By Henry Jackson
Summer is in full swing, and with the kids still out of school, it’s the perfect time to unplug the video games and introduce them to kayak fishing. Paddling and fishing with kids is a great way for the family to spend quality time together and to show the kids that being active outdoors is more fun than racing cars or shooting bad guys on the TV. However, taking children into the great outdoors comes with its own set of challenges that are not experienced with paddling and fishing with adults. Listed below are four key concepts to help the experience be enjoyable for everyone.
(1) Keep it Simple.
Now is not the trip to fish hard for eight hours, running and gunning from sweet spot to honey hole, deciphering tides and contemplating which color topwater plug will turn the bite on in order to catch a personal-best redfish. Kids are not interested in working hard for one fish. Take them to a neighbor’s pond instead, and spend the day floating around an acre of water catching bream on crickets or bass on plugs. It’s action packed, stress-free and easy for everyone.
(2) Keep it Safe.
When paddling and fishing with kids, safety takes on a greater importance. Their bodies are much more susceptible to the summer heat than ours, so sun protection is a top priority. Long-sleeved sun-shirts, liberal amounts of sunscreen and floppy hats give them a personal shade zone, and carrying along a tarp shelter is a great idea if they need to hit the bank and take a nap during the mid-day heat. Be sure to pack extra first-aid supplies, because there will surely be scraped knees, bumped elbows and fingers pricked with hooks. If you’re paddling on a body of water bigger than a small pond, it’s also a good idea to bring a tow-rope in case a young paddler gets tired on the way home. Also keep an eye on their hydration, as they will likely forget to drink throughout the day.
Kids EAT all the time and a hungry kid is an unhappy kid. Pack as many carrot sticks, juice boxes and gummy bears as you think are needed…then double it. Taking hourly snack and hydration breaks is a great way to keep energy levels up and ensure everyone is drinking enough water.
(4) Keep it Fun.
Short attention spans may make fishing all day impossible. Kids are full of energy and curiosity. Allow them to set the pace of the day. Taking regular breaks for swimming, splash fights or squirt gun battles may scare off the fish, but it keeps the day fun and exciting. Keep in mind that this day on the water is overall about them having fun. They have to learn to love the outdoors before they can learn to love fishing.
Keeping the trip simple, safe, fun and well-supplied with juice boxes will ensure everyone has a good time. Introducing kids to the outdoors can be a delicate process; one bad experience may keep them from wanting to go again, so keep in mind that this day is about them enjoying being outside. That personal-best redfish will always be there tomorrow.
Henry Jackson is an ACA Kayaking Instruction, fly fishing guide and proponent of children living an active lifestyle. For more information, or to contact Henry, go to www.flintriverkayakfishing.com.