Encourage Children to Bond with Nature Through Fishing
Do you remember the first time you went fishing?
It was a few weeks before school started, and my little brother was determined to teach me. At first, it was boring. The way the worm wiggled in my hand was gross. I also felt guilty when I baited the hook with the little helpless creature. When casting the line, I followed my brother’s instructions, a rare occasion. We stood at the edge of that smelly lake for hours, devoured by bugs, until I caught my first fish.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. – Maimonides.
When children catch their first fish, a sense of accomplishment washes over their faces. Whether on a boat, off a pier or in a park, they feel like masters of the universe. From the look in their eyes to the slight angling of their bodies, you witness the moment they have learned one of life’s most valuable lessons: patience and perseverance can yield valuable rewards.
Having a fishing rod in your hand is merely an excuse to explore out-of-sight depths and reveal mysteries that previously only existed in dreams. – Fennel Hudson.
What are the benefits of teaching children how to fish?
There are many benefits to teaching children how to fish, such as problem-solving and cognitive skills. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to bond with nature, develop self-confidence, build family bonds and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, you may be asking yourself when should I introduce my children to fishing, what should I bring and how do I make fishing fun?
Check out these 11 simple tips to get your children hooked on fishing:
- Get familiar with fishing regulations. Anglers 16 and under do not require a fishing license. Before you make any plans, review the fishing guide on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website. There’s also a page called Fishing with Kids in Maryland that includes helpful tips, a youth angler’s log and a certificate for the first catch.
- Purchase children’s fishing gear. Take your little ones on a shopping trip to build excitement. Sure, you can let them use your old rod. However, they will be much more invested if they pick their own. One of the dads at Fatherly.com recommends purchasing a children’s starter rod and closed-face reel featuring their favorite characters, colors and designs. Other cool accessories are the kid’s tackle box, fishing gloves, snap-on bobbers and landing net.
- Read books or watch videos. Go to the library and check out popular children’s fishing books such as Edison’s Tackle Box, Worms are a Yummy Snack, Let’s Go Fishing and Grandpa’s Lessons on Fishing and Life. Expose your children to the fishing videos for kids on YouTube, where they can view first-hand experiences.
- Learn how to reel them. If it has been a long time or you have never fished with children, you may want to take a class. Many local recreation and parks departments offer classes.
- Pick the perfect location. The DNR lists the fishing hotspots in every region of the state on its website. Also, ask your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers where the fish are biting. However, the perfect location for your family depends on various factors, such as transportation. Contact your local recreation and parks for local fishing lakes. In Baltimore, the Patterson Park Boat Lake is stocked with Largemouth bass and Bluegill.
- Check the weather forecast. Fishing in the rain is no fun for beginners. Fishing enthusiasts recommend selecting a cloudy day because the fish are more actively searching for food when there’s a slight overcast. Another benefit to fishing on a cloudy day is that the fish are less likely to see your lure. If you pick a sunny day, make sure you go early.
- Pack snacks. It’s always a good idea to pack lunch or snacks. Besides, you never know how long it will take to catch fish.
- Buy bait. There are many opinions about using live bait versus lures when fishing with children. It depends on how often you plan to fish, budget and preference. Live bait is less expensive than lures, but both will catch fish. I bring both: jigs, minnows, chicken livers and worms. I know anglers who use shrimp.
- Go to a rodeo. Yes, there are rodeos for fish too. The DNR’s Fishing and Boat Services Division works with local organizations to host Youth Fishing Rodeos, a great way to introduce children to fishing. These events are held from March until October at various locations across the state for children ages 3-15.
- Do a derby. A Youth Fishing Derby is also a great way to introduce children ages 4-13 to fishing. A fishing derby is a group-fishing event designed to teach children the rules and regulations. The organizers usually give the participants awards by age group. Check out the Chesapeake Bay Fishing Calendar for information about youth fishing derbies or other special events.
- Be patient. Here I am referring to your children, not the fish. On the lake with my brother, he listened as I complained about the worms, smells, bugs, etc. But he never said a word. He knew it would be worth it when I caught my first fish.
The act of fishing – for fish, dreams, or whatever magic is available – is enough. It transports us to a special world, and a state of mind, where we are free. – Fennel Hudson.
It was like magic when I felt a tug on my line and reeled in a Largemouth bass. Of course, I will never admit it to him, but I learned so much from my brother on the lake that day. If you are looking for something special to do with your children before summer ends, take them fishing. Check out the Maryland Families Engage events page for statewide fishing events. If fishing is not an option for your family, here are eight Ways for Families to Engage Children in Nature.
Share your fishing photos, videos or other outdoor adventures with @MDEngageEarly using the Hashtag #SeekOutdoorAdventures.