Put the rod down with kids on board
"I didn't realize that when I took my kids out fishing, I really didn't get to fish."
A guide client in my boat shared the information as our hooks hit the water one morning last week.
It's true. When you take a child out fishing, you have to be truly committed. You're taking them fishing.
As parents, we all want our kids to gain an appreciation for the great outdoors, teach them about conservation and hope they pass the tradition on to their own children one day.
Yet some days in the boat are difficult when not only keeping your kids safe, but simultaneously keeping them focused and entertained.
By following a simple set of guidelines you will not only give your child a memorable experience, but maintain your sanity too.
First, as a parent, understand you really won't do a lot of fishing. Your main goal is to ensure your child has their needs taken care of in the boat. This means having them wear a life jacket if they are 10 or under (it's the law), and encourage them to do so even as they get older.
Always pack extra clothing, even in mid-summer. If your child gets cold, you won't have to cut the trip short.
Snacks are essential on a fishing trip with kids, probably even more so than the actual bait itself.
Then, even though you're in charge, take the child's cues as to how long you'll stay on the water. If they're ready to leave, it's time to leave.
However, fishing encompasses much more than simply casting and reeling in fish. Allow them to dig through your tackle box, play in the minnow bucket, even operate the trolling motor. At the end of the day, that's all "fishing."
Operating the landing net is another good job for a kid. Two weeks ago there was an 11-year-old boy on board my boat with his parents and even though we were catching plenty of fish, he was losing interest.
He asked if he could put his rod down and just net people's fish. "Absolutely," I said. "Whenever someone sets the hook, grab the net."
A few minutes later I set the hook on a small bass, maybe 12 inches in length. Instead of cranking it in quickly I simply let it fight against the bend of the rod.
"Big fish, BIG fish, get the net," I cried, even though I knew it was a small one.
As the tiny bass swam toward the surface to jump, a truly big fish tried to eat the largemouth.
The northern, which was a true trophy, near 20 pounds, missed its target. A few more turns of the fishing reel and the pike emerged again, took a swipe at the bass and missed the mark once more.
After the young man netted the unscathed largemouth, I jokingly said, "Why didn't you just net both of the fish?"
He quickly picked up his rod and said, "Because I want to catch it!"