The Woodsman Magazine

Opening Fishing is for the Entire Family

By Bob & Ginny Riege

            I am amazed at how many families do not fish on the opener.  Most of the time it is a bunch of guys out for a good time and they wouldn’t think of taking their spouse or their kids out on the “first day.”  Guys let me give you a little tip, especially if you like to fish more than just the “first day.” 

            Long ago I decided that my mantra would be “happy wife, happy life.”  I can honestly say that it has been true that if you take your spouse and kids fishing you will be able to spend more time on the water, and best of all you will be able to buy more toys for fishing.  Believe me, you will enjoy having your family along with you on opening day and many days to follow. 

            Who taught you how to fish?  Perhaps it was your father, grandfather, or a neighbor that taught you how to tie your line, or jig fish.  How would you like to teach your children and your spouse?

             As a professional guided,  I get a rare treat when I watch a youngster's face after catching a fish.  You can tell that this is a sport for kids.  I also see very few young people out fishing as they did when I grew up.  In today's world of video games, too expensive tennis shoes, and other more dangerous things, too many kids are missing out on fishing.  So how do adults get kids involved in fishing?  Here are some pointers that will help:

            1) Start them out in the spring.  Everyone has cabin fever and it is a chance for them to get outdoors and enjoy the environment.  Besides if you start them in the spring they have all the rest of the season to hone their skills.

            2) Never force them to go fishing, instead encourage them with your excitement for the sport.  You know that they want to be just like you.  Get them their own spincast rod, reel and tackle box and yes allow them to pick out their own tackle.  Keep the equipment simple.  It's best to start with a tiny Gum Ball or Fireball Gap jigs tipped with a Gulp worm below a bobber.  A plain hook and split shot rig with a piece of worm or crawler under a bobber is another winning combination.  Both set ups are easy and don't require much concentration.  There's also something about seeing the bobber go under the water that turns a kid on.

            3) Walleye angling can be tedious.  Select a lake or river that has good populations of panfish (bluegills, crappies, and sunfish).  Don't worry about size just action.

            4) Teach them all the aspects of fishing, from tying line to baiting hooks, setting drags and talk about other people that are fishing around you and what they are using.  Talk about the environment, wildlife or weather and the things that you notice.  You might be surprised at all the things the kids see.

            5) Set a good example.  While out on the water wear a life jacket like theirs and stress the importance of wearing one at all time. See if you can get one that looks like yours.  Kids love to imitate their idols.

            6) Kids love to eat.  Keep them involved in all aspects.  The planning, making the lunch and snacks.  Take time out and enjoy the lunch together.

            7) Fishing trips should take place when the weather is nice.  Plan to spend about four hours on a trip rather than all day.  If the kids get restless, allow them to play in the boat for a while or go for a boat ride.  This allows a break in day and change in concentration.

            8) Teach them the importance of selective harvest and “catch and consume.”  I know it might be hard to put back that 24” walleye, but that fish is probably a female and she will generate a lot of fish in the upcoming years.  Take the small ones and enjoy a meal of fish.

            All of these got me hooked on fishing.  To this day I don't remember if my father and I caught fish or not.  The memories we had together will always be there.  The time my father spent with me fishing still pays dividends today.

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