“Shhhhhhh! You’ll scare the fish away!”
We can all remember Grandpa’s warning on those early mornings on the lake. Taking your kids fishing can be tough with all the excited chatter and lures scattered everywhere, especially when you’re hoping to land the catch of a lifetime. But don’t let that keep you from bringing the kids on the boat.
My love affair with fishing began when I was just 3 years old. When I wasn’t paying attention, Grandpa snuck a 4-inch rock bass onto my little toy fishing rod and I was literally hooked.
Introducing kids to fishing is a great way to get them away from all the screens and experience the great outdoors. While increasing time in nature is definitely a benefit, fishing can teach your child much more about life. I’d like to share some of the life lessons that I learned as a young angler that have had a lasting impact on my values.
1. The Importance of Patience
It is likely that your first experience fishing as a kid involved one of the most iconic pieces of fishing equipment, the classic red and white bobber. Threading a few kernels of corn or little wriggling red worm onto a hook can produce hours of fun catching panfish. Learning to wait for those few short twitches of the bobber to set the hook can be difficult for kids. Over time, they learn that their patience is rewarded with a thrilling battle and the quest for the next biggest sunfish. Waiting for things in life is hard. It’s easy to just pack up and move on when we don’t get what we want fast enough. The simple, but valuable experience of being forced to wait and watch my bobber taught me just how important patience is to identify opportunities for success in life
2. Enjoying the Thrill of Competition
You don’t need to be standing on the podium of the Bassmaster Classic to enjoy some competition in fishing. As kids, my brother and I would often hold our own competitions to see how many sunfish we could catch within an hour. Sometimes I would win, sometimes he would. All anglers compete with themselves as well, keeping their scales handy to see if they’ve just landed their personal best walleye. Competition can get ugly. We see it all the time. The dad that gets too carried away at the little league game, or the fan in the stands that decides to take a swing. But true and fair competition teaches us to always strive to do better, to be better. That drive of constant self-improvement is a very important value you can teach your kids to keep chasing success in life.
3. Dealing with Loss
Ugh. That feeling. When one of the biggest fish of your life gets within 10 feet of the boat and… snap. The line goes limp. When I was 10, I had a monster northern pike unexpectedly smash my topwater frog and clip my line with ease. Seeing my anguish after losing such a big fish, my dad would always say, “he’s not going anywhere, go back and get him.” Promising myself to not let that happen again, I tied on much stronger Berkley FireLine to my topwater rig and to this day, that’s my preferred choice for surface fishing in the weeds. Losing those big fish or any big opportunity is tough to swallow for a kid, but you learn to focus your attention back to the main goal, making new and different choices to get a better outcome in the future.
4. Being Self-Reliant
One of my proudest moments as a kid was cleaning my first fish. Knowing that I had done everything myself, from choosing the lure, to landing the fish, to hacking my way through my very first fillet attempt (with dad’s guidance, of course), was incredibly rewarding. There’s something special about seeing a goal through all the way to the end and as a kid, it goes a long way to build confidence. With the assistance of my protective fillet glove (safety first), I continued to improve my technique and eventually was allowed to do everything on my own. Encouraging your kids to be independent and confident can only help them in the future as they face new challenges.
5. Family Time is Valuable
Family fishing trips are my fondest memories. Each trip, I learned about new species of fish, or a new lake, or how to tie a new knot. The best part of these trips, though, were the campfire stories. “It was this big!” I heard fishing stories from 40 years ago, like the one where Grandpa caught the biggest smallmouth bass of his life when he accidentally twitched his hula popper while lighting his pipe. I also heard other stories, not related to fishing, like how difficult it was growing up during the Great Depression or how great the Eagles show was at Pine Knob in the 70’s. Fishing brings everyone together to not only share their tall tales, but to share each other’s lives as well. It may be difficult to get everyone together in today’s world, but what may seem like a simple fishing trip may be one of your kids’ best memories.