Taking the kids fishing….
By Marty Price
“Can we go Dad? Can we go Dad? Dad, can we go?”Grrrrr! Fine I will take you for a fish, just shut up!
Now, don’t get me wrong, some parents highlight of the month is to take their children for a fish and they have this operation down to a fine art. Then there is the likes of me as a dad, or I should say what it was like for me before retaining some knowledge to make the experience a joyful one. I will be honest, I thought it an inconvenience and something I approached completely the wrong way. Having now got the “funded mentals” under my belt and my share of mistakes out of the way, I reckon I can pass on some of my advice and help keep you with a full head of hair (which sadly came too late for me).
Preparing for the trip together.
Like anything in life with children, they want to have their little mitts in everything that mum or dad are preparing for them. Obviously preparing fishing gear is nothing like making the icing for the old girl’s chocolate cake; there is a lot more little nasties to contend with, not least a variety of sharp hooks. I found myself paranoid that they were going to somehow hurt themselves when helping me out with the gear, until one day I thought to myself, you know what, it is going to happen with or without helping me pack that gear, at least this way I can teach them the dangers along the way. At this time I like to talk to the kids about where we are going and what we might encounter, making it as exciting sounding as possible. I feel it important that the kids have their own rod and reel, maybe even their own little tackle box that you can stock with essentials. Thankfully, there is some great products in our stores at non-ridiculous prices that are of decent quality to fill the stocking.
What fishing gear do I supply them?
Your child needs to be able to handle the size rod and reel you give them. With the reel I will always select a spinning reel (egg beater). Now I won’t go a 1000 size spin reel, as I find they chew through the line too quickly with snags and so on, even though it is light and small. I tend to go the 2500 size reel or thereabouts, which is still small enough to easily handle but holds a good amount of line also. The spin reel is easy for them to learn casting with and in our tropical areas is the closest thing to an all-rounder.
As far as the rod goes, I find my children prefer to use a rod with a bit of strength about it, so they have 12 to 20lb rods which they use whether we are chasing whiting of the beach or macks in the boat. When they tried to cast with whippy “made for kids” rods their accuracy and distance was vastly limited, so keep that in mind. All other tackle such as hooks and sinkers etc. will depend on your main fishing environment. Don’t go to light on the line though, this will just create extra work for you. Also, if buying cheap “kids” combos, be aware that the line pre-spooled on them is often not-pre stretched and holds that memory of the spool horrendously. Re-spooling with some quality and but inexpensive mono like Platypus Pre-test will save you a lot of headaches. Coloured line like pink or green will also help with keeping track of casts.
Leave the bait at home
Nothing does your head in more than the kids continually winding the bait in and limiting their chances of actually hooking up. Easy way to fix this is to set them up with a weedless soft plastic. Let them go for broke! They can cast all day and wear themselves out. They wont snag up or hook their sister in the ear, as the lure it is rigged weedless (meaning the hook is hidden in the body of the plastic) and they have a real shot of nailing a fish. By doing this they are also becoming better little fisher people with all the practice they are getting casting. Letting them fish without you correcting and disciplining them continuously will allow them a feeling of satisfaction. Most kids when they play in the bath might have ducks or a water pistol, my little squidlets have soft plastics. The bath is loaded with shads, squid imitations and crazy looking claw fish that gives mum a fit every time, but they are cheap and the kids get to see how they move in the water which they really notice. Once your child learns a bit of patience, introduce bait into the equation, using bait will normally see the kids fighting more fish.
When choosing your location, the most important thing is a safety, followed by somewhere which actually has a few fish to keep them entertained. Rock walls and bridge fishing for me are no go areas, especially in the early stages. In Townsville, for instance, I find the Lakes to be a great place to take the kids, for a few reasons. Some of those being that there is no traffic, no steep areas to fall from height and the joint has loads of fish, which we don’t keep due to a marine problem called “Blue/Green Algae”, so they also get to learn catch and release of all size and breeds of fish. A bit of guidance will need to be exercised when going land based. When the little darlings are tired or need a drink, they will drop their rod and reel wherever they are when this idea comes into their head. Usually they are in sand or the only mud pile within koo-ie. Teaching them to look after their equipment will help in every facet of their life. Note: you teaching them this will not sink in for first five or six years… maybe more.
Oh lord, they’re getting in my boat
You will find when the kids see dad in the boat, they see that as their open invitation to join you. You know they want in and will persist until they are onboard. Depending on your style fo boat, there is normally a wonderland of gadgets for them to play with from sounder buttons to the switch on your bilge (so that it can dry run until you notice it). I become “Mr Strict Parent” when I have them in my boat and I enforce the do’s and don’ts. A boat has too many dangers to take a “laxy dazy” approach. When the boat is on the trailer sitting on its concrete pad at home is when most accidents happen. As soon as the kids are in, they will walk straight to the boat’s gunnels and walk around the very edge, like a dare to themselves to stay aboard. My young fella used to use to use my transducer as a step to get inside – grrrrrr.
My point is now, after a small number of trips and countless times of them sitting in the boat with me at home, they are learning and becoming almost bearable to take for a fish in the tub. Fisherpersons are happy to go for a fish with bare comforts. When I take my two they are in tow with a couple of pillows and their blanket. They take a small bag with their favourite toy and a colouring book with pencils. When they do get a tad bored and you are not ready to hit the road, these little accessories will make a big difference.
If you need to be told about shade, sunscreen, drinking plenty of water and the wearing of a life jacket, maybe stick to tournament Lego building. What I will say about life jackets is get them the most comfortable one possible. If it itches or is bulky all they are going to do is harass you about needing to take it off.
Mum and Dad are proud
My little girl Billie is now nine and over the years I have watched her improve her skills and extend on the basics that I taught her. To sit back and watch her bait up and cast her line, land a good fish and handle it herself gives me a great deal of satisfaction. When a fish comes to the boat and she yells, “Dad! It’s a fathead,” or “Barra daddy,” I just get such a rush that she is interested enough to know the different species. When you sit and fish with your children for long periods of time you learn a lot more about the little things in their life. I know the names of all their teachers, that lad that is the class clown, and why I need to take Billie to a Tom Petty concert rather than a One Direction concert – turns out she loves what Dad listens too. Fishing has given me such a strong bond with my family, which has given us good stead for the future, something which I will continue to cherish.
As a fishing parent you are essentially their guide as you are in most of their growing life. But never forget that fishing with your kids is very much a two way street; as much as keeping the kids happy is important, you still have to enjoy the experience as well. I think if you take on board a few things with this article you will stumble across that two way street. Learn to laugh, don’t sweat the little stuff, capture that smile with your camera, as you will use it in their wedding one day, and most of all, remember a hug, pat on the back or “I’m proud of ya bud” goes along way. You would be surprised at what sort of foundation you can make sitting on an aluminium bench seat with an old 25 Johno at your back… Lasts a life time, I reckon!