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Daddy, I Got One

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Published on: May. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

Catching his or her first fish is one of a child's greatest thrills. It's every bit equal to that of the first solo bike ride,hitting a homerun, or jumping off the school bus after the first day at school. For many children, that first fish is the beginning of a lifelong love affair.

Usually all it takes to get a child hooked on fishing is one fun experience. Fishing naturally attracts most children, but you can help make their first fishing trip more successful and more enjoyable.

Patience

Patience is the golden ingredient in all teaching, but it's especially important with a task that requires hand/eye coordination and involves something that tangles as much as fishing line. You'll need all the patience you can muster to deal with twisted or knotted lines, snags, spilled tackle boxes, dropped sandwiches, spilled drinks, dumped minnow buckets and other mishaps. Some, or all, of these things happen eventually on almost every fishing trip with children, so resign yourself to them and be patient.

Maintaining a cheerful attitude will go a long way toward keeping the outing pleasant for a child. On the other hand, any frustration you show might ruin the experience and discourage the child from wanting to go again.

If you want your child to catch fish and have fun, don't even take a rod and reel for yourself. You will be too busy to fish.

When teaching a child to fish, your goals are different than when you're fishing alone or with friends. With a child, the goal is for the child to want to fish again. Don't worry about catching enough for a fish fry or catching trophy fish. These things will all come later. For a kid, a fish is a fish. Keep it simple and measure your success by smiles and by the memories the trip creates.

Attention Span

When planning a fishing trip, parents should consider a child's short attention span and need for variety. Don't take long trips or fish for species that can't be predictably caught. Try to time the trips to coincide with when the fish bite best. Usually this is early in the day or very late in the day. On summer mornings, you can fish a few hours until the sun makes it too hot, or you can plan a trip in the evening until it gets dark.

Otherwise, think about short trips with definite quitting times. For example, you might go fishing before going to church or to grandma's for lunch. As a rule, try to quit fishing before the kids get bored.

Preparation

Prepare the kids for fishing by giving them a little backyard practice with a casting plug. You can make a game of it by putting out hula hoops or garbage cans for targets. Kids will catch on to casting quickly, and you won't have to train them in that basic skill at the fishing hole. Practice also builds anticipation. It makes kids eager to go fishing.

Make sure you pack snacks, drinks, sunscreen, bug spray, personal flotation devices and proper tackle. Most kids would love to have a little tackle box of their own. Stock it with with basic items, including bobbers, split shot and #6 panfish hooks, which are perfect for catching sunfish or catfish. For usually less than $20, you can buy them their own fishing rod and reel. Look for a light- to medium-weight rod with a push-button spinning reel. These are the easiest reels to learn to cast.

Plan on using live bait. It usually results in more success than artificial lures, plus kids love the idea of catching bait. They can dig for worms in leaf piles or chase crickets or grasshoppers. Show them how to dip a fine-mesh net into the water to catch frogs, minnows, crayfish and water bugs, which are plentiful at most fishing holes.

Where to go?

Take kids to a comfortable and scenic fishing spot with lots of eager fish. Private farm ponds and subdivision lakes often have grassy banks and good fish populations. If the landowner feeds the fish, catching them is all but guaranteed. Wading small rivers or large streams is also very enjoyable. The fish tend to be naive, and the scenery is beautiful.

Public waters managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation are available in every county. They are usually well maintained and offer good fishing. In fact, Kids Fishing Clinics, sponsored by the Conservation Department, take place on many Department areas. At these clinics, Department employees and volunteers teach basic fishing skills and provide general assistance to the kids. To improve the fishing, the lakes used for the clinics are stocked with hybrid sunfish and channel catfish.

The Conservation Department also offers conservation and outdoor recreation programs to students in all grade levels. These aquatic education programs combine local ecology and conservation principles with angling and other aquatic outdoor skills and ethics. The programs are always free of charge. If you are a teacher or youth group leader, contact the conservation education consultant at your local Department office for more information.

The Conservation Department also offers conservation and outdoor recreation programs to students in all grade levels. These aquatic education programs combine local ecology and conservation principles with angling and other aquatic outdoor skills and ethics. The programs are always free of charge. If you are a teacher or youth group leader, contact the conservation education consultant at your local Department office for more information.

Kids Fishing Opportunities by Region

Call regional Conservation Department offices for more details

St. Louis Region (636) 441-4554
Lake 12 August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area St. Charles Year-round Open to public 15 and under
Kids Fishing Fair August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area St. Charles 3rd Saturday in May Annual event open to public-Free
Kids Fishing Day Maramec Spring Phelps May 15 Annual event open to public-Free
Kansas City Region (816) 655-6250
Blue Springs Lake Disabled Angler Clinic Blue Springs Lake Marina Jackson The Saturday of Free Fishing Weekend Open to disabled anglers of all ages. Anglers must pre-register
Lion's Lake Warrensburg City Park Johnson 1st Saturday in June Annual event open to public-Free
Honker Pond James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area Jackson Year-round Open to public 15 and under
Kids Fishing Fair James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area Jackson 1st Saturday after Mother's Day Annual event open to public-Free
National Hunting and Fishing Day James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area Jackson Last Saturday in September Annual event open to public-Free
Conservation Day Clinton MDC Office Henry 2nd or 3rd weekend in May Annual event free to kids 15 and under
Northeast Region (660) 785-2420
Tom Sawyer Lake Mark Twain State Park Monroe June 12 9am-12am, poles available-(573) 565-3440
Henderson Lake Indian Creek Recreation Area-Mark Twain Lake Monroe June 12 Call (573) 735-4097 for details
Northwest Region (816) 271-3100
3rd Annual Crappie Festival Pony Express Conservation Area DeKalb 2nd or 3rd Saturday in May Annual Event open to the public. Free. Call (816) 271-3100 for details
Special Event Pond Poosey Conservation Area Livingston Scheduled Events Call (660) 646-6122 for details
Special Event Pond Hartell Conservation Area Clinton Scheduled Events Call (816) 271-3100 for details
Central Region (573) 884-6861
Resource Area Name County Date Notes
Special Event Pond Manito Lake Conservation Area Moniteau Scheduled Call for reservations
Cromley Pond Blind Pony Conservation Area Saline Open year-round Open to public 15 and under
Raccoon Run Spur Pond Runge Conservation Nature Center Cole Contact Runge for Scheduled special events  
Leroy Rottman Memorial Kids Fishing Clinic Cosmo Bethel Lake Boone Free Fishing Saturday Annual event free to public
Ozark Region (417) 256-7161
Kids Fishing Day Montauk Hatchery & State Park Dent May 15 6:30 a.m. - 8:15 p.m.
Kids Fishing Day Maramec Spring Hatchery & Park Phelps May 15 6:30 a.m. - 8:15 p.m.
Doniphan Police Department Fishing Clinic Private Pond Ripley June 9 Open to kids age 5-15, limited to first 50. Lunch provided. Call (573) 996-7123.
Southwest Region (417) 895-6880
Kids Fishing Day Bennett's Spring Hatchery and State Park Dallas May 15 6:30 a.m. - 8:15 p.m.
Southeast Region (573) 290-5730
Kids Fishing Weekend Combs Lake Dunklin TBA Contact Eric Heuring (573) 717-1042

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