Fishing & Boating News
(Monday, August 24,1998 - DISNEY, OK) You're all set to go. You have the tackle, you've got the snacks, and you're about to depart on one of the greatest adventures you and your child will ever enjoy together. It's called bonding at its best. It's called fishing.
Be prepared to enjoy the sounds of nature, fresh air, and maybe catch a fish, too. But most importantly, it will be the sounds of you and your child talking to each other and enjoying each other's company and the great outdoors. But as with all wonderful experiences, there are also lessons to be taught and learned.
Let's start with water safety. Always, we repeat, always have your youngster wear a life jacket near the water. The next best idea is swimming lessons. This is a must if you live near any type of body of water or plan to take your child fishing or engage in any type of water-related activity. Swimming lessons should be high on your list of priorities. Lessons are usually available for a minimum charge through your local YMCA or parks and recreation department. The lessons will make your fishing experience more fun because you and your youngster will feel safer.
While we're on the subject of water safety, be sure to pick a fishing site that is not only comfortable for fishing, but is safe. Pick a bank with no loose gravel or slippery mud that might cause a youngster to slide off into the water. Another little tip . . . should your child slide into the water, a fishing rod can be used as an object to grab hold of.
Safety can't be stressed enough when it comes to handling hooks. Until the youngster becomes adept to the ways of fishing, it might be a good idea to let the adult handle baiting the hook. A little casting practice can also help assure that the hook lands in the proper place. Most junior-sized fishing reel and rod combinations, such as the Zebco Snoopy or Mickey Mouse models, come with a practice casting plug. Good news . . . no hook! Your youngster can practice in the backyard, if you lock up the dog. Or you can take the youngster to a park with a large open area, with no trees or power lines to interfere. Take along a small bucket or box for them to aim at. The Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Marine Kids All-American Fishing Derby program annually conducts the Zebco Kids Casting Contest as part of the overall derby event, so they can practice for next year's entry into a local derby near your hometown.
"We've seen thousands of youngsters cast," said Gordon Holland, co-founder of Hooked On Fishing International which provides instruction and supplies for setting up the local derbies. "Distance is hardly ever a problem when kids cast, nor is shanking it right or left. The major problem seems to be too much height. That's why we recommend that they practice in an open area with no obstructions," said Holland. "Encourage your youngster to practice. You'll be surprised how very quickly their skill will develop and how much more they will enjoy the actual fishing experience when they can cast out the line by themselves."
Okay, now you're at the water's edge. You've found that perfect spot, the hooks baited, the cast is made and, oh, my, they've got a fish on the line and they've landed it! Now what? The next discussion area is what to do with the fish. You basically have two choices: save the fish for dinner, or practice catch and release. Most kids usually want to eat at least some of the fish they've caught. Frying the fish in a simple seasoned cornmeal coating works just fine, thank you. Don't over-engineer it. If you are going to keep some fish to eat, keep them cool or on ice, especially in the heat of the summer. In other seasons, when the water temperature is cooler, a fish basket or stringer works fine for keeping the fish fresh.
The second choice and most often the wisest, is "catch and release." Carefully remove the hook from the fish's mouth and gently lower the fish into the water. Try not to handle the fish too much or their protective coating will be disturbed. The lesson you want to teach the child here is that letting the fish go will give it the chance to grow bigger and reproduce and thereby preserve a wonderful resource.
In the past articles in this 3-part series, we have briefly touched on a handful of helpful topics that should add to the enjoyment and safety of a fishing trip with your youngster. Please remember a couple of things in closing: plan for safety, keep the trip short and simple, and don't forget the snacks. And last but not least, don't forget the camera. You are going to have the time of your life, and it needs to be recorded on film! Remember . . . you're building a foundation for your future fishing partner. Do it right, and have fun!
And, when next season comes around, be sure to sign up your child in one of the more than 1,100 Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World and Tracker Marine Kids All-American Fishing Derby events sponsored nationwide, in all 50 states, by Hooked On Fishing International. These events are staged by local clubs and organizations, state and federal agencies or parks and recreation departments, following a program designed by HOFI.
For more information on the Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Marine Kids All-American Fishing Derby program, or to become a host of an event in 1999, contact Hooked On Fishing International, P. O. Box 249, Disney, OK 74340. The program is offered free throughout the country and is co-sponsored by some of the nation's finest companies including: American Rod & Gun, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Berkley, Inc., Gator Grip, Roads to Adventure Magazine, Southwest Airlines, TNN Outdoors, Tracker Marine, and Zebco.
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