In my mind, the fishing opener was designed for families. Fishing’s a fabulous sport for kids, and seeing a youngster’s – or first-timer’s – expression after catching that first fish is priceless. Yet, I’m amazed at how many people don’t take advantage of the fun. Most fishing folk wouldn’t think of taking their spouse or kids out on the first day.
As a professional angler, I decided long ago that my mantra would be “happy wife, happy life.” I can honestly say that if you teach your spouse and kids to fish and take them along, you’ll get more time on the water. Better yet, you’ll enjoy having your family with you on opening day and many days to follow.
Here are a few pointers:
- Start out in the spring. Everyone has cabin fever, and it’s a chance to get outdoors and enjoy the environment. Plus, if you start kids in the spring, they’ll have the rest of the season to hone their skills.
- Never force them to go fishing. Instead, encourage them with your excitement for the sport.
- Keep the equipment simple. Get them their own spincast rod, reel and tackle box, and allow them to pick out their own tackle.It’s best to start with a tiny jig tipped with a 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 setups are easy, fun to watch, and don’t require much concentration.
- Be a safety role model. While out on the water, wear a life jacket like theirs and stress the importance of wearing one at all times. Talk about general water and equipment safety rules, too.
- Wait for good weather. Also, plan to spend about four hours on a trip rather than all day. If the kids get restless, take a break. Allow them to play safely in the boat for a while or go for a boat ride.
- Focus on action, not size. Walleye angling can be tedious. Select a lake or river that has good populations of panfish (bluegills, crappies and sunfish).
- Teach them about all aspects of fishing, from tying line to baiting hooks and setting drags. Talk about other people who are fishing around you and what equipment, bait, etc. they are using. Talk about the environment, wildlife or weather and things that you notice. You might be surprised at all the details kids see and comprehend.
- Kids love to eat. Keep them involved in all aspects of planning and making lunch and snacks. Take time out and enjoy lunch together.
- Explain responsible fishing. Teach them the importance of selective harvest and “catch and consume.” I know it might be hard to put back that 24-inch walleye, but that fish is probably a female, and she will generate many fish in the coming years. Take the small ones and enjoy a great meal of fish.
To this day, I don’t remember if my father and I caught fish or not. But the memories we created will always be there. And the time my father spent fishing with me still pays dividends today. I’m hooked on fishing.
Until next time, keep on truckin’ – and fishin’ (with your family).
Sam Anderson is a professional walleye angler and president of Bay & Bay Transportation, a regional trucking company based in Minneapolis.