It’s finally spring in Maine and as the ice and snow slowly disappear many of us are itching to get outdoors! In my opinion there is no better way to get out and enjoy some time together than wetting a line and taking in all the beauty that Maine has to offer. Fishing is a healthy, fun and traditional hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone no matter their age or ability.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife manages a number of bodies of water specifically to provide special opportunity to you anglers (under the age of 16). A full list of these bodies of water can be found here and here. Each week I’ll be featuring a different youth only body of water in order to help you plan your next fishing adventure.
Before you head out be sure to review Maine’s Freshwater Fishing Regulations and check out these tips for introducing children to the sport of fishing.
First, understand that fishing with children is not the same as fishing on your own or with your buddies. The first trip needs to be completely about them. In fact, I recommend you leave your fishing equipment at home so you can focus solely on assisting them with their own.
Keep it simple. Use a basic spincasting rod/reel combo such as a good ol’ Zebco 22. Look for one with a smaller reel so their hands can comfortably control the “button” to release the line. Fish with a bobber, a hook and a worm and target species such as perch, bass, crappie or other pan fish that are often easy to catch and abundant or fish at one of Maine’s youth only fishing waters. Eventually they can work their way up to more advanced fishing equipment and tackle.
Make it a shore thing. If you fish on shore instead of from a boat then kiddos have the freedom to move around and don’t feel isolated or confined, which will surely lead to boredom quickly. If they want to take a break, let them take a break! Chase butterflies, tadpoles, splash in the water; if they’re having fun in the outdoors then the trip is a success. Eventually they will be ready to head out on the water and try fishing from a boat.
Make sure you teach skills. Allow them to do as much of the work as they are willing or able to do. Teach them how to put the worm on the hook, how to cast properly and accurately, and even how to handle their fish. If they aren’t game right away, make sure you explain what you’re doing while they watch. If they’re really not interested then take a break and go throw a frisbee around for a minute. The goal is that eventually they will have the skills and independence to enjoy fishing on their own.
Stress the importance of safety. Teach them to look around before each cast and always be aware of where their hook is. Also, I suggest making sure you both wear a hat with visor and eye protection (sunglasses or youth size shooting glasses work great). It’s not a bad idea to have them wear a PFD on shore if they’re nervous around the water or they are not a strong swimmer especially in the early season while water temperatures are still quite cool.
Most importantly, be relaxed and make it fun. As you head out leave behind the tension and take along an open mind and a lot of patience. Don’t measure the success of your trip by the number of casts made or fish caught. Remember to praise children for their patience and cooperation and do what you need to do to make the day a positive memory even if that means stopping for an ice cream on the way home.
Oh! And don’t forget the sunscreen and bug repellent. It’s also very important to be diligent about checking for ticks.
Enjoy the nice spring weather and your time together. Happy fishing :-)