Fishing can be tricky for little kids. Besides the sharp hooks, the squirmy bait and the slimy fish, actually casting the line makes fishing a skill that children sometimes take a while to learn. That doesn't mean it is impossible for kids to learn, though. Fishing can be great fun for all ages. If you use the right gear and techniques, you can teach almost any youngster to fish.
Choose the right rod and reel
Kids don't need an expensive setup, and they don't necessarily need a kid's fishing rod, either. What they need is just a very basic rod with a simple spincast reel. This type of reel has the line enclosed in a compartment and releases with the push of a button. This reel is simple to use and doesn't tangle easily.
Pick the right tackle
Children new to the sport of fishing probably won't want to catch anything too big, so they definitely don't need any big, complicated hooks. They also don't need expensive lures. When teaching kids' fishing clinics at an Oklahoma lake, I found that worms were the best bait for children. One dozen worms can last all day if you pinch them into one inch sections and put them on a small J or circle hook.
Set the sinkers and bobbers
For freshwater fishing off the shore, you might try setting your sinker about a foot above the hook, and the bobber a foot or two above the sinker. You may need a small pair of pliers to attach the sinker to the line. Care should be taken not to handle lead sinkers with bare hands.
Cast the line safely
Using a spincast reel, even a kindergartner can master a smooth cast. Using the dominant hand, the young fisher should hold the rod with his elbow bent at a 90-degree angle to his body, straight out from his hip. He should hold the rod steady and press the button on the reel. Then with a smooth motion, bring his hand forward, straight out in front of his body, releasing the button as he casts.
I taught large groups of students to fish, and this was the safest casting technique I ever used. Kids find it easy to use, and the chances of accidentally catching a tree or another person with their hooks is minimal.
Safely remove hooks
Removing a hook from a fish can be difficult and should be done by an adult or an older, experienced child. Pliers or wire cutters can come in very handy for removing the barb from a hook so it can slide out easily.
Check local regulations
Local fishing regulations may vary, so make sure and check with your local fish and wildlife authorities to see if you or any of the kids you will be fishing with need to be licensed. Also, make sure and actually release the fish if you are fishing at a catch and release pond.
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Tavia worked as a naturalist and recreation specialist at an Oklahoma lake during her college years. She enjoys using what she learned as an outdoor educator in her work with children today.