Exposing Children To Fishing In The Southwest Region With Capt. Ron Hueston

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Captain Ron HuestonThe first thing you want to remember when it comes to fishing with kids is that it has to be fun for them, so the more action, the better. They really don’t care what they catch—everything is a good fish to them. You want to make it exciting, while at the same time praising them a lot as they develop their fishing skills. If you reinforce the little nuances of the fishing experience, then they’ll want to go all the time.

fish with a lot of kids on my boat, and try to break the day up into little segments so they don’t get bored or distracted. I’ll start by having them help me catch bait, which is great if you’re catching pinfish because it’s action packed and has instant rewards. Then we’ll use the baits we catch to try to catch other fish for a while, and then I’ll take a break and go to the sandbar and let them swim or snorkel around the mangroves and then have some lunch. What that does is teach them about the environment while at the same time exposing them to the techniques required to catch fish.

If you don’t know a lot about fishing, you can always take a child to one of the Florida Fishing and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Saltwater Kid’s Fishing Clinics. These free clinics held around the state teach basic fishing skills like knot tying, casting and fish identification. You can find out more about the FWC’s Saltwater Kid’s Fishing Clinics at their website www.myfwc.com. They also offer Boating Safety, Youth Hunting clinics and even Youth Summer Camps, all centered around conservation and recreation in Florida.

In my region there’s a handful of fishing clubs, and all of the clubs offer some type of kid’s day experience to go along with the camaraderie and seminars that take place during their monthly meetings. Some of the better ones are the Naples Fishing Club and The Marco Island Fishing Club, and then the Flatsmaster’s Tournament Series holds a couple of kid-oriented events every year.

If you’ve got some basic fishing knowledge and want to do something simple to expose a child to fishing, then the beach is one of the best places to go. Pick a beach from Marco island to Boca Grande, grab a light spinning, baitcasting or spincasting rod and a handful of lures or some live or dead shrimp and you can easily get into fish. Some of the better lures are soft plastic 3-5 inch jerkbaits or shad tailed grubs in dark colors. Lipless plugs, spoons or mullet shaped plugs are good also, because you simply cast them out and reel them in. You don’t have to give them a lot of action.

A live shrimp pinned on the hook and cast out under a cork will give them something to watch and allow them to know when they are getting a bite. Simply set the hook when the bobber goes under. Or you can use pieces of shrimp on a slip sinker rig and cast that out and wait for a fish to bend the rod. If you’re good at throwing a castnet, bring one along with a bucket, cast up some pilchards, put a hook in one and toss it back into the bait school. Everything comes to the bait schools to eat.

There’s always different fish migrating up and down the coast throughout the year, so off the beach you can catch snook, ladyfish, jack crevalle, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, drum, redfish, flounder and a bunch of other species. You never really know what you’re going to catch until you make a cast. Make sure you show them how to cast, and then let them work on their casting skills with minimal coaching and lots of praise.

We also have some great piers in my area—The Naples Pier, Ft. Myers Pier and Boca Grande Pier are all productive areas for fishing. While on the piers, there will be other anglers catching fish, which encourages the kids to be ready for the next bite. There’s always a lot of snapper, grunts, pinfish and spots around the pilings, so a small piece of shrimp will get them a lot of action.

Remember, when it comes to taking kids fishing, you want to make it simple, action packed and full of praise. If they have a good first fishing experience, they’ll want to do it again, and the more they go, the more they can work on improving their casting and fishing skills and start to target the larger trophy fish that roam our waters.

Captain’s Tip of the Week #12 Kids - 2015
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