Children and Fishing

My father was not a fisherman.  He was, however, a very good father and my brother and I were introduced to the benefits and joys of fishing on odd occasions during holidays and weekends away.

Our grandparents moved to a small town on the lower reaches of the River Murray in South Australia when we were still kids.  It was here that I became almost obsessed with fishing and yabbying and I spent hours on the banks of the wide, muddy river catching carp and shrimps.  Yabbies and golden perch were few and far between, but were prized catches.

In my teenage years, a friend and I would catch a train to Port Adelaide and fish in numerous locations in the Port River.  We caught large numbers of mullet, small salmon and tommies (Australian Herring) and were less successful with bream and mulloway.

My fishing obsession has continued, although it has cooled somewhat.  I continue to enjoy a pastime that I was introduced too at the age of 4.  I now regularly travel to various locations across our State in pursuit of my target species.

Children are naturally curious.  Rarely will they pass up the opportunity to go fishing, or catch something.  If you mention the word ‘catch’ you will instantly have their attention.  It does not have to be fish.  Tadpoles, frogs, yabbies, shrimps, crabs – anything really and kids will jump at the chance. 

Kids and FishingCredit: Steven Pike

It doesn’t take much to organise such an outing either.  Obviously, stalking trout on your favourite stream using fly tackle is not the kind of fishing you can subject your 4 or 5 year old too.  They will not have the patience or the skills and will quickly become bored.

However, change your target species to carp and it’s a different matter entirely. 

Here’s exactly how such an outing would progress.

When you first arrive at your chosen spot, let the kids explore a bit.  The environments surrounding the backwaters of the River Murray here in South Australia are diverse.  The water is shallow and kids will keep themselves amused for hours.  Ask the kids to get the yabby nets or shrimp traps out of the car and bait them using the already prepared cuts of meat that you have had the forethought to bring along.

Whilst they are doing this, you can throw the berley out and rig the fishing rods.  Let the kids throw the nets in where they think the yabbies or shrimp will be lurking.  Bait the hooks and, by this time, hopefully your berley would have attracted a few carp.  (Carp are not shy at all here in the muddy backwaters and no amount of yelling, screaming or thumping on the bank will scare them off).

Allocate the kids a fishing rod each.  Don’t be too concerned if they quickly lose interest in watching the rods.  They’ll probably want to check the yabby nets anyway.

When one of their rods hooks up, let them fight the fish.  Help if they ask for it but otherwise let them go.  My son loses heaps of carp, due to their large size and ability to dive into the nearest reed bed, but he steadfastly refuses any help.  He has had managed some monster carp though and is very proud of every one of them.  You role here is net man – and re-rig the rod man.  Be prepared to lose a bit of tackle, especially hooks and sinkers. 

You will find that, whether they lose the fish or not, they will be itching to have another go.

Fishing from a jetty is a different proposition.  Kids become bored very quickly when fishing from jetties or piers because they have nothing else to do if the fish are not biting.  Few young children will tolerate it for long.

There are exceptions though.

Australian Herring or tommies as they are known in South Australia, are a very common small fish here and, when they are schooling, large catches can be made in a short space of time.  My daughter, not a keen fisherperson by any stretch, loves catching these fish when they are biting.  She was first introduced to this style of fishing at Port Lincoln on the States West Coast. 

I had managed to berley up a mixed school of tommies and chow, a small mackerel type fish.  I was using gents (maggots), cockles (pipis) and squid as bait.  Every time I dropped the line into the water, a tommie or chow would jump on the hook.  My daughter, who was about 8 years old at the time, saw this and asked if she could have a go.  I dropped the line in and told her to watch the rod tip.  When it dips a little, just lift the rod up a bit and try and hook the fish.  The rod dipped and she ripped the rod up, flinging the poor hooked fish up out of the water.  She was very happy with her first fish and continued to reel in them in, thankfully refining her technique, until I had to practically carry her off of the jetty.

A few years later we had a similar experience on Kingscote Jetty on Kangaroo Island.  The tommies caught from this jetty at night are quite large (for tommies anyway).  With both son and daughter fishing, I did not have time to fish myself.  They would catch a fish, swing it over to me to unhook and bait up again, and then drop their line back in. 

Although I enjoy eating fish, my kids are not quite as keen.  You may find though that they will be partial to other seafood.  My son, for example, enjoys calamari rings.  So he particularly enjoys catching squid for the table.  This is surprising really, as a certain amount of patience is required to catch a few squid, these days anyway, and he sticks diligently to the task.

As your kids grow, you will be surprised by how often you will hear them talk about past events; things they have remembered that seemed insignificant at the time.  It is then that I think you realise how important small things are in their lives and how it can affect who they will become In the future.

I am not suggesting fishing is a solution to the world’s problems, but I do think that it contributes to a child’s thought processes, giving them an appreciation of the natural order of things and the environment around them.  Fishing and camping have been a valuable escape for me and I think that such activities may have a beneficial role to play in a person’s personal development.

Anyway, you could do a lot worse than introducing your child to the joys of fishing.