Targeting Fishing With Kids In The Central East Region With Capt. Jim Ross

Any time you take a child fishing, you want it to be fun and action packed. Young kids don’t have a large attention span, and they’re not really worried about catching the fish of a lifetime, they just want to catch fish. With that in mind, you can make it easy by just going to a local pier, catwalk or beach and fishing a piece of shrimp on a light spin casting rod. A spin casting rod is the kind with the push button reels, which makes it easy for them to get the hang of casting and reeling, so they can quickly do those things on their own. That’s an accomplishment to them, and very important.

At all times when fishing with kids, you want to make sure you have a lot of patience and praise them often. That will make them feel more comfortable and want to make more effort to cast and reel in their baits. I usually add a bobber to the rig so they can see when they’re getting a bite and understand when it’s the right time to set the hook. As they get better, you can eliminate the bobber altogether, although the added weight of a bobber does make for longer casts.

You can fish for pinfish, sand perch, whiting and croakers and have just a great time. And don’t just think about saltwater. You can go to a local pond, canal or lake and bring along a bucket of live shiners, worms or crickets and have a great time catching bass and panfish. Whenever they reel in a fish, make a big deal of it, and it will really get them excited to do it again. Because kids have a short attention span, I find it’s hard to take inexperienced children out on the boat for an entire day on the water. They’ll get bored, hot and hungry. You’re better to make it a short trip, or make it into more of a fun family outing. Take the entire family to a sandbar or spoil island and while you’re there swimming and playing in the water, break out a couple of fishing rods and toss out some baits. It’s more of a casual time where the kids can break it up and fish for a while, then swim for a while, then have lunch. If you make the trip into a serious day on the water, then it likely won’t be as fun for the kids, and they may not want to do it again.

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. Angler’s For Conservation is another good local group that holds kids fishing clinics on a regular basis. You can find out more about these clinics and when they take place at their website at www.anglersforconservation.org.

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. The Florida Sport Fishing Association (FSFA) has north and south area chapters that hold monthly meetings and regular fishing tournaments with kids divisions. These meetings are a great place to meet other anglers and learn more about the sport, while the seminar speakers teach everyone how to target and catch fish in their area. Overall, fishing clubs are one of the best ways to get kids involved in fishing and improve their overall fishing knowledge.

As the children get older, if they’re interested in fishing, a lot of the high schools in my area have fishing clubs and even hold an annual tournament. If they’re really into bass fishing, the Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society has a series of tournaments for high school angers wanting to pursue a career as a pro angler. But whether you like to just fish occasionally or are really serious about fishing, kids have to start somewhere, and that should be with a parent or neighbor giving them the basic fishing instruction and helping them learn to catch their own fish. Once they learn that, you’re biggest problem is going to be keeping them from borrowing your fishing rods!

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