Dear Ken: I have an eight year old son “Bobby” and a ten year old daughter “Susie.” I’ve been trying to get Bobby and Susie interested in going fishing with me for the last few years and I seem to have hit a wall in their interest.
Three years ago I bought them both some really nice spinning gear outfits. They’re ulltrasensitive and have extremely lightweight TR97 graphite rod blanks. They have stainless steel guide frames with titanium inserts, as well as a soft-touch comfort grip for all-day casting comfort…
I’m at my wits end in how to get them interested in going out fishing. I’d like to have them as fishing buddies as I get older and spend more time out chasing any brutes that swim, but I’m out of ideas on how to get them to want to eagerly come along on these Hawg Hunts. You got any suggestions for me?
The Hawg Hunter
Dear BM Bill: Well, about three sentences into your three paragraph long technical specs on fishing gear, lures and your boat, I was awakened by my forehead slamming into my keyboard in some bizarre narcoleptic reaction to what I was reading. After I wiped up all the blood, sealed the cut shut with some Super Glue and sucked down 24 ounces of black coffee, I was able to finish reading your letter.
I hope you don’t mind that I cut out most of those three paragraphs so my dear readers don’t suffer the same fate as I.
That being said, if this is the way you approach fishing with your kids and this is what you talk about while out with them, no wonder they cringe at the thought of going with you. I wouldn’t go with you if this is what I had to look forward to. You couldn’t be doing a better job of sucking all the fun out of fishing if you tried.
Kids like to play, get dirty, run around, play with bait, don’t care about fish size and basically go out and have fun. You, Bill, have turned into the Black Hole of Fishing Fun.
First and foremost you have to get your kids interested in fishing and catching fish. Take all that equipment that you so painfully described in excruciating detail and pack it all up and put it in storage in a corner of your garage somewhere.
Now go buy three cheap Zebco spincast combos paired with some Model 33 reels. You need three of them because even you are going to fish with one Bill, so deal with it, accept it and move on. While you’re out shopping pick up a few packages of Size 10 Snelled Hooks, some bobbers, a package of small snap swivels and some small split shot. Below is a picture in case you’ve forgotten what these things look like.
The first time your kids stand there waving their rods around in the air, you’ll come to appreciate this set up. It’s much quicker to cut off the snell after they’ve wrapped it around their pole a few times. Cut it off, undo the snap swivel, put on another snelled hook and you’re ready to go back to fishing. One small split shot a foot above the hook and a bobber another foot or two higher and you’re ready for panfish action.
That’s right, bluegills, green sunfish, maybe some crappie and anything else willing to hit. Kids don’t care about bass, brutes, hawgs or whatever you want to call them. They just want to feel something tugging on the end of their line.
Don’t forget bait. You can have some fun and let the kids get all dirty by letting them go dig up night crawlers by themselves, it’s part of the fishing process. You definitely want to pick up a couple of containers of wax worms or maggots. Maggots are far superior to anything for panfish. If you go with the night crawlers, you’re only going to be using about a half inch of one at a time. Once they get over the gross out factor, kids get a big kick out of cutting them up to more fish bite sized pieces.
Find a pond in a park, forest preserve or subdivision and make sure it has plenty of space for the kids to run around. They have an attention span shorter than they are and chances are they’ll fish for ten minutes and run around for ten minutes. It’s just what they do so let them do it.
Like I said, maggots are the best and you want to pile 4 or 5 of them on a hook. For shits and grins, keep a few under your tongue and when you go to bait a hook, make sure the kids see where you’re getting them from. The dry heaving doesn’t last long, so don’t worry about the kids, they’ll be fine.
When you do catch fish, which you will if you do what I say, every fish is a big fish to them. If it hangs over each side of their little hand, then to them it will be a Monster Fish and you should tell them that. Let them touch the fishes eyeball, rub their scales and even kiss them before putting them back. The fish will be just fine.
After an hour, call it quits. Chances are they’re already getting bored and they’ll only start whining if you insist on keeping them there cause the bite is hot. Now it’s time to go do the best thing you can do on a fishing trip, stuff them full of any kind of high fat content food they want.
That’s right, hot dogs with everything, cheese burgers, large fries, large cheese fries, chocolate shakes, chocolate cake shakes and anything else that might sound disgustingly good. When you’re all done stuffing yourselves you can all lean back in your chairs, patting your bellies and tell yourselves this was one heluva good day of fishing.
And you’d be right.
As the years go on and the kids are still interested, you can pull that other stuff out of storage and put it to use. Don’t be surprised though 15 years from now when your kids tell you to get out the old Zebcos so you can go do some panfishing at the pond. It will have nothing to do with the fishing at that point and everything to do with what greasy spoon you’ll be hitting when you’re done, so make sure you have that lined up ahead of time.
Sitting around a bar, drinking beer and doling out advice as long as it somehow relates to fishing, hunting or the great outdoors. Otherwise, I’m not all that interested.