Take a Kid Fishing

by David Grouchy

A red and white bobber floats lazily on the surface of a pond. Everything is serene and quiet, even the kid holding the fishing rod. Then there is a tug on the line, and the bobber dives below the murky surface; the child yells with glee and surprise. She’s about to catch her first fish. It doesn’t matter if she is 3 or thirty; this is a great moment in her life. As she struggles to bring the fish in, strong hands reach to help her. Those hands have worked hard, pounded nails, cut trees, paid bills, changed diapers and now they will help create a lasting memory.

In this day of “happy meals,” cell phones and DVRs, quiet time is difficult to come by. Fishing with a child is an opportunity for an adult to teach a set of life skills that will stay with the child as long as she lives. This is one time that a child will sit still and listen with no interruptions and with total concentration. She will have the chance to learn why the waters, marshes and swamps are so critical to our way of life. She will learn that it’s okay to be bitten by mosquitoes, and that there are ways to avoid the bites. She will see critters like snakes, alligators and turtles in their homes. She will learn some hard lessons, too. Things have to die so that others may live; the bait won’t survive the encounter with the fish, even if we don’t catch the  fish. If we do catch the fish, we may catch and release, or we may have a keeper that we want to eat. Cleaning and preparing a fish is messy, but necessary, if we want something wonderful to eat. She’ll learn that life is not all air conditioned and wrapped neatly in plastic. Fish can be delicious prepared in a number of ways. Since my grandfather taught me to fish and to cook, my favorite for any freshwater fish is pan-fried with a cornmeal batter. This works as well over a camp stove, an open fire or a range at home, but fish and game taste better when cooked and eaten in the woods. Assuming that we have caught something we can eat, now comes the fun part of preparing and cooking them. When cleaning the fish, she can learn why a sharp knife is safer than a dull one and what the icky innards of a fish are. Take the time to explain how a  fish breathes, what the bladder is for, and even what your particular  fish eats every day.

And she will learn to be still and quiet in order to not scare the fish. She will also learn that we don’t catch even one keeper every time. Some days, all we get is the fun of the outing and the beauty of nature, and that is enough. You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to take a kid fishing; the simpler, the better. It’s best to start with a starter pole, bobber and live bait. Once the basics are mastered, you can start teaching the child how to cast and use artificial lures, but don’t rush. Let the child decide when she’s ready for the next step. 

The child you take fishing won’t need a fishing license if she is under 16, but you will. Fishing licenses are easy to get and should be carried on you any time you are fishing. You can probably get your fishing license at any bait shop or store that sells sporting goods, or you can also get your license online in most states.