While every angler from young to old wants to catch that great big one, one of the really cool things about fishing with kids is that they get delight catching little fish, too.
It seems to me that an ideal fishing trip for kids is to go in search of panfish in slower waters. Of course, you’ve got to watch kids like a hawk whenever they’re around water, but the still water of a farm pond or a backwater in the Delta can be much safer than fast rushing waters. If the little buggers fall in — and they probably will — you just drag them out and let them drip dry. If you bring a bucket of minnows for bait, the chances are that the kids will have just as much fun playing with the minnows as they do reeling in a fish.
There’s nothing more fun than watching a little kid as his red and white bobber begins to dance around in excited circles and then dip under the surface as a fish grabs a free lunch. Sometimes you can hear the excited screams of your pint-sized angling partner halfway across a pond. It doesn’t really matter if they’re catching tiny bluegills, crappie or bullheads — as long as they’re getting lots of action, kids will have a ball.
Here are a couple of tips to ensure a successful fishing trip with children:
n Try to fish in places where they will get the most consistent action. Catching 20 panfish is much more exciting than catching two bass. There will be plenty of time to go after the big ones as they grow older. When I was a member of Big Brothers of America, I took my “Little Brother” Billy out to a muddy irrigation ditch and we had a ball catching dozens of 5- to 6-inch carp.
n Take lots of goodies to drink and munch on. I know that these days, more parents are concerned about feeding their kids healthy foods. But whatever kind of goodies you bring for them should be plentiful. If you think they’ll love a sliced apple, bring three. If you think they might like an orange, bring three or four. If you’re gonna rot their teeth with a candy bar, bring a bunch of them. I think you get the idea.
n Make sure you bring a camera! Those photos you take of a wet, dirty kid with a tiny fish and a great big smile will become some of your most prized possessions. Take lots of shots and cull the bad ones later. Heck, you might even want to bring multiple cameras.
n Whatever you do, make it fun. Even if the fish aren’t biting, you can skip stones or listen to the rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker. Don’t turn your fishing expedition into a marathon; keep it short. If you leave early, the kids are less likely to get tired and cranky and more likely to want to return with you next time. The most important thing is to spend time with your child or grandchild. Both of you will remember it for as long as you live.
Until next time, tight lines.
• Don Moyer, author and outdoors columnist for the Tracy Press, began writing Tight Lines more than three decades ago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.