Gone Fishing

Introducing Fishing To Your Children

Introducing your kids to fishing the right way, is setting them on the right path for an enjoyable-past-time that will last their entire lives. Do it the wrong way, and the first time may well be the last time. Kids love adventure and excitement, they hate anything that bores them. Following a few simple rules creates an enjoyable experience for the kids and yourself.

The Equipment

1. Fishing Pole

2. Fishing Line

3. Fish Hooks

4. Sinkers

5. Floats or Bobbers

6. Stringer

7. Bait

8. Extras

  The equipment listed above is the bare minimum you'll need to go fishing. Starting with the “Fishing Poles”, what do you think would be the best pole for your child to use while learning how to fish? If you take your future fishing expert with you to buy one, I can already tell you which one they'll want. The ones in all big box store sporting goods department, hung right at the eye level of little ones, brightly colored plastic, usually with a cardboard backing displaying graphics of popular cartoon characters. These mini-kits usually include a short fiberglass or plastic rod with a colorful spin cast reel attached. They include basic fishing needs such as hooks, sinkers, bobbers and maybe a stringer. The price is usually low enough, so this is a good buy right? My recommendation is no, don't buy these kits for your child to learn fishing with. This will their first experience and this type of equipment needs experience to use. Simplify things at first, in time after they've learned a little let them cast your pole a few times when you go fishing together until they develop a little more coordination and then you can buy them the kit or something better. I would recommend to start you buy them either a simple cane pole (today they come in two or three pieces you snap together) or a telescopic fishing pole. No casting, no tangling up the line or jamming the reel, no hooking themselves or you, with a wild cast! Checking some of the local discount stores I found bamboo cane poles starting at eight dollars and the telescopic fishing poles starting as low as nine dollars, so it's not a big investment. They will be a lot happier swinging the line out instead of fighting to cast it with multiple failures before getting it out a decent distance from the shore.

Fishing line comes in all kinds of colors, material and line strengths. When introducing your child to the sport, you want to create excitement and fishing for Muskies on their first time out is NOT exciting. I'm sure if they hooked one it would be, but experienced fisherman know you get one Musky on average after about 500 casts or more! Trust me after about the third cast the little one would be off doing something else. So the best target for starting out is pan fish which are good fighters, small, always hungry and a lot of fun to catch for both adults and young ones. Most pan fish are usually under one pound in weight, so 30 pound test line is overkill. Two to four pound test line is perfect for increasing the odds of catching pan fish. Light weight line equals small diameter equals fish have a hard time seeing it. They don't see it, they take the bait not realizing there is something connected to it and you have a fish on.

Fish hooks come in many sizes and styles, you need to match the hook to the type of fish you are going after, small fish need small hooks. When looking at the packages of hooks, you'll see a number on the package that will look like, size 16 or size 4/0. When you see just a number those are the smaller hooks, the ones with the /0 after them are the larger hooks. With the small hooks, the bigger the number the smaller the hook, a size 12 hook is bigger than a size 16 hook. The size I would recommend to start with pan fish is a size 16 or smaller (meaning bigger number). The other thing you want is a hook with a long shank. Looking at a hook you'll see a loop of metal, this is the Eye, and is connected to a straight piece that goes all the way down the curves around and up to the point of the hook. That long straight section is the shank. You want a longer one so it's harder for these small fish to swallow the hook completely. It's not easy to remove hooks they've swallowed and often times the procedure, if you're not experienced and careful, kills them.

I want to recommend you do a little change to the hooks. Looking at the hook, and at the pointed part, you'll see a point sticking up. A little further down the hook you'll see another small point sticking out from the hook in the opposite direction. So the big one at the point is sticking up, the small one will be sticking down. That is the “barb” and it's purpose is when the fish becomes hooked, the barb makes it harder for the fish to escape, which is a good thing, normally. However while just starting to learn I would recommend you use a pair of pliers and squeeze that barb down so it sits flat against the hook, instead of sticking out. There's a chance your little one might hook themselves or you, or someone's clothing. Flattening out that barb makes the removal of errant hooks easier and a lot less painful.

Sinkers are small weights that you attach to the fishing line to hold the bait down under the water. They come in assorted sizes and styles and for starting out I recommend you get some small split sinkers. They sort of look like a small hamburger buns.  Get the small ones, you can add more than one to adjust the weight you'll need.

Floats or Bobbers hold the bait above the bottom of the lake, river, or creek where you're fishing. Most of the little pan fish want the bait suspended, not laying on the bottom. A common bobber is made of plastic and usually one red side and the other white. I've also seen color combinations of orange and yellow. For the small pan fish I prefer a float made of balsa wood and small.  They are more sensitive than plastic bobbers and makes for a more active outing for the kids.  You will tell your kids not to pull up on the pole until after they see the float go under water.  If they are using the common bobber pan fish have a hard time pulling those under the surface.  Trying to set the hook when the bobber is bouncing around is tricky, and more often than not you'll pull the hook right out of their mouth.  With the smaller float they pull those easily under the surface and the excitement of the float disappearing usually causes the child to immediately set the hook, out of instinctive reaction, rather than the thought process.

You can pick up a cheap plastic stringer, which is a rope with a ring on one end and a long thin piece of metal on the other. These keep your fish fresh until you're ready to leave. To put your fish on one of these, you hold the fish in one hand, the easiest way is to hold them upside down. Place the long thin metal piece inside one of their gills. You will find the gills on the side of the head, behind the eyes. Since you're looking at the bottom of the fish you'll see where two flaps come together near the mouth, and these are the front of the gill openings. You can push that metal piece, while pointing it forward towards the mouth in the fold and wiggle it around until it passes through the gill and exits out of the mouth. Pull it through and when you see the ring on the other end, run that thin metal piece through the ring. This will secure the first fish to the stringer. The rest of the fish you just need to run the long metal piece through the gill, out the mouth and slide them down the stringer to the other fish. Once the fish are on the stringer take them and the stringer down the water's edge. Holding the long thin metal piece lower the fish into the water until submerged. If there's something to tie the stringer on to making sure the fish don't swim again go ahead and use it. If not you'll need to stick that metal piece in the ground to hold it there. Make sure angle the metal piece so the top points away from the water to secure it more. Do not buy the plastic or metal ones with the clips on them, they are prone to coming loose and losing your day's catch. The other thing you can do is bring a five gallon plastic bucket instead of using a stringer. When you catch a fish just dump them in the bucket with water in there.

Bait is your choice and there's variety of kinds to use, from live bait like worms and crickets to artificial critters and pastes. Worms and crickets take time to get on the hook properly and worms are often stolen by the pan fish which makes a lot more work for you. I've recently been using a number of artificial imitation maggots and nugget types baits as well as some pastes. In my opinion my success rate is as good as live bait under most circumstances. They are a lot easier to put on and they stay on a lot longer. Often you can catch five or more fish per piece compared to being lucky to catch one on live bait.

The list item I labeled as Extras include first aid kit, extra clothes, and if you have more than one kid you might want to bring a toy or something for each if only one wants to spend the time learning to fish. If you are fishing near very deep or fast-moving water, please consider bringing and equipping the young ones with a life-preserver. Being busy with one, or doing something else is all it takes to have something happen and it becomes an emergency right away. Wearing a properly fitted life-preserver will allow them, should they fall in, to survive long enough for you to reach them and bring them back to safety without causing them undo stress or anxiety about the incident.

Now that we have all the parts we need to assemble them before we can go fishing. The first thing you need to do is assemble your cane pole or telescopic fishing pole. Once it's all together take your fishing line and unwind a length of about five feet or so from the spool. I recommend you tie the line to two places on your pole. The first point about three feet below the tip you're going to want to tie it to the pole, with special care. The line you're using is most likely monofilament fishing line which is a type of plastic. When you tighten your fishing knots using this kind of plastic it creates friction, and the friction creates heat, which melts the plastic line and makes it a lot weaker. You're only planning on catching small fish so any knot will work. If you're using a simple overhand knot, before you tighten it down against the pole, leave the loop large enough so you can put the fishing line in your mouth, or put some saliva on your finger and rub it on the line. This will lubricate the line and keep it from melting. Do this every time before you tighten up any knots. Now run the light up the pole to the top and attach the line at the tip as well, again using saliva to lubricate the line.

Now with your line attached to the pole, it's time to add some tackle to the line. Holding your pole up, let the line hang down the pole and cut the line off about six inches below the bottom of the pole. Attach the fish-hook to the end of the line first. You can lay the pole down on a table so you can use both hands to tie the hook on. Hold the hook in one hand, and the fishing line in the other. Take the end of the line and thread it through the eye (that small loop at the top of the hook). Now make a knot and secure it to the line, REMEMBER to lubricate the line with saliva before tightening the knot. There are a number of knots you can use, some complicated and some simple. A simple square knot will work fine for the small fish. Once you have the hook secured, take one of the sinkers and attach it to the line about six to eight inches above the hook. To attach the sinker press it against the line so the line goes into the crack of the sinker, and not press the sinker together with your fingers to hold it in place. If you have a pair of pliers clamp the sinker so it's more secure on the line that you could do by just squeezing it with your fingers. The last thing is the float/bobber that needs attaching. To start place the float about a foot above the sinker, and attach it accordingly. There are a number of different ways floats/bobbers attach. The most common for bobbers if you push the button on the top of the bobber, it pushes a short piece of hooked wire out of the bottom of the bobber. Place the hook over the fishing line and release the button, the bobber is secure. For floats some have a spring along the thin point that sticks up from the body of the float. Holding the float in your hand, squeeze the spring with your fingers and push it towards the body of the float. There is a slot in the thin point where you can slip your line in, then release the spring and you're set to go. Now just wrap the line around the pole until it's short enough not to drag. Use a rubber band to hold the line on the pole. That's it for setting up the pole and that's it until you get to your fishing spot.

When you get to your spot you may have to adjust your float/bobber depending on the depth of the water, as well as adding more weight if needed. Baiting the hook is pretty straight forward and easy to figure out. If you're using the nuggets or fake wiggly type baits just pass the hook through the piece of bait one time and put the hook in the water and hang on. If you're using the paste, scoop out a piece about the size of a sweet pea and knead it with your fingers until it softens up. Holding the paste in one hand place the bottom of the hook on top of the pea sized ball. Then press the hook into the ball and using your fingers press it against the hook so the hook isn't seen. BE CAREFUL you don't hook yourself doing baiting the hook.

To find the small fish you want, the best place is usually a pond or lake, and in this part of the country just about every town and village has a small pond in one or more of their parks for the residents to fish in. Most of the time these ponds are stocked with pan fish like bluegills and sunfish, also called bream in some parts of the country. If you're not sure find a bait shop or any place that sells fishing licenses and equipment and ask them for suggestions.

Keep the outing exciting, have fun and make sure the kids are staying interested. If it is a slow day, leave and come back another.  Learning patience, a virtue required by the best of fishermen can come another day,  your main goal is to accent the enjoyment of the sport.  So hang out your "Gone Fishing" sign, load up the kids and catch a load of fish!  Good Luck!