As a charter captain, I really like to see young kids catch anything. The expressions on their faces are unforgettable. Kids don’t care what they’re catching as long as the rod’s bent and they’re turning a handle, so I try to give them just that by starting the day on fairly light tackle with a variety of species.
I will already have discussed what Mom and Dad want to keep for dinner ahead of time - trust me on this, kids want to keep ‘em all!
Setting up on shallow patch reefs with a large chum bag is my go to choice for these trips. Not only do we catch lots of species, but they can visually see most of the fish. As the chum bag starts to bring up the juvenile yellowtails, mangrove snapper, and bait fish like blue runners and ballyhoo I’ll have the kids toss in a few handfuls of larger chunks of cut up pilchards or threadfin hearing to get the attention of larger species like red grouper and mutton snapper. Ill rig them up a 40 class spinning reel with a 20-pound leader and an 1/0 hook, I show them once how to hook on a chunk of bonito or squid and I get out of their way! It takes them a little time to learn how to free line the bait but once they get it, look out!
Sometimes I’ll put on a small cork five feet from the hook. It gives them something to watch as they free line it back. An added benefit is that it also keeps them from reeling the hook into the top guide.
My job is to help unhook their catch and discuss the kind of fish they just caught, and if it can go in the box.
As they gain experience with small fish I’ll upgrade their tackle and add a little weight to target the larger species that have inevitably collected in our chum slick.
A really cool deal for kids that are new to fishing is to let them catch a ballyhoo on a little hook then place it onto a bigger hook and catch a full grown mutton or mangrove snapper. This time of year I normally get mom and dad to stay close just in case a mean black grouper devours their bait and they need help hanging onto their rod! Although grouper is out of season, they have become somewhat of a catch and release trophy that don’t mind getting their picture taken prior to release.
I love watching the kids lose their fear of touching fish once they learn how to - even though Mom might not like it ;)
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