Getting Kids to Unplug and Enjoy Fishing and the Outdoors

Last updated on November 22nd, 2021

father teaching son to fish

It is everywhere you look today – screens. Walking through the store I can count at least ten people staring into their phones and not paying attention to what they are doing. This new era of technology is having a big impact on children and not always in a good way.

Consider how much time you spent in front of the TV and compare that to today’s average and I bet it is more than doubled. There is so much out there that doesn’t need a battery or cell service that kids can (and should) be enjoying.

When I was a child, my life orbited around the outdoors and all that it had to offer. From hunting to camping and my favorite, fishing. These are liberties that I have enjoyed my entire 31 years on God’s earth and I intend to continue.

When I met my girlfriend Tara, I was surprised to see that she had spent hardly any time fishing in her life. We live in Montana where fishing is a huge part of our lives, or at least I thought it was. Thankfully, she came around to enjoy fishing as I do but it made me wonder, could recreational fishing be dying out?

With today’s world being about online activity and having the ability to make a call halfway around the world in a single instance from anywhere, it is easy to see how a more primitive art such as fishing and the outdoors, in general, could be fading.

Fishing was such an instrumental aspect of my life and it taught me patience, responsibility and persistence, as well as a respect for nature and the environment. It taught me to understand the world around me in a different way than others saw it and it was just plain important.

Fishing Is for Time With Family

Fishing is an important aspect of exploration and learning but it is also a good way to strengthen bonds with family and friends. Taking your child fishing is a memory that he or she will not lose, I promise you. The subtle lessons of helping your child tie a knot without tying it for him and the bonds that will be created are essential for his upbringing.

Even if they do not fish the entire time, do not be discouraged. Let them play and simply have fun. Forcing them to stand there and fish will not make them like it (a lesson my grandfather could have learned). Instead, let them come out to fish when they want to.

Even if they are not fishing, they are outside and disconnected from today’s electronic world. It will amaze you how fast social media will fade from their mind when you get them outside and having fun.

A Couple Tactics I Have Used

Consider that children get bored fast, and if the fish are not biting, then they are going to lose interest. Try helping them fish in a way that is sure to catch fish, even if it is fish that you may not want to catch. The beautiful thing about a child is that they do not care what they catch, they just want to have fun doing it (something that maybe we can all learn?).

Try a children’s pond that is set aside for children-only fishing. These little ponds are stocked to the gills (pun intended) for children to catch fish all day long. This is a great way to get them excited and encourage a love for fishing that you have yourself.

Make live bait “cool” by explaining what the bait is and how to fish with it. Some kids hate attaching live bait and others absolutely love it. Even as an adult, I love it and my girlfriend hates it. It is a difference in upbringing that can determine the likes and dislikes that a child may have, so teach them young.

What Gear Should My Child Use?

That is a great question and the answer is anything durable. If a Bradley Tank could be made into a fishing pole then buy it for your kids. There has never been a more abusive relationship as a child and his/her fishing pole.

Ugly Stick makes a good product that many parents get for their kids. They are durable and relatively cheap for the consumer. I also recommend starting with a Zebco reel and moving up to a larger open bail spinning reel once they get the hang of things.

One thing to note here is that the kids do not need expensive gear for fishing. I have friends that buy their kids’ expensive rods and they get very upset when they are damaged. Get something on a budget and as they get better, you can upgrade them to something nicer.

Simple hooks and tackle are the best but one piece of advice I will give you is to crimp barbs on all of their hooks. I have personally had to remove a barbed hook from my son’s arm and it was traumatic for all parties involved. Barbless is a good way to go but if you can’t find any, use some pliers to remove the barb.

Where and When to Go Fishing With Kids

father and son fishing on lake

I can tell you that growing up in the coastal Washington area, we had more moving water than still water and I remember fishing the rapid rivers a bit daunting. The lesson I took from that is that kids probably do better in calm settings to start with.

Pick a nice lake or pond nearby that is full of trout or bass and try some nightcrawlers or other live bait. Or even let them try out a crankbait. A Texas Rig is a great setup for kids because it resists snagging.

When to take a kid fishing is simple really – when it’s relatively nice out. Kids do not like to be drenched with rainwater,  miserable on the bank of a river like you and I do. Baby steps into fishing these conditions are best for kids.

I don’t care if you are 5 or 50, boat fishing is just fun. Kids love to help you steer the boat and learning to fish from a boat offers the chance to teach safety lessons such as wearing life jackets and other safety measures. Keep in mind that children like to move and boats are only so big; you will be bumping into each other.

Boating is a great chance to teach them about fishing tactics that they do not use onshore such as trolling. Just try to make everything fun for them whatever you do.

Fishing Lets Us Reconnect With Ourselves and Nature

Fishing is a very important activity for today’s world and, in my opinion, people that enjoy this art are generally happier. I have quite a bit of stress in my life and I have been taught to use fishing as a way to relax, unwind and decompress the day.

In today’s world, kids like the online environment. They have their games and social media but it is important for them to tap into their natural inclinations. The need for the outdoor is engrained in their DNA whereas the internet is not.

I wrote this article for you, the parent. I hope that this article will help you unplug your child and get him or her fishing and enjoying the great outdoors. Teach them to love it and one day see their kids love it too. Everyone loves fishing, some just haven’t tapped into it yet.

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