On the Water
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Get the Kids Hooked on Fishing

Create angling memories without leaving the dock!
By John Neporadny, Jr.
Published: April 1, 2009
The shoreline in front of your lake cabin offers plenty of fishing opportunities for the family - whether it’s a natural shoreline or a seawall. This residential developement in Lake of the Ozarks has a seawall to prevent erosion.

The weekends we spent at a small cabin at the Lake of the Ozarks are memorable times for our family because of the quality time we had together fishing and swimming.

We caught plenty of fish off of the cabin’s dock, but none of the bluegills or other sunfish were bragging-size catches. However, fishing for those aggressive little sunfish was the perfect way to introduce my daughters to my favorite pastime. There was always plenty of action for them, and when they got tired of catching fish, they would go swimming for a while.

No Boat Required

A lakeside cabin is an ideal place for a family to start fishing together because it offers many of the amenities of home (especially a kitchen and restroom) close to your fishing spot. While hardcore anglers can spend hours in a boat without eating, drinking or taking a bathroom break, it’s important to remember that kids don’t have that same stamina. Keeping kids in a boat too long is a surefire way to turn off their interest in fishing.

Fishing from the shoreline in front of your lake cabin or on a dock is also a much safer way to introduce the family to fishing. Space in a boat can be tight sometimes, but fishing from the bank or a dock allows you to spread out and keep the kids a safe distance from each other to prevent lines from tangling and errant casts from hooking siblings.

Here are some additional dos and don’ts that will help your next family fishing adventure at the cabin be a memorable one.

A dock near your lake cabin is an ideal place to introduce your family to fishing

1. Don’t try to catch more fish than your spouse and kids. You’re there to introduce them to the sport, and your main duties are to tie lines, bait hooks and unhook fish – oh, and untangle snarls.

2. Do use live bait for the family fishing trips. All fish prefer the real deal, so live bait is the best way for beginners to start fishing. All they have to do is throw out their lines and let the bait do the rest.

3.  Don’t force the kids to start fishing at a set time. If they would rather go swimming for a while, let them swim. While they are swimming, you can wet a line a safe distance from them, and you might spark their interest if you start catching a bunch of fish.


4. Don’t coach your kids too much. Allow them to try a new bait or lure, or cast to a different spot if they want to try something different. Remember that you became a better angler because you experimented with different techniques and lures. Your kids should get the same opportunities.

5. Do turn your fishing trip into an educational experience. I have a bad habit of tuning out the surroundings and focusing on my line to detect bites, which is fine for fishing in tournaments but is not the way to get kids involved in the sport. Let them take in the whole fishing experience – point out the blue heron stalking the shoreline for a fish, the turtles sunning on logs and the bluebirds singing in the trees.

When taking your family fishing, make sure you target easy-to-catch, aggressive species such as this green sunfish.

6. Do teach your kids proper catchand- release tactics. Show them how to carefully handle and unhook a fish and quickly release it back into the water to ensure it survives. If your children want to keep their catch, but you’re not fishing for dinner, talk them into taking a photo of them with their catch and then releasing it, or put the fish in a live basket and release it later when the kids have gone up to the cabin.

Following these tips can lead to some new lifetime fishing partners. To paraphrase an old saying: The family that fishes together stays together.

John Neporadny is a freelance outdoor writer. He is also a former guide, who gave up the profession because he soon discovered it was a lot easier to write about fishing than to make a living doing it.

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