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Make it simple when teaching kids to fish

RICK FRAZIER
Published December 21, 2003

I get to see a lot of people elated from catching monster snook or tournament-winning tarpon, and I'm always happy for them.

But what really makes my day is the opportunity to take children fishing. The smile on their faces when they pull in a fish says it all.

Adults seem caught up with the glory in catching the big ones. They're more interested in bragging to buddies about a 10-pound trout or the one that got away. It seems they lose perspective.

Kids aren't like that. The only thing that interests them is trying to catch whatever bites their hook ... period. Big fish don't matter, nor does species, as long as they catch something.

How young is too young? It's more up to the adults taking them than the child's age, but they need to be old enough to hold a rod.

A characteristic most kids share is a short attention span. Holding their interest is the hardest part. It's best to keep them as busy as possible catching anything. It doesn't matter if the fish are catfish, bream, pinfish or even greenbacks.

Parents often live vicariously through their children. I remember a situation in which a father was frustrated because his preschooler caught only small pinfish. He wanted his son to catch a trophy, which was unrealistic. You can't expect a child to have the experience or knowledge an adult has or the physical abilities to fight a big fish.

Simplicity is the name of the game, and fitting children with the right gear keeps it simple. Children younger than 5 do well with a 10-foot cane pole fitted with a small hook and bobber, which gives them a focal point. Seeing the bobber pulled under is almost as exciting as catching a fish - even adults get excited when a bobber goes down.

Children of grammar-school age do well with spin-cast outfits. Spend a little money on a decent spin-caster so as not to waste time trying to untangle line. Pre-teens can be introduced to good spinning tackle, which is much easier to operate than casting gear. Quality outfits can be had for about $70.

Patience is a virtue when fishing with kids. Remember, you're only fishing, and if you loose your cool over anything it can lead to dissatisfaction for children. Making sure fishing is fun no matter the situation is memorable, and that's most important.

And you have to pick the proper location.

For those who fish from shore, city lakes with fish-feeders that are stocked with Nile perch and catfish are ideal for kids. They'll see fish in the water and often see fish bite their hook. What could be better?

For boaters, shallow grass flats in the bay hold plenty of pinfish, ladyfish, grunts, catfish and trout. Hang a chum block off the boat to draw fish in.

When you're out with children, teach them to respect the laws, regulations and other anglers. Nothing can be more frustrating than seeing adults argue over fishing spots.

And fishing is like any other sport. If the basics are taught, fishing will be fun for a lifetime.

- Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at 727 510-4376 or by e-mail at captrick@luckydawg.com

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