There is no better way to teach a child how to fish than preferably by making them fish often. During this time of the pandemic, collecting at a local body of water may not be useful, practical, or even – temporarily – legal.
However, you can teach kids how to fish or teach them the basics of fishing while you stay at home. It’s a good preparation for the times when home and travel restrictions will be lifted, and a great alternative to over-enjoying videos.
This is an opportunity to learn more than just the catching part of the fishing experience. It’s a chance to take a holistic approach to sport with a teenager. Think of the two most important things to do with a boy’s fishing: First, it continues in the water. Kids want to know what’s going on out there in terms of the fish, the bait, and the habitat. Second, there are the mechanics of fishing, which specifically involves the proper use of equipment. If you want children to enjoy fishing to the fullest, they must learn to do basic things by themselves.
With that in mind, here are six things you can do to teach a child how to fish and / or teach them about things that are important to fishing.
1. Get to know the area around the fish
Lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, tidal waters, bays, estuaries, offshore environments, surf on the beach – all of these have their own characteristics and fish species. They can be shallow or deep, warm or cold, fertile or sterile. A young person can learn what characterizes and differentiates these bodies of water and how they fit into the network of aquatic life. Check your local library for appropriate age- or youth-related information on these topics from conservation organizations, government agencies for natural resources (fish and game), public aquariums, and books.
2. Get to know the fish that are present in the places you are going to go
In developing a fisherman, it helps a lot to learn about the species you are aiming for and / or which are everywhere you fish. There is a lot of information available about this, including the sources mentioned above. Travel guides are very useful as reference material. In particular, look for species information from your state natural resource agency as the details they provide are most relevant to your locale. Any source that has a quiz about fish identification or behavior is worth a look. General information can be found on the fish species pages on our website.
3. Learn about the food
Since fishing is about catching fish by presenting them with a natural or imitation food, nothing can be more fundamental to the sport than learning what the natural food (feed) is from the fish you are looking for, where it is found and what its habits and habitats are. Food ranges from tiny aquatic insects for brown trout to 1-pound menhaden for striped coastal perch. Look for this information from the same sources mentioned earlier, especially if it isn’t too technical.
4. Teach them the casting, then practice in the yard or other open space
I wrote an extensive post on how to teach children to water, ideally before fishing out of the water. Listen. You need the right type of device, properly set up, with practice cast plugs, and for sure a constant subject. Once they learn the mechanics, set goals for practicing. Getting other family members involved can be one of the fun family activities to do.
5. Learn to tie basic fishing knots
Regardless of whether you are using a bait, fly or bait hook, it must be connected to the line with a suitable knot. After all, if you are teaching kids to fish, you have to tie knots. Children only need to learn a knot first – college or improved clinch would be my choice – and check out our website for information on how to tie a knot. Don’t start with a light or fine diameter line that is harder to work with than a thicker diameter line. A supple 10 or 12 pound test monofilament line would be good for learning. Then practice. Once kids know how to repeatedly tie a good knot, you can be confident that they will be attaching the line to their own hooks or bait, which they will find more satisfying than having someone else do it for them.
6. Have them help you get the machine and other equipment ready
Most adult anglers find prepping for fishing – preparing gear – a fun and predictive exercise. If you show a teen how to organize your tackle box, sharpen your hooks, fill your reels with string, etc., they’ll get involved in the process and may lead them to do these tasks later. So it’s not a bad idea to take an interest in this and involve them in the preparation.