Petrilli did it. I don’t know why, but despite my frequent pleas to get outside and take a kid fishing it was this picture of Fordham’s Mike Petrilli fishing with his kids that has prompted several emails and calls from colleagues asking, ‘I want to do this, but how?’ One person even said that he felt silly having to ask.
Don’t. We all learn things from others. And while not initially complicated fishing can be daunting with unfamiliar gear, regulations, customs, and so forth. But anyone can take their kids out for a great time. Here are three easy guidelines to get you going toward a fun day outside (and fall is an amazing time of year so it’s not too late!):
First, ask your local shop for help. Catalogs are fun to look at but they can’t tell you where or how to fish in your community – your local shop can, so start there. They want to see you succeed because you’ll become a regular customer – support them and they’ll support you. Ask them about the gear you need in your area and where to go – and make sure to be clear that you’re taking a kid fishing, too. They will set you up with everything you need for the fishing side of a day outside including any licenses or permits. And they can help you figure out where and when to go. Unless you live in the high desert (and even there in some cases) there are publicly accessible places to take a kid fishing.
Second, catch rate is the most important thing. If you get more into fishing you might try more challenging approaches, fly fishing in particular. But at first kids just want to catch fish, and a lot of them. Worry less about how big they are, what they might taste like, or even if they’re a “game” fish. Just keep the catching steady and fun and you’ll have a great day. The old saw among anglers is that first you want to catch a lot of fish, then big fish, then hard fish. There’s a lot of truth to that. In the meantime, some kids are born anglers with a deep store of patience and a philosophical outlook about the value of a day on the water. But, you’re foolish to bet that your kid is one of them until you know for sure. Taking a kid fishing is just that, taking a kid fishing. It’s not your fishing trip so make it work for them and it’s a lot more fun for everyone.
Third, think safety. Fishing is not an inherently dangerous activity but by definition you are around water. Is your child a strong swimmer? If not a PFD is a good idea – especially around deep, moving, or murky water. Also, regardless of how well your child swims stay away from fast moving water, water above rapids, falls, or other hazards, or other unsafe situations. As with all things in life, there is a time for everything and little kids and big water don’t mix.
But little kids and time outside, fishing, exploring, and being pretty unstructured – those do mix. Better than you might think.