By Ted Takasaki with Scott Richardson
Almost every state has a "Take a Kid Fishing Weekend." Adults accompanied by children typically do not need fishing licenses on those days. The effort is intended to introduce kids to fishing, and to get adults who once fished back into the habit.
More than four out of five Americans fished as a child. Surveys show that most adults who fish today started before their 13th birthday. That means the best way to preserve the future of the sport is to take kids fishing.
Here are a few ideas to enjoy a day with children out of doors.
* Let youngsters help you plan the trip. Show them where the lake or river is on a map. Show them hydro (contour) maps of the targeted waters. All of this helps build anticipation.
* Let kids help with other preparations. Spend a night or two after dark with flashlights and trowels digging in the yard for nightcrawlers. Take the kids to the store and let them pick out food and drinks. Let them help make and wrap the sandwiches. Have them gather the sunscreen, insect repellent and sunglasses. Take along a bird-watching guide.
* Check regulations. Some states require children under certain ages to wear safety jackets. Even if your state doesn't require them, they’re still a good idea. Make certain they fit and are comfortable.
* Don't use gear designed by Mickey Mouse (sorry Mickey). Spincast reels are OK for youngsters– but make certain they are good ones.
* Kids want ACTION, and they don't care if fish are small. Target schooling fish, like bluegills. Perch and crappies are good, too. Walleyes can be good at certain times. Do your homework to ensure as much success as you can.
* Use a simple slip-float rig for panfish. Kids love to watch for the bite (admit is, so do we). Use a Thill float, a small hook and enough split-shot to balance the rig, making it easy to detect even light bites. Show kids how to tie a simple Palomar or Improved Clinch knot. Use wax worms and nightcrawler pieces for bluegills. Use wax worms or minnows for crappies.
* Don't get too fancy. Older kids can be taught to jig for walleyes and sauger in rivers. But, let them use heavier jigs, like 3/8-oz. Fuzz-E-Grubs, to keep them on the bottom and in the strike zone. It's also easy to teach them to use three-way rigs with heavier weights on the dropper. Same is true for Lindy Rigging; make sure the weight is a heavy one to teach them the importance of bottom contact.
* Kids don't care what kind of fish they catch. Make a big deal out of whatever they reel in. Put away your prejudices, and applaud even carp. They fight great, and that's all children want. Nothing is more depressing than to watch a kid fight a fish for five fun-filled minutes only to hear the grown-ups in the boat say, "Oh, it's just a carp." The smiles from the little anglers disappear quickly.
* Even if you don't plan to keep any fish, put the first one or two in the livewell. Let the kids check on them often. It gives them something to do. Same goes for the minnows. You'll be surprised how a trip to the livewell or bait bucket to check on the fish will perk up bored kids.
* Take lots of pictures or video.* Stop often for snack breaks.
* Take some fish home to eat. Show children the angling process from water to table. It teaches kids that there's nothing wrong with harvesting a few fish according to the state and local laws. Kids should know that there is a food chain and they are part of it.
* If you shore fish, let them explore. Countless hours can be filled with exciting discoveries, like crawdads hidden under rocks.
* Never, ever make them stay longer than they want.Nearly a quarter of Americans who fish are under the age of 16. Someone has to show them how. Don't you think you should? Take a kid fishing!
CAPTION INFORMATION FOR SUPPLIED PHOTOPhoto: Ted & daughter.jpg
Pro angler Ted Takasaki lands a nice crappie for his daughter, Kristi. By following the suggestions in this story, you can help create smiles when you take youngsters out for a fun fishing adventure.