Getting Kids Hooked on the Outdoors
In today’s world the outdoors and fishing can take a back seat to so many other activities. To get kids hooked on the outdoors, you almost have to drag them from the TV or video games to get them to go. Once you have them out there and the fish start biting all those other activities they thought they could never do without fade into oblivion, until the fishing is over. Getting kids interested in fishing might take a few trips to seal the deal, but after a few fish caught, a raccoon or two and maybe a mink running down the shoreline, they are hooked. Here are a few things to keep in mind when taking a kid fishing and getting them hooked on the outdoors.
It is important to stay attentive to your surroundings when fishing with kids. There is a safety factor in this, but you should also be aware of what is going on around you so you might keep the excitement rolling even when the fishing is slow this alone can get kids hooked on the outdoors. Spotting an eagle or osprey soaring overhead can give just the right stimulation a kid needs when the fish aren’t biting, especially if they see it snatch a fish from the surface and fly up to its nest. My nephews had a raccoon come up to them on the lake bank. They sat motionless as it checked under rocks for crayfish right in front of them. The raccoon sighting would have made the trip in itself, but we finally found some fish for them to catch.
ANY FISH WILL DO
When kids are just starting out fishing any fish will do. I had to keep this in mind as I was searching for bigger fish only to realize when they caught a 3-inch bluegill they were as excited as could be. Bigger fish is a bonus, but small fish is all you need for a kid to have fun fishing. If you know of a pond or stream with little fish don’t hesitate to make that your destination. Small fish are much better than no fish when it comes to hooking kids on the outdoors.
ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS
If you’ve ever taken a kid fishing you know firsthand the questions will fly. Some logical and coherent and others from left field that takes much prodding to finally realize what they are asking. This is why I love to take kids into the outdoors. It’s a place some kids rarely visit and with a kid’s instinctive desire to learn they will have questions, a lot of them. This is the grownups entertainment. Some of my best laughs, sometimes out loud and sometimes not to protect the innocent, comes from these outings. Be sure to answer any and all questions. Explain those questions that don’t make sense, that’s if you figure them out enough to answer. Some questions just tend to go unanswered and finally drift off into that place of “I’m not sure what I mean, nevermind.”
DISCUSS THE NEXT TRIP
Be sure to plant the seed for the next trip outdoors while they are under the influence of the trip at hand. You might be surprised how often the question pops up from out of nowhere. “Hey when are we going fishing with Uncle Kenny again? He said he was going to take us again.” Keep them thinking about the fun they had and the lessons they learned. Kids love to learn. It’s up to us to take advantage of their desire to learn by teaching them about the outdoors. Kids will show as much enthusiasm about a butterfly or a snake as they do about a video game. If we take them when they are young.
LET THE KIDS DICTATE THE TRIP
This has been a tough one for me because I love to fish so much I am hyper focused on finding and catching fish when I take kids or anyone else. This is great but sometimes the trip takes a detour because something peaks a youngster’s interest. When kids show an interest in something other than the trip that was planned then go with it.
Just yesterday on a fishing trip with my nephews the trip turned into a photo shoot throughout the area. There had been a tornado through and it had twisted, broke and uprooted trees everywhere. After one of the boys spotted a giant tree broke in half we spent the rest of the day driving around looking for busted trees to photograph. They were fascinated by it and we talked for a couple hours about tornadoes, weather and trees. We did finally fit a little fishing in. After they asked about it and got tired of the tree hunting.
There is plenty of things to notice and get into in the outdoors and kids will find most of them. Being patient is important to keep the excitement and enthusiasm flowing throughout the trip. Letting them untangle their own line that got wrapped up on the rod tip is just one more lesson in the outdoors. You might have to cut it loose when they are done, but let them try. Don’t get upset with them when they get hung up on every cast or they will be afraid to fish. Just move if this is happening and find a place where the hang ups are less or preferably non-existent.
If the fish aren’t biting and the youngsters begin to voice their boredom try tying on a lure. This one always works for a while. You could also begin looking for frogs or turtles that live around the lake or pond. Keeping the interest up is easy with kids and they will eventually come back to the fishing poles and by then the fish might be biting.
EAT YOUR CATCH
There is something about cooking and enjoying the harvest that intrigues young people. I have yet to introduce a kid to fishing or hunting that wasn’t all for preparing and cooking what they harvested. Sometimes the fish are too small so just explain this to the kids. If you do harvest a few edible size fish or game be sure to take it home and cook it. Cooking your harvest over a fire or in a Dutch oven outside is popular with kids for obvious reasons. Kids are almost always excited about building a fire. Keep the fun trip they just enjoyed that day alive by enjoying a meal with others. Talk about the day and let them tell stories about their outdoor adventures and it could last into the night and go a long way in getting kids hooked on the outdoors.