Archived Story

Kids want to be part of fishing process [UPDATED]

Published 9:15am Tuesday, April 23, 2013 Updated 11:18am Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My son can’t wait until someone on board gets a fish on. He throws down his fishing pole, dives for the landing net and waits at the boat side staring into the water waiting for the fish to come. It’s great.

It’s not that he’s not fishing or waiting for a bite, he just loves to be a part of the fishing team.

If you need a night crawler he’s on it — you better be ready to catch, unless, of course, he’s going to bait it for you.

I love watching him dance around the boat as much as I love having him along to catch a fish.

I’ve taken a lot of kids fishing over the past 18 years. I think for a long time I made my main focus just trying to get them to catch a fish — walleye, bass, sunfish — it has never mattered to me, as long as they were catching something.

I look back at all the years I had kids reel in fish. They’d catch large ones and little ones and skinny ones and fat ones, and it always struck me that it really didn’t matter that much.

What mattered most is they would want to help me hold it and touch it and put back in the lake or put in the live well. I guess I just never really understood what was happening.

And then came my son. He, like many other kids, would follow me around the house helping fix and carry and do what ever I was doing — or mom for that matter.

When I took him fishing for the first time I realized it was the same. He wanted to be a part of the process. Sure catching the fish is good and neat, but being a functioning part of the outing is better.

Kids, I have found out, love to help. After seeing my son net fish and bait hooks and take hooks out of fish and hold fish — I knew how I could include other kids that I took out.

I think there’s a balance to strike, however.

Don’t get too carried away and insist your youth do something they don’t initiate. Like potty training children, they’re ready or they’re not.

If they don’t want to hold the fish they just caught, don’t insist. If they reach for the landing net — let them. If they bump a nice walleye off your line, it’s OK, there will be others — and then teach them how to net properly.

My 4-year-old daughter is amazing. She tries to play keep-up with her older brother and she exhibits a very independent persona on the lake. She insists on baiting her hooks — minnows or worms, it doesn’t matter.

She loves to pick out her own lures and colors and she won’t let big brother or dad help take the fish off. Initially I was concerned she’d get fin-stuck by a dorsal and become timid and worried. She’s been poked a dozen times by dorsal fins. What she has learned is there are different ways to hold the fish.

I took a five-year-old out with his dad a few years ago. The boy lasted about 15 minutes. I gave him the landing net and he netted every one of our fish for the next four hours — bass and walleye.

There wasn’t a fish that came into the boat that he didn’t feel he was a part of landing. What makes fishing exciting for kids is to let them get involved as much as they can.

Continue to encourage them, as they are our or your fishing lineage.


Ross Hagemeister operates Meister Guide Service 218-495-3140.

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