Put away the powerbait, salmon eggs and worms! Sure, they're effective ways to catch some trout and blue gill, but if this is the way you're trying to get your kids fishing. I think you've forgotten what it's like to be a kid. If you're using these techniques and you're steadily catching, then sure it can be great fun. Now, consider a couple other things. These 8 to 12" trout you're catching and gut hooking because you're using bait, are you really going to eat them? These stocker trout have white meat that is mushy when you cook them. Next, what's happening when you're not catching fish? Your kid has nothing to do and is BORED!
See it all the time in places like Monument, Palmer Lake, Quail, 11 Mile and more. When the fish aren't biting the children get bored and tend to find other things to do and not attend their lines. When I ask parents about this, they always have some lame excuse about keeping the extra lines in the water “in case" they get a bite for the kids. If that's the plan… your kid is bored and it's time to try something different. Children like to be active; they do not understand the concept of relaxing and just enjoying the day when they're between 4 and 18, 19, 20… years old. Their minds are racing and the concept of just sitting and waiting is not normally a child's cup of tea.
Instead of bait, teach them to use some very basic lures that are highly effective and will help keep their interest. The idea here is that they are constantly engaged. With a lure they have to cast and retrieve on a repetitive basis. There is a number of reasons this is good for both you and the child. If you do this correctly and make this about the kid and not you, you will be just as engaged as you teach the next Kevin VanDam. With casting it requires constant movement and certainly requires a little skill and technique. This is where you come in! You can help them learn how to cast accurately and also show them how to work the lure and why it's effective. You can teach them to read the water and what to look for. Get the idea?
But what is a good way to start on this? Here are some recommendations. Depending on age and how much they've already fished, start them with very basic gear. A light or medium light spinning rod, spincast rod or even an underspin which in my opinion is probably the easiest to use. Use light monofilament line between the 4 and 6 lb range. Lures? There are some things that should be in every tackle box. Some sort of spinner like Jerry's Fly's, Jeff's Flies, Mepps or Johnson Min-o-spin. Next a 1.5" pink tube jig with 1/8 oz jighead and then of course an assortment 1/8 to 1/4 oz KastMasters. Maybe even some Dynamic HD's or something similar. Why These? Because they are all highly effective, easy to use and yet as skill increases different techniques can be applied to them. All of these lures can be used at the most basic level. Cannot tell you how many times I've used the pink tube jig and what the fish were looking for was to let it hit the bottom and then very slowly do a straight retrieve off the bottom. All the rest can simply be cast and reeled in. Again, the premise here is to have the kids active and engaged instead of just sitting and waiting.
Barnacles, CO 3/22/2021 1:54:33 PM
Very good advice, Jim. I couldn't agree more. Sitting idle in a lawn chair with bait might be the worst way to fish. My kid's favorite weapon is an ultralight, with a simple Zebco Micro & a curly tail grub on a 1/16 oz head. It will catch anything anywhere. Even through the ice, keep things moving. Bait does have a place though. Digging worms and catching grasshoppers can be half the fun for a kiddo, but my kids would set my truck on fire if I made them stare at a motionless bobber for 30 minutes. Same goes for some 40 year old lost soul who has never been fishing. Put them on some action, or you'll lose 'em. Last thing that I will add: When you're introducing a kid or anyone to this way of life, set your rod down and devote your day to making good memories for them.
FXA0, CO 3/22/2021 1:54:43 PM
I would try anything to get my kids interested. But I can't even get them out to begin with...
longdraw, CO 3/22/2021 10:47:28 PM
This is an excellent write up.
fishthumpre, CO 3/23/2021 8:54:38 AM
Good, thoughtful piece Jim. The biggest problem by far with fishing with live baits and others under a bobber is, kids and everyone else really, too often wait to try to set the hook until their fish has swallowed it. The quicker we can get them using lures or really, any bait on a jig head., the quicker they’ll reduce mortality and improve hooksets. More satisfying watch the kids succeed, too.
yard dogs, CO 3/23/2021 9:55:41 AM
Fully agree man - my boys do not like to just sit and bait fish. We work the shorelines casting and moving. They LOVE fishing
spicyhombre, CO 3/23/2021 10:02:19 AM
Good advise, Jim. I could not agree more. Some of my best memories of introducing my son to fishing involved an ultralight rod with a fly or small plastic worm and watching him catch bluegills and bass while the bait dunkers surrounding us watched in amazement at the numbers he caught. He learned early that tricking fish is way more fun than feeding them and it kept his interest as he tried different techniques and lures for various species and conditions. When things got slow I would create challenges like “bet you can’t cast there” or “if you catch the next fish I will buy you a lure on the way home”. Now my son is 11 and is not only my fishing buddy but is stiff competition.
dizzel, CO 3/23/2021 10:57:16 PM
Great write up Jim, those darn Kasties sure were a hook in my side teaching my nephew because they sink very fast lol .I have some floating rapalas that i taught him with, learning how much time he had to "close the reel" and make sure the line didnt un-spool before he started his retrieve, then he knew when to start reeling before those dang kasites sinks to the snag depths lol. i still make him use the cheap rattle traps instead of letting him tie on a rapala or Berkley haha
Jim McFarland (anglerwannabe), CO 3/24/2021 8:26:44 AM
thank you guys. I forgot all about how much fun it was just to search for bait! Grasshoppers, crickets, grub worms.. heck we used to soak the grass real heavy and then put some probes in the ground and electrocute it to catch nightcrawlers and earthworms. Dave - use something like Mann's 1-Minus or other floating crank when you teach your nephew! lol
FishHuntNow, CO 3/26/2021 11:00:09 AM
This is awesome. Educating the young generation to avoid bait and potentially harming a fish that they don't to keep and the other using a way more entertaining way to fish.
Spikey, CO 3/30/2021 12:20:39 AM
Great advice, but I need more help with this. My son is 9 and beginning to despise going fishing with me. He only has fun while reeling a fish in that I've usually hooked for him. He has little interest in casting his own rod and is generally done with that after about 15 minutes. Otherwise zero interest, complains much of the time, and would rather be home playing video games. I have a sweet boat, take him to great lakes, and usually catch something with occasional skunks. We don't bait fish, only cast lures with occasional trolling. I have even resorted to letting him bring his tablet so he can play Mindcraft while I fish but that isn't helping much anymore. I know some people just aren't cut out to be fishermen, but don't want to give up on him yet. When I was his age I would've given my left eye to have a chance to boat fish the places he goes but he could care less. Any advice?
Jim McFarland (anglerwannabe), CO 3/31/2021 7:52:26 AM
Hello Spikey - giving advice for your kid without knowing him is challenging but here are some thoughts. When you take him, the trip has to be 100% about your son and you being patient. A couple places to take him come to mind. At Palmer Lake it has a ton of stockers and either using some sort of bait or lures they can be readily had. More importantly Palmer Lake has a pavilion so you can do a little grilling, it also has a playground, the Santa Fe trail runs through there and even has a disk golf course. So when he gets bored, there are plenty of other activities. If you want to just fish and keep him entertained, let the weather warm a little and got to Pikeview reservoir. Take a small beaded fly or a size 14 hook and tip it with worm. Walk along the rocks on the east bank and just dip the fly or worm in between the rocks all along that eastern bank. You will get plenty of tiny blue gill biting and you'll be able to see them hit your offering.
Spikey, CO 3/31/2021 7:34:27 PM
Jim, thanks for the advice. I will definitely give that a try. I'm a fishaholic and can go all day without catching anything and be fine with it. Expecting a kid to spend 6-8 hours on a boat especially if the fishing is slow, is just too much. Shorter trips with the focus on the kid will hopefully help.
Rual812, CO 4/3/2021 12:20:46 PM
One thing to remember about bait fishing is that kids playing with the bait and baiting their own line can be really fun - if you are using livers or worms. Great time to introduce safe use of a knife - and - it's always fun to get really dirty hands. Would also add that in addition to getting to use a knife *while being watched closely*, knowing that they were the ones that baited the hook and subsequently caught a fish (all on their own!) is a a heck of a motivation to go again. Works especially well with brim or crappie while using a hook that is just a *little* too big. That way there is a lot of action with not nearly as many hooksets.
This provides a lot of opportunity to re-bait (use kinife, play with bait, dirty hands), and most importantly - feel the fish bite, a whole lot. I know this is what made the difference for my boy (7yr). After the brim got his bait 4 or 5 times and he finally caught one, it was a solid 2 - 3 hrs of him cutting a piece of worm/liver, baiting up, two to 3 'strikes' before the fish cleaned his hook. The he'd carefully re-bait (he was DETERMINED to catch that boy!) and then, finally the pay off! When he unexpectedly hooked a 22" catfish, it was pure adrenaline and we spent days talking about how we could improve the rigging and technique. He's hooked - and has his own ideas about how to catch those sneeky fish now! Will see how it translates from dock fishing to the boat this weekend.
D-Zilla, SC 4/3/2021 9:12:48 PM
I nearly depleted my tacklebox with this technique when they were small. It was a GREAT excuse to get new stuff though. I'm sure there are trees and rocks out there still adorned with my old stuff! The oldest one now has the patience to sit and relax on the bank on occasion, and he's losing less gear even...of course he's 25 now so it only took like 20 years!
Jim McFarland (anglerwannabe), CO 4/8/2021 11:11:43 AM
Dear Bait dunker responders! lol Thank you for those responses, I am very guilty of limiting my thought to powerbait and salmon egg users.. and the folks that buy worms. You have GREAT points.. I remember chasing grass hoppers, crickets turning rocks to find grub worms, heck if it was an insect of any sort it was doomed to be tested as bait. My dad used to soak the yard real heavy and then use electric probes to get earthworms and nightcrawlers to come to the top. You had to be quick to catch those too!
Melfish1965, CO 4/21/2021 7:57:03 PM
Excellent topic and well written overall! I probably wouldn't be fishing today if my dad had been a stationary shore fisherman. He loathed lakes and loved rivers, and he cut his teeth himself as a spin fisherman. He taught me to read rivers, to work with current, to be cautious wading, to move on downstream or up if a hole wasn't producing, and every river we fished was absolutely alive and surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the lower 48 states. Though he would demonstrate techniques, his instruction was short and he let me pretty much explore on my own so long as I promised not be dumb and get into dangerous water. I started fishing at 7 or 8 years old, lost untold $$ worth of snagged spinners, and I honestly never caught my first fish out of a river until I was 12. That four or five year period of never catching a fish for myself might have turned me off to the sport, but because I was outside, and I loved being in the water, and I loved the idea of moving to the next hole, I never gave up. Had I been sitting pole watching for untold hours on end I'm almost certain I would have given the sport up entirely, especially if it was more unproductive than not. My dad has moved on to fly fishing, and I dabble in it as well now, but I don't have his aversion to lakes, and my own kids can pick and choose the kind of fishing they'd like to do. Some days our trips are little more than letting the dogs run around on an unpeopled section of lake or stream front, and the fishing takes a distant second. If nothing else, I hope they learn to love being outside and near healthy waters as much as I do. The way to ensure we keep healthy, accessible fisheries is to teach the next generation to love the water and the sport of fishing. Hard to do that via boredom and over dependence on dumb planters as the source of your fun. Anyway, great work, Jim.