Our 2 ½-year-old grandson’s first fishing trip went perfectly, Everett caught fish and was smiling and jabbering throughout the entire hour-long adventure. Two grandparents and his father, Jerrod, all participated and had as much fun as the child.
Here’s the recipe we followed.
Enthusiastic anglers, young and old - The kid should be pumped up and anticipating the big event for days. A little backyard practice with fishing gear helps. Arranging for two adults to be on the child’s first trip is nice. One can concentrate on actual fishing and the other can be used to keep small anglers occupied.
Fishing rod – A telescopic graphite “cane pole” works great. A simple cartoon, push-button reel/short rod combo is easily handled by young hands. Those with Shakespeare reels seem to be the most durable. If the child is large enough, get a fishing outfit with a rod about 5-feet long.
Fishing gear – Think small, as in hooks the size of small paper clips, clip-on weights the size of BBs and pinky-sized foam floats. Smaller worms, like those dug from a garden or red wigglers from a bait shop, are the perfect size and less mess than nightcrawlers.
Other goodies – Old towel for slimy, grimy hands, sunscreen, hat, insect repellant, drinks and snacks. Bring a five-gallon bucket, both to haul gear and to help add greater enjoyment to the adventure. You’ll see…
Productive fishing spot – A pond or small lake is best. Many subdivisions have ponds that could work, or there are hundreds of privately-owned ponds and community lakes enrolled the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Fishing Impoundments Stream Habitats (FISH) program. You can find an atlas of locations nearest you at license vendors or on ksoutdoors.com. Look for a secluded cove with easy access to the water. You may want to scout an area before you go.
Putting it all together
Plan the trip for a comfortable time of the day, preferably morning or evening. Have as much of the gear prepared ahead of time as possible.
Explain it all to the child as you get ready. Get them involved in picking out the right worm. Unless they’ve been taught something is “yucky,” most will gladly help.
Thread the hook through the length of the worm, like putting a sock over a foot and ankle. Try not to leave much worm hanging free. Set the float around two to three feet above the hook. Clamp a tiny split-shot a few inches above the hook too.
Cast the bait near some kind of structure, like aquatic weeds, rocks or logs in the water, where fish may be hiding. That will often be very near shore.
Let the child decide if they want to just sit and watch the float or do other things. The goal is for them to have fun. Many kids will head right back to the container of worms. Someone else can watch the line.
Holler for the kid’s attention when the float starts to dance and set the hook if it’s time. You may need to hold the rod while the child reels in the fish. Let them take their time and explain what’s on the end of the line. Many kids are so fixated in watching the bobber come towards them they don’t know there’s also a fish.
Get the fish under control when it comes ashore so there are no problems from flopping with sharp fins. The soft tail is a great place for a child to touch. Ask them if they can find the fish’s eyes and to point out any colors.
Put about eight inches of pond water in the bucket, add the fish, and it’s instant entertainment for the child. Some will just look in the bucket. Others will want to have their hands and arms in the water, chasing the fish like a young raccoon.
You can either quit fishing until the child shows interest in it or cast the line out and call the child over when it’s time to reel in the next fish.
The more the child is involved, the more fun they have. Ask them to bring a worm when the hook needs baited. If the bucket’s getting crowded, have them help pick the fish to be released. Let them get wet from splashed water and dirty from digging out worms.
Repeat all of the above until either the child or adults get bored, then pick up and leave for snacks or a favored meal. It’s almost a sure-thing the child will be even more anxious to go the next time they’re asked.
Everett’s big day
Everett’s trip was to his aunt’s subdivision pond. It had a small dock covered in shade, a chair and plenty of places to sit. I headed down ten minutes before the others to get the gear ready. Everett immediately reached for a worm the size of a match stick when I opened the container. Surprised, he dropped it when it started wiggling. He watched me put in on the small hook.
The float and baited hook landed within inches of a pair of fence posts in the shallows. A fish took the bait before I engaged the reel. Things took a bit as Jerrod worked with Everett to turn the reel’s handle. He wasn’t sure what was happening but got excited when the bluegill was splashing on the surface near his feet. I held the fish, sharp dorsal fin flattened, and Everett quickly touched the soft tail. He pointed to parts of the fish at his dad’s request.
When I dropped the fish into eight inches of water in the bucket it splashed water all over. Everett loved that, as he did watching the fish swim. He reached down and touched the fish two or three times. We soon had another bluegill on the line and it was time to crank it in.
And so it went, with progress gradually being made. Kathy sat with a worm on her open palm. After watching it a while she got Everett to touch it, then pick it up. From then on he dug through the container and brought me bait as needed. He had his hands all over the inside of the bucket of fish.
I moved the casts around, targeting pockets of shade beneath trees or rocky areas. Eventually we caught a six-inch bass that was slender and small enough for Jerrod to show Everett how to hold it. He carried it to the bucket and giggled when it splashed around.
Hopefully we’ll get to go again in a week or so. Everett, I know, is already excited to go.