Getting kids to take the bait

Posted: Thursday, June 07, 2001

Teaching a kid to fish takes the same kind of patience as catching a fish.

"The first thing is, if you really want to teach kids to fish, don't plan on fishing yourself," said aquatic education coordinator John Lyman, who has taught kids all over the state how to fish. "If you plan on fishing yourself you'll get frustrated and your kid won't catch anything."

Kids can start fishing even before they can hold a pole. A few years ago, when prizes were still part of Family Fishing Day, the winner was a 3-year-old with a Playskool rod, Lyman said.

"As soon as the kid evidences interest in it, it's a good time to start," Lyman said. "That's one of the problems I have, that I started way too young, so I still like it way too old."

Parents should be aware of their children's abilities though, and may have to do the casting and reeling for 3 or 4-year-olds.

"It can be real frustrating if someone just says 'Here you go' and the bobber goes straight up in the air or down in the bank," said fisheries biologist Mark Schwan.

It also helps to have good, working equipment for kids to use. Lyman recommends a simple, five or six foot spinning rod with a push-button reel and metal gears, such as the Zebco reel 33.

"You can land a sizable sized fish on it," said Lyman, who's seen coho landed with the Zebco.

Lyman suggests using bait rather than flies, preferably in chunks. At Twin Lakes this Saturday Mark Schwan will have a five-gallon bucket filled with pre-cut bait. Schwan also suggests using bobbers, which suspend the bait about eight inches below the water.

"That means you're not going to have your bait sink to the bottom and snag on something," Schwan said.

Kids can also watch the bobber and see if it's moving to judge whether or not a fish is biting.

"You can go 'Hey, look, the bobber just got pulled under the water. A fish is biting there,'" Schwan said.

You want to be sure a child's first fishing trip is successful, so take them somewhere they're likely to catch fish. The kind of fish doesn't matter, Lyman said. Twin Lakes is a good bet on Saturday. The fish in Twin Lakes often cruise just a few inches below the surface, Schwan said. They move around to different places and depths, so find out where they are biting and fish there.

Another reason to go where the fishing is easy is that kids seldom have the patience to wait hours for a bite. Pay attention to the child's interest level and when they get tired of it, move on.

"It varies a lot with the kids. My own personal experience is the kids only want to do it for a while," Schwan said. "If it's a miserable, raining day, if the winds howling, attention span is pretty limited."

Whatever they catch, take it home and fry it up, Lyman said.

"Definitely take that first fish home, cook it and eat it, so they get a sense of where food comes from and that fish are food."

Kristan Hutchison can be reached at

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