There's nothing more exciting than watching a youngster catch his or her first fish. It's often a memorable event that both you and the child will cherish for years to come.
Unfortunately, there are circumstances that can make that first fishing trip a disaster.
Here are a few steps you can take to insure your youngster's first fishing adventure is one they'll always treasure.
There are three basic steps to keep youngsters happy on their first fishing excursion -- have fun, keep it simple and catch some fish.
All too often parents try to make fishing too complex. There's no reason for your 5-year-old to learn the detailed anatomy and feeding habits of each species of fish inhabiting the mid-Atlantic region.
Also, it's not necessary for him to have a working knowledge of the laws of physics or be a mechanical engineer to operate their fishing reel.
A simple spincast outfit that comes factory equipped with everything but the hooks and sinkers is all that's necessary to catch most fish.
A good example of this was seen about five years ago when one manufacturer put up a reward for the largest fish caught on their spincast equipment. The winner landed a sailfish that tipped the scales at nearly 60 pounds.
Spincast outfits are inexpensive, costing less than $15 for one that's appropriately sized for youngsters 8 to 10 years of age. A button located on the back of the reel makes casting a breeze, and after a few hours practice on the front lawn, they'll be casting 25 to 30 feet.
Have fun. Remember, you're not in competition with them, nor are you fishing a tournament. Don't wake them at 3 a.m. just to be on the water at daybreak. That's not fun -- even for the parents. There are plenty of fish to catch after breakfast. Pack a lunch and head out at a reasonable hour. They'll enjoy it more.
Keep it simple. Trying to teach them the do's and don'ts of plastic worm fishing in weed beds simply won't cut it. It's far too complicated and not much fun. A simple worm, hook and bobber would be a much better choice. They'll learn to use artificials later.
Most of all, catch fish. Any kind of fish, because the fun is in the catching -- no matter what species it is. Fishing midsummer for largemouth bass on artificials will turn off the beginners, because you won't catch many fish and the kids will get bored. Instead, dunk worms for bluegill, catfish or perch. It's a relaxing, simple way to catch fish and have more fun doing it.
One of the best places to teach youngsters how to catch fish is at a local farm or community pond. Most of these ponds were constructed as soil conservation and irrigations impoundments shortly after World War II.
Although in some instances, federal and state money was used to finance the projects, they're still situated on private property, so before you go fishing, you'll have to obtain the owner's permission.
Most farmers are more than willing to allow youngsters to go fishing at their ponds, just as long as they're accompanied by an adult. Consequently, both you and your child will be able to enjoy the action.
What can you expect to catch? Most Harford County farm ponds hold large numbers of fat bluegills and largemouth bass. In some instances, where the pond has a good growth of submerged aquatic vegetation, good populations of yellow perch and white crappie exist.
Although most youngsters want to keep every fish they catch, it's extremely important to teach them conservation, even at this tender age. Explain how releasing some of their catch insures fish for future generations. Keep just enough fish for them to eat -- no more. If they don't want to eat their catch, release them all.
Finally, be sure to take the camera. Take as many photos as you can and try to capture the expression on their faces when that first fish tugs on the line. The photo will be a memento of their first and most enjoyable fishing trip.