When it comes to kids, focus on fun
By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Editor
TIERRA VERDE -- Trevor Wood knew the fish were there.
"Daddy, I think it ate my bait," the 3-year-old told his father. "I need another shrimp."
Todd Wood plucked another shrimp from the live well and showed it to his son.
"Oh, yes ... that's a good one," Trevor said.
Trevor tossed the shrimp toward the dock, but it fell a couple of feet short.
"Good try," Wood said. "Reel it in and try again."
The second cast landed a little closer, but still short of the mark. So dad grabbed the rod and gave his son a little help.
"Thank you, daddy," he said, then a few seconds later added, "I think I got one."
Wood checked the line and, sure enough, discovered that his young apprentice was right.
"Hey, he's got one," Wood said as he helped his son reel in the fish. "One more and we have lunch."
So Wood hooked up another shrimp and tossed it under the dock. Unfortunately, his son had rediscovered the bait well.
"Look at this one," Trevor said, holding up a fat shrimp. "He'll catch a big one."
Wood put the rod down and sat on the deck to watch his son play.
"As long as he is having fun," he said, "that is all that matters."
Too bad some adults forget this little piece of advice when they take children fishing.
"You have to keep their attention," Wood said. "You have to keep it fun."
Trevor and his 6-year-old sister, Tiffany, have grown up on the water, fishing with a dad who has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of patience and good humor.
Not every child, however, is lucky enough to have a father or mother who is interested in fishing. That is why Wood decided to start the Wendys/Hydra-Sports Kids Fishing College.
"We cover everything from knot tying to boating safety," Wood said. "When they leave here they are ready to catch some fish."
The fishing college is free with regular admission to this weekend's Boat & Yacht Expo at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
"We ask that parents come by the booth and preregister," he said. "We try to keep the classes small so we can give one-on-one instruction."
Wood, who is known to radio listeners as co-host of WQYK-AM's popular Sunday morning fishing show Let's Talk Fishing, will be joined at the instructor's table by Eric Shapiro. Shapiro, host of the cable television program Left Coast Fishing, specializes in taking youngsters fishing.
"Kids are going to make mistakes," Wood said. "But we try to take some of the mystery out of it."
Take cast netting, for example. Many adults are intimidated at the thought of throwing a cast net, but that skill, among others, is essential to catching fish on the west coast of Florida.
"It is not as hard as it looks," Wood said. "We have a small net, which is perfect to get the kids started."
Eckerd College's Search and Rescue Team will be on hand to teach the fishing college students (and their parents) about boating safety.
"They'll learn how to put on a life jacket properly," Wood said. "We make sure the parents understand that, too."
The fishing college sessions are at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. today through Sunday. Parents must preregister their children. Each session has enough room for about 30 students.
"That way we can make sure the child masters the skill (such as casting) before moving on to the next station," Wood said.
Upon graduation, each student is awarded a diploma suitable for framing.
There is plenty for the adults to do, too. The Boat Expo features everything from center-console fishing crafts to luxury yachts as well as the latest in marine electronics and equipment.
TAMPA BAY BOAT & YACHT EXPO
The expo is being held at both Tropicana Field and the Vinoy Yacht Basin in St. Petersburg through Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children. For more information, call (727) 344-BOAT or (888) 234-7770.
Seminar schedule at Tropicana Field
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