Hook Your Kids on Fishing

Learn why fishing with your family, specifically your children, can create memories and bonds that last a lifetime.

There are few things more rewarding than watching your children and grandchildren grow up enjoying the same things you do. It creates a bond that nothing can unglue. 

Recently, I received a text message from my 16-year-old grandson, Liam. He had taken a young friend out on his very first ice fishing expedition. They had driven several kilometres down the lake on one of the ice roads and pulled all their gear, by hand, through more than a kilometre of knee-deep snow. His friend had just landed his first-ever fish—a fat, sassy yellow perch—and the boys were grinning from ear to ear in the photo they sent me.

It was priceless and, I have to admit, personally satisfying. Here is how you can reap the same rewards by introducing your kids to fishing.

Be Careful With The Advice

kids fishing

Hold back on the unnecessary fishing advice. Some basic instruction is fine and typically required, but trust me on this one, they're much smarter than we think. 

I've told this story many times before, but when Liam was still in diapers he would stand bowlegged on my lap, wrap his hands around the wheel and help me steer the boat as we cruised down Lake of the Woods. And through his eagerness to "help" at such a young age, this instilled a sense of pride and accomplishment when he was finally able to take the wheel, although I did bite my lip and keep my mouth shut.

Well, most of the time, anyway.

Nothing Is Too Hard

For some strange reason that I've never fully understood, most young anglers are enthralled and captivated with baitcasting rods and reels. It is ironic, too, because these very same level wind outfits are the ones that cause most adult anglers to pull out their hair in frustration, as they fumble with thumbing the spool properly to prevent bird's nests, backlashes and professional overruns. But casting a bait caster is so much more fun. It is like fly fishing, where just the act of waving the wand is enjoyment enough.

So, what do most of us do when our young angler gleefully reaches for a bait caster? We tell him or her that it is too difficult and that they should use a spinning rod or spin-cast outfit instead.  So resist the urge to tell your budding angler that anything is too difficult.

If they want to put their foot on the electric trolling motor pedal and position the boat, show them how to do it and then back off. If they want to net every fish that you hook, regardless of its size, why in the world would you stop them from doing it? And if they want to weigh and measure it in the livewell, don't tell them not to; instead, do it with them.

HANDS-ON Is The Key

Nothing beats a hands-on learning experience. Indeed, I recently watched a family of Inuit hunters on television clean a seal they had harvested. As the adults skilfully used the traditional crescent-shaped ulu knives, the youngsters—many of whom appeared to be extremely young - eagerly joined in and helped out. What was stunning was how few words of instruction the adults offered, but how many joyful outbursts pierced the arctic air.

Even more to the point, today's young anglers are far more proficient at setting up and using the ultra-modern sonar units and GPS chart plotters than we older, self-anointed experts. The kids have grown up with devices in their hands and they're not the least bit afraid to hit buttons and change settings to fine-tune the instruments.

Routinely these days, when Liam and I are fishing and one of us catches a nice walleye, bass or lake trout, he'll pull out his phone and check to see if we caught it during one of the solunar high or low fishing periods.

Compare that to throwing out a line with a hook and a worm on the end and telling your young fishing partner to sit still and watch the bobber floating on the surface.

Need I say any more—it is boring!

What Isn't Boring

smiles fishing

What isn't boring, however, is taking off your clothes and jumping off the side of the boat when the weather is scorching hot and the water is oh, so warm, fresh and inviting. Liam still talks about the first time we did that, in the middle of the lake.

I can't tell you the number of shore lunches we've enjoyed, too, where we have pulled the boat up onto the shore of an island, collected driftwood, gathered dry moss and started a fire. Sometimes we enjoyed the fresh fish we caught earlier in the day, but just as often we opened the cooler, extracted a package of hot dogs, strung them onto sticks and cooked them to blacken crispiness on the crackling campfire.

Nothing so horrible-looking tastes so good: smothered with mustard, ketchup, relish and pickles, accompanied with at least three different kinds of potato chips, and washed down with soda.

The Fish Look After Themselves

nice walleye

I will leave you with one parting thought. The truth of the matter has always been that fishing is about the experience, about sharing Ontario's amazing outdoors with family and friends. I know it sounds trite, but do these things and you'll discover, as I did a long time ago, that the fish will blessedly look after themselves. And you will know it when you feel your cell phone vibrate in your pocket one day, and see a message from your son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter with an image of a smile that stretches from ear to ear.

Bonus Tips

  • Show your budding young angler how to do something properly, outfit them and yourself with protective sunglasses, and then leave them to their own ingenuity.
  • Respect your young angler's preference. You may prefer tough-to-catch lake trout or muskies, but if your young star favours yellow perch, bluegills or sunfish, then, go for it. Kids like constant action.
  • Catching minnows, leeches, crayfish and night crawlers are as much fun as catching fish. So, don't buy your bait at the tackle store, catch it yourself
  • You can't bring too many ice-cold drinks and snacks. As for the diet—it can wait until tomorrow.
  • Don't forget sunscreen, a wide-brim hat, and a good camera.
About Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer is the fishing editor of Outdoor Canada magazine and field editor of In-Fisherman magazine. He is the co-host of the Real Fishing Radio Show and host of Fish Talk With The Doc.

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