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Camping and fishing go together like peanut butter and jelly.
So, if you're planning your first fishing adventure with young children this summer while Camping then here are a few tips that I hope make everyone's experience last a lifetime.

 Some simple tips:


Do keep it simple for starters, 
and that's your best bet for a fun day.

Don't turn the trip into a big production.
A pier, dock or shore is a great place to start. Treat the trip as an adventure and explore the area you'll be fishing

Don't worry about technique and don't be concerned about catching lots of big, trophy-size fish. To a young angler, a small bluegill or crappie caught with a simple hook and bobber is a major achievement.
For some children, a big fish might be scary.

Many campgrounds are situated on lakes or ponds or at least have a local fishing hole nearby that holds panfish.

Panfish are pretty much your garden-variety sunny-bluegill deal.

These fish will eat nearly 24-7. A worm and bobber combination is about all you need. We'll get into specific equipment a little later.

What you need to bring is a heap of patience,
 because kids have never even heard of the word. 

Don't force your child to fish for hours on end. Sometimes a child will be happy fishing for 15 minutes and then playing for an hour along the beach or woods, etc.

A child cannot be expected to spend long hours sitting and holding a rod.  As the adult you should also not plan to spend long hours paying attention to his or her rod without keeping an eye on the kids.

Even so, there are ways to keep the children involved in fishing and enjoying the outdoors in general.

 One way to keep the tyke focused is to let him or her do as much as possible, keep them involved, explain the gear, the procedures, show them how things work . . .
promise a special treat on the way back to camp or explain how you're going to show the folks back at the campsite how to cook fish.

Another method is to fish for a very catchable species at a good time of year. Spring fishing for bluegill or crappie is a particularly good way to introduce children to fishing, because there can be lots of action, which is more fun and interesting for the child.

Often children want to be able to move the rod around a lot and see how things look and work when they're underwater. There's nothing wrong with letting them do that, as long as they're not swinging the rod around and hooking each other. Children that want to bounce the rod around can be successful using small jigs for panfish, since the fish will often strike jigs worked in an erratic, vertical manner. Some anglers have their children catch baitfish for them, including threadfin shad, using a small golden egg hook with a red bead on it by jigging it over the side of the boat.

 Bigger children often enjoy casting and retrieving lures, especially spinners and topwater lures. If the only fishing available requires leaving a rod still with a baited hook, use rod holders and bells, so the kids don't have to be sitting still and chained to the rod. Sure, they'll miss a few fish, but the excitement of a ringing bell alerting them that a fish is interested in their bait will usually renew their interest.


Another way to keep children interested is to have a friendly competition with a very simple prize. Perhaps the person who catches the first or largest fish should get the first or biggest candy bar or other snack. Even without a prize, a child can feel pretty excited if he or she can catch a fish before (or a bigger fish than) dad, mom, grandpa or another adult. The competition can be for the first fish of the day, the biggest of the day, the first of each species, the biggest of each species, the first full stringer, the most fish total or the most of a particular species. There can even be a competition for the person who catches the most unusual or strangest-looking fish.


The BEST way to help children enjoy fishing is to plan a trip that involves more activities than just fishing, such as Camping,
 hiking, swimming, boating, canoeing, water-skiing, horseback riding or bicycle riding. This keeps the children in the great outdoors, learning about and enjoying the natural world around them, and fulfills both their enthusiasm and their short attention spans.
Some activities can even be combined with fishing. For example, fishing can be combined with snorkeling to add a whole new dimension.

Don't make your fishing outing a big production. Kids can only take in so much information at any given time. The more complicated you make it, the more frustrated they'll get. You don't need fancy equipment. You don't need a boat; fishing from a pier, dock or shore will do just fine. Keep it simple. After all, your child just wants to spend time with you.

As far as equipment goes, it need not be expensive.
 A basic spin-cast system, the push-button variety, is easy for kids to operate.
The old Zebco "capsule" reels
taught many of us how to cast. 
Do not go for an open-faced spinning reel
baitcasting reel for first-timers.

Note: open-faced models go on the bottom of the reel seat, not the top.

Nowadays, you can find ready-to-go outfits in most major sporting goods stores that are made specifically for kids.

On that note, stick to the perch, bluegills, and sunnies for starters.
The occasional bass will be a bonus.

However, if you do want the youngster to get into decent fish, try a pay-to-fish commercial outfit. Check the Internet or ads in local fishing publications. Nearly every state, or at least region, produces local magazines for anglers, and these people do advertise. The basic deal is that you pay an entry fee and so much per pound for fish caught. The upside is that you know the fish are there, the downside is that it ain't the real world. But if it's only a day-trip fun deal, it couldn't hurt much.

For saltwater excursions, hopping on a family-friendly party boat is a smart idea. The captains are in business to make people happy, and if it's a boatload of kids, some simple bottom fishing, not far from shore is just the ticket. Don't take a five-year-old out in search of mako shark or 12-pound bluefish when a few sea robins will make him or her happy.

Don't force a child to touch or dehook a fish. Do it for them by carefully and respectfully handling the catch. If the fish is of legal size, let the child decide whether to let it go or take it home as a trophy. Use the opportunity to explain the rationale of catch and release.

Use fishing to instill good safety habits. Water demands respect, as do hooks (use barb-less), teeth and fins. Children should also learn to wear flotation devices, plus sun and eye protection.

Finally, be encouraging, supportive, take pictures and laugh a lot.

Help with the line tangles, netting their catch, and the like. But otherwise, let them have fun on their own. It'll work wonders for a "quality time" experience - and your blood pressure.


Despite all the planning, kids will be kids and they'll be too interested in the outdoors to focus on just fishing for hours on end.
As long as they're having good, safe fun with a little fishing thrown in here and there, the children will be building good memories and good experiences that will boost their self esteem,
 their love for the outdoors
and most of all
the family's unity.


What you'll need to get started . . .  

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