The best camping trips are always those first few years when you only have a tent and a few camping supplies. When the kids were little and late night campfires were just part of it. Rising with the birds singing in a new day with the first rays of sunshine evaporating the dew from the tent’s rain fly. The kids even woke early buzzing with excitement stoking the coals back to life and adding more wood to prepare the fire for breakfast. I could go on and on about the early days and I am so glad Mark asked for a camping article with a little fishing spin for this issue because it had me digging deep into the photo files and reliving those days and I can still hear my little girl laughing while we all wondered what was so funny. We never really asked her but I think she was just happy. My son was a different boy out there camping under the stars. Normally quite and reserved his demeanor did a 180 degree flip when he was outside. He and his sissy even got along great and that makes those memories that much more special because we knew it was the camping and the fishing that brought them together more than anything else.
Obviously I am biased when it comes to activities for your family. I am an avid outdoorsman and was for many years before introducing my family to the things I hold so dear. I know the outdoors has helped me through life and continues to do so and I thank my mom often for taking me fishing at the boat ramps and hunting rabbits with my bow. I know the outdoors can touch young people in nothing but a positive way and I really can’t think of anything better than the outdoors to introduce kids to even if just a few times. You never know when the fire might catch and they will appreciate you for igniting it but they may never get outdoors if they aren't introduced to it early.
There are many outdoor activities that are very good for young people but I want to share some tips on creating your own fish camp for kids and make it enjoyable for all so it’s something they will ask for again and again. Take your kids or take the neighbors kids and invite their parents along for the experience so they can start to go camping with their kids. I have had several parents ask me about getting started camping and fishing one being my brother who has two great sons who are always asking him when Uncle Kenny (that’s me) was going to take them fishing. Some people just need the jumpstart and the best option is a camping trip with a little fishing thrown in.
Of course the usual items come to mind. A sleeping bag, a tent and a cooler of food and drinks. You can get as extravagant as you like when it comes to camping but when getting young people started in camping simplicity is key. You ever see a kid that got everything they wanted for Christmas and in the end played mostly with the big boxes the toys came in. It’s the same when camping if you leave the fancy lights and tv’s at home then the kids will find so many things to do and it is so fun to watch their little minds at work as they explore the woods and trails.
The food can be simple as well. I love to cook so I always want to prepare something for the campfire but hotdogs for dinner and fruit loops for breakfast seems to go well with kids and of course some roasted marshmallows and smores in between. Making the food fun is a way to help make every waking moment around camp fun and exciting. Kids are fascinated by fire and think it’s really awesome when they can roast their own dinner over it.
Again simplicity rules the day. The fishing I do makes some, if not most, wonder if I’m insane but I have slowly progressed to where I am now and it isn’t just knowledge of fishing, which I often question myself, but it is the insane patience that die hard anglers have developed over many years of fishing. When it come to young people or even older folks that are just being introduced to fishing, it has to be action packed and fun. This is no time to show your expertise in working a jerk-bait meticulously down the bank for 3 hours before getting a bite. Your group would have left 20 minutes in and returned to the fire or to a trailhead to explore. This is time for worms and crickets under bobbers and lots of bluegills, crappies and perch. You won’t have to worry about the size either it’s just the numbers that matter. Let them have fun and when you see the smiles and hear the laughter you will see that it just doesn't matter how small the fish are.
Most young people do best with the push button spincast reels and they cast a mile so start there. While experienced panfish anglers will use 4 and even 2 pound test line that’s just too light for the kids. You should use at least 8 pound test unless you want to retie every 5 minutes when they break off on the same log or rock a dozen times. A bobber is also a must to help keep the hook off the bottom and hang-ups to a minimum
While there are several things that young people can get into these days camping and fishing has got to be at the top of the list of good things to do. If you want to introduce your kids to the outdoors remember that you can learn how together and build lasting memories doing it.