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The combination of Father’s Day weekend, the opening of bass season and New York’s free fishing weekend makes it an ideal time to introduce children to the sport. Here are some tips and techniques for fishing with young anglers:


1. Keep it simple and use reliable equipment meant for novices. A shorter rod with a push button spin casting reel is easier than a long rod with an open face spinning reel that requires opening the bail. Use equipment appropriately sized for the fish you expect to catch.


2. Crimp the barb on hooks to make releasing the fish easier. It is far better to lose a fish while reeling it in; than to release one that goes “belly up” and then try explain how you are “protecting the resource.” Use a bobber if possible, as it provides a visual clue that kids often need to stay attentive.


3. Target species most likely for success such as perch, sunnies or rock bass and use live bait such as worms, minnows, crickets or grasshoppers. Be positive and enthusiastic. Kids don’t have to catch the largest fish in the pond, but they must have action, due a short attention span.


4. Leave your rod at home. Let the kids fish and always try to bring along someone their age to share the adventure with. Remember that the competition should always be between angler and fish, not each other. You don’t need a boat full of fancy gear, because your child only wants to spend time with you.


5. Watch the weather and insure that outings are short, exciting and productive. Pick a place that is easy to get to, comfortable and safe. Strive to depart before the fish do, always leave with them wanting more. Look for water bugs, beavers, loons, kingfisher or let them play with minnows or worms. Let them experience nature. Most of all, it should be fun, not a chore.


6. For smaller children, drill a hole in the handle of the rod and attach a lanyard. Tie the lanyard to the boat or a belt buckle in case they drop the rod. Often kids will release the whole rod when letting go of the push button on the reel and this will save you from fishing for a rod.


7. Bring plenty of snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, insect repellent, swimsuits, towels and first aid basics. Make the trip comfortable for everyone and, above all, have patience with snagged line, lost tackle and missed fish. Use plenty of praise, it will accomplish more than a reprimand.


8. Bring a camera to capture the moment, and get the photos in the kid’s hands as soon as possible so that they can savor and/or share the adventure with others. Encourage them to write a short story to accompany the photos, it will provide you with wonderful feedback.

9. Show respect for the environment and the water. Teach water safety. Make sure everyone has a pair of Polaroid sunglasses for eye protection, and to see below the water’s surface. If appropriate, wear a PFD (lead by example) and provide a basic understanding of how to handle water-based emergencies. 


10. Make it a big adventure and involve the child in the planning and preparation for the day. It’s a big part of the fun. Have them help with getting the tackle, digging the worms or catching grasshoppers or minnows, and gain competency by practicing casting on the lawn at home. Look over the maps, draw up a list and let them help in the decision-making process. It should be their special time.