TAKE A KID FISHIN'!!
The future of our fine sport of fishing, and probably the entire outdoors as we know it, may well rest with two actions:
If we eventually recognize and correct pollution of the waters, destruction of the habitat, over-harvest of the game and fishes, and the stupidity of Man-versus-Nature in his never-ending upwards spiral of 'progressing' civilization, then there may be a ray of hope with which to salvage our outdoors.
- How well our generation cares for and replenishes the woods, waters, wildlife and fish.
- The values we instill in our children towards the wonders and enjoyment Nature has to offer, and the necessity to protect and preserve it.
As I sit and reflect on memorable experiences of days gone by, some of the more enjoyable moments involved teaching children and young people how to fish. For many years, though, I was too busy with my own selfish pursuits. It wasn't until my two children began to ask to 'go fishin', daddy' that I discovered the real secret of angling success. Every fisherman should learn this secret, for it is more satisfying and more valuable than any trophy he or she will ever capture.
Teaching a child to fish is often not easy, but it usually winds up being more fun than pain. The nice thing is that youngsters are quick to learn, enthusiastic and usually even tempered. They won't get mad, even when we adults screw up the lesson.
However, fishing is like most any other subject being presented to a child. If they show a dislike or no interest, it is extremely important not to force or pressure them. Many things that you and I, as adults, dislike today are a direct result of over-exposure at a time when we were not receptive to them. Forcing the young person to 'enjoy' something, will usually have a totally opposite result. In some cases, the love of angling may have to be 'acquired' through some later pleasurable occurrence, or simply at a future time when the interest of the child can focus in that direction.
The absolute best way to gain that attention of a child towards fishing is to take them on a series of short outings when conditions are comfortable. No biting Winter cold and no Summer heat. And, for goodness sake, do not make a marathon of the day, especially if the fish are not cooperating. Let the child observe, initially, while you do the fishing. Better yet, try to have your spouse along so that the child relates the experience as 'family' oriented. Continue this until he/she realizes than you are actually having fun. That will usually occur when the first fish is caught. "Mommy, I want a fishin' pole, too."
Selecting the species of fish to use for the child's initiation can be a very important task. It should be a very 'cooperative' critter, readily available, and not require any significant skill nor sophisticated equipment and baits. Along those guidelines, we would think the bluegill family would be an excellent choice for fresh-water situations. In terms of salt-water, there is no question that the speckled sea trout (also often call 'weakfish') is the dumbest fish that swims. He is extremely plentiful, of reasonable size, inhabits all the calm protected salt-water basins along the coasts, and will attack virtually any lure or bait that happens by. In addition, the fighting abilities and excellent eating qualities of the speckled trout further make him a perfect education subject. Possibly, the only negative aspect of the trout is that he does have a couple of rather sharp teeth. But, then, the bluegill has sharp fins and safety is an important part of the new angler's training program.
I suspect there is no disagreement that a push-button, spin-cast reel is the ideal starter equipment for a child. Undoubtedly, millions of today's anglers, including yours truly, were taught to cast using a ZEBCO 33. That may have well been your history, as well. The rod should be a medium-light action and not over five feet in length. It should be as light as possible, but also tough enough to handle some non-intended abuse. Personally, I would opt for fiberglass, in that it is not as prone to damage as graphite. This equipment make-up is very cost-effective and should withstand the rigors of 'the learning experience' well.
In general, the line size should be 8-pound test monofilament and have a normal stretch factor. 6-pound is just too light and would cause tears if the new angler is broken-off. 8-pound, on the other hand, casts light lures very well and is strong enough to hold most fish within the recommended species. Of course, the stretch factor allows the line to be somewhat 'forgiving' of the new fisherman's first moments of angling excitement.
If I had my choice, I would always teach fishing using artificial lures. First, they are easy to handle and preclude the squeamishness often associated with handling the crawling or slimy food groups fish seem to have preference for. Additionally, running a redworm thorough with a steel hook does not promote the value of life to a young mind. It would seem counter to the catch-and-release philosophy we would be stressing.
If you have no children, I would urge you to very seriously consider teaching some else's kids the joys of fishing. I give you a 1000% guarantee that you will gain more from the experience than will the young people.
There are numerous opportunities to do this. One which is particularly satisfying is 'adopting' a local orphanage for a day, or even a weekend. Also possible are abused children shelters, Cub Scout/Brownie troops, etc. There is a bit of planning and coordination involved, but it is worth it all-right down to the last phone call for the napkins we always seem to forget!!
When we are ready, we have to locate a place to go. The best is that trout or catfish farm you heard about. You know, the one that lets people catch their own fish for a price. Let him know what's going on and you can probably work a deal with the owner. Most of the fish will be released, anyway. And, the publicity will be worth a small fortune to the business owner (you must lay on that press coverage in advance, as a selling point).
Sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get volunteers. However, once you get this thing rolling, you will have more than you'll ever needed. Assign tasks to each one and make some 'safety coaches'. There should be one adult for every three to four children, plus a few roving assistants to provide added help when needed.
Local businesses will usually support you with supplies, from cane poles to sack lunches to even a bus for transport. Even fishing tackle manufacturers will occasionally provide equipment items, especially if 'seconds' will do as well as first quality items. Normally all you have to do is ask.
So, if you want to generate those experiences that memories are made of, teach a child to fish. 'A man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.'
Remember, kids are fishermen, too!!
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A common question that we get: "Is there somewhere close to get bait and tackle?" This is where we get our bait.
Pete and Tina Heinz / 9 South Mulberry St. / Fellsmere, FL 32948 / 772-571-9855
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