Selling Kids on Fishing
I receive the call a couple of times a month from the family dad “I want to take my little kids fishing for ______________.” In my opinion, if the answer to the blank isn’t “for a good time” dad is messing it up. Most of the time, the father will want to chase dolphin, wahoo or tuna for 6-8 hours. I have a different plan for ‘em. Little kids won’t get sold on fishing by staring at a daytime sword rod, waiting for a nibble for hours on end.
I always suggest we first catch bait by hook and line. A chum block on any grassy channel edge will get the pinfish and maybe ballyhoo swarming in short order. Break out a couple 10 lb. spinners or even better, a little pushbutton closed faced reel. So after that, all we have to figure out is who gets the Batman rod and who gets the Spiderman rig.
Keep the kids involved. Use a couple of different colored corks. Let them pick what color they want and I even let them tie on their own hooks. Since we are just catching bait, a perfect uni-knot isn’t necessary. If they can get a couple half hitches on it, so be it. I’ll give them the scissors (I recommend ultra-supervision at this stage) and let them cut some tentacles off the squid and hook it up themselves. I think most young kids like this part more than the actual fishing, and to tell the truth, we probably won’t use much live bait anyway. However, that live well full of fish will turn into entertainment for them at some point during the day!
After a short bait stop, I’ll take them to the best shallow patch reef I’ve got. The spot I pick doesn’t need to be loaded with muttons and grouper, it just needs lots of life. My goal is to get tons of yellowtails and blue runners up so that they can see them in the chum. To get this to happen, I will chum hard. A couple of chum blocks off each side of the boat and a couple handfuls of dry oats will usually do the trick.
For tackle, I normally will have them fish with the same rigs we caught bait with but I’ll add a couple feet of 20 lb. fluorocarbon and a little jig head - but for everybody’s sake keep the cork.
For bait, hook on a little piece of bonito, squid or ballyhoo. Most kids can’t catch onto free lining the bait so don’t worry about it, the blue runners won’t care. Remember, the goal is to have the kids catch lots of fish, not just one or two big ones. I will normally make a tourney out of it with a prize for everybody involved when we finish up. Probably the Batman and Spiderman rigs.
For really small kids, keep the fishing part of the day short. Plan your trip close to a cool waterside restaurant or better yet make a picnic and stop on a sandy beach to let them swim or explore a little.
Last year I had a family with a dad, two boys and a girl all between 8 and 12 years old. The dolphin fishing had been great in 200 feet so we went to give it a shot. We found a little weed line and I put out a couple of lures on light 30 lb. trolling rods (which were still a little big). Small but legal-sized mahi were piling all over the lures, but when I would stop the boat, I couldn’t get them to stay around for pitch baits. So we continued to troll them up, but I could tell the rods were just too big for the kids and all the mahi were running small. I grabbed a 10 lb. spinner and tied on a little blue rattle jet lure. You saw this coming right? I get one out and as I’m rigging the second one, the youngest boy says “Look at that!” I turn around to see a 30+ pound cow dolphin in mid leap. It was the little guys turn, so 30 minutes later, with help of his dad and some fancy boat driving on my part, it’s in the boat.
When we got back to the dock they had already called their mom who had asked everybody she could find to come see her kids’ dolphin. There must have been seventy-five people on the campground’s dock.
The kids all scrambled to get the big one out of the fish box. All three of them drug it to up to the bow. As soon as they held it up every one started clapping and cheering. It was awesome. As I was cleaning the fish, the little boy was standing up on a bench seat holding court, telling his story. I looked at his dad and winked at him. He nodded back because we both knew those kids were sold on fishing, which in the end should be all of our goal.
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