him outside on a warm afternoon.

Those early trips to a small neighborhood pond were frustrating. He wanted to do it himself, so Dad picked through snarled lines while the boy mucked around in the shallows, throwing rocks and scaring fish.

At some point, I gave up on catching fish. That pivotal moment freed us both to enjoy time together. To a 4-year-old, sharing crackers with minnows that dart from beneath a dock is as engaging as a fish on the line. Frogs, turtles and the blue heron that fished the same spawning flats we did were as integral to the experience as fish.

Now, as a 13-year-old, that kid stands in the front of the boat, ties his own rigs and pounds the banks with skill. He’s got a bicycle circuit of local ponds where he’s gained permission to harass bass, bream and catfish. He’s a competent fly caster for wild trout on backcountry streams and an inquisitive, always-in-the-action deckhand offshore.

Watching his growth as an angler is immensely rewarding. Keeping it fun was—and is—the key to feeding his desire.

The Fishing
Fishing is more fun when fish are biting. Pond bream are great for young anglers because techniques are simple and the action is fast. In saltwater, seatrout and whiting provide the same kind of action that keeps their attention.

For the first few outings, leave the boat trailered. Fishing from the bank, from a pier or in the surf provides freedom of movement for them to explore. If they lose interest in fishing, they can chase crabs, look in the buckets of neighboring anglers, hunt for shells or wade the shallows.

Catch And Keep
Like sports trophies, Children want and take pride in having something to show for their efforts. Allow kids to take part in the process of catching, cleaning and cooking fresh fish for dinner. In the process, they’ll learn how the meat they eat makes it to their plate.

A Few Tips

  • Be Patient: Don’t plan on fishing yourself. The adult’s job is to cast and untangle lines, bait hooks, unhook fish and avoid being hooked.
  • Take Snacks: The most important items in the tackle box are snacks and juice boxes.
  • Don’t Push It: If your kids would rather throw rocks, let them.
  • Their Gear: Children love stuff that is theirs. Get a small tackle box for them to carry. Load it with a small pair of pliers and a few inexpensive lures.
  • Lures: Some kids just want to throw it out and reel it in. Small inline spinners and some jigs are designed to catch anything that swims, and there’s no wrong way to fish them.
  • Let Them Learn: Nothing is more aggravating than being constantly told what to do. Offer help, but let them learn from their own mistakes.
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