Taking Kids Fishing in the Central West Region with Capt. Geoff Page

There’s just a bunch of great areas to expose kids to fishing in my region, and the thing you want to keep in mind it to keep things simple. Kids don’t need to catch big fish the first time they go fishing. They understand that it takes time and experience to catch fish. But they do like to catch a lot of fish, which helps hold their interest.

Any time I have kids in the boat, I try to make it fun for them and not to pressure them. I’ll make up games, like who can cast the farthest or tie the best knot, and give them a prize like a lure or hat as a reward. All this helps them learn more about fishing.

That all being said, to keep things fun, we usually fish for the smaller stuff like snapper, seatrout, pinfish, sheepshead and grunts, using live shrimp because they get a lot of bites and get to cast a lot and reel in a lot of fish. When they tire of it, I immediately move on to something else, whether that’s moving to a new location, or even putting the rods away and going swimming for a little while. The main thing for kids is that it has to be fun.

In my area, if you don’t have a boat there are still a lot of places you can go, like the Venice Fishing Pier, which has a kids camp every summer that the kids just love. To the north, there’s two piers on Emory Island that are super kid friendly. There’s also the Skyway Pier across Tampa Bay.

You can also take them to beach and fish right from the beach for snook, pompano, whiting, flounder and croakers. Just a simple piece of shrimp or sandflea on a #4 hook with a split shot or a small weight is all you need. Cast it out and let it sit, and the fish will find it by the smell.

If the kids are older, then maybe you want to expose them to wade fishing. There’s a couple of very productive parks on Longboat Key and a couple on City Island that have great wade fishing for trout, snook and redfish. It’s very stable bottom and not much current, and kids can fish with shrimp under a popping cork or fish soft plastic jerkbaits and do very well on some larger fish.

An easy way to expose kids to fishing is to take a small bucket to a tackle shop and buy a dozen live shiners and take them over to a local lake or pond. Rig up a 2/0 Khale hook and put a bobber about two feet above the hook. Hook the shiner through the lips and toss it out and let the shiner do the work. When a bass finds the shiner the bobber will start moving as the shiner gets excited. When the bobber goes under, set the hook and reel in the fish.

During the Annual July 4th Offshore Powerboat Races there’s the Take A Kid Fishing Program that Capt. Johnny Walker runs that takes a tons of kids out on the water. The state of Florida also has several programs that expose children to fishing and there’s also some good summer camps in my region that offer fishing.

The key for taking kids fishing is to make it fun and exciting and to mix it up so that they don’t get bored and feel like they’ve learned something. After a while, they’ll figure out the knots and techniques and want to do it on their own, and pretty soon, they’re asking you to take them fishing.   

Captain Tips