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OUTDOORS FEATURE: ‘Take a kid fishing’ is not just an empty cliche'

Taking time to go fishing with a youngster is important and rewarding. The gesture fosters fond memories for all and exposes the child to a pastime he or she can enjoy for a lifetime. (Alabama DNR/Special to The Herald)

Taking time to go fishing with a youngster is important and rewarding. The gesture fosters fond memories for all and exposes the child to a pastime he or she can enjoy for a lifetime. (Alabama DNR/Special to The Herald)

Outdoor sports, like many other pursuits, are fraught with overused slogans and catch phrases. “Take a Kid Fishing” is a well-worn cliché we have all heard and likely have come to consider old hat. That’s unfortunate. The message has lost none of its importance.

When we take a youngster fishing, we perform a service to the child and the sport. In many instances, angling “hooks” another avid fan and the child is exposed to a pastime that foster’s not only fun and enjoyment, but good natural-resource stewardship and conservation mindedness as well. We also build memories that last a lifetime. Fishing with children is important, and it is not just those who make up the catchy sayings who think so.

Dane Simons, from Pinellas County, Fla., recently spent a few exciting hours on a South Georgia state park lake with his two sons, ages 6 and 9. Returning to shore with the active youngsters, he was all smiles, even in a less-than-stable rented canoe.

"Quite an adventure," he said. "I'd never been in a canoe before and these two certainly hadn't. I'm afraid we spent a lot more time just paddling and staying upright than we did fishing."

Simons, who fishes with his children as often as time allows, believes we owe it to our kids to get them interested in the sport at an early age.

"They need to learn early on that fishing is fun,” he offered. “I like to take my boys to different places and let them experience it on as many different levels as they can at their age. Sometimes we're on the bank and sometimes we're in a boat. Whatever the type of fishing we’re doing, it’s doing something as a family. That’s really important. It’s also something they can continue to do as adults."

Jason Cash, from the Birmingham, Ala. suburb of Bessemer, considers fishing a good way to cope with the pressures and the fast-paced way of life in or near a major metropolitan area. He and 8-year-old daughter Morgan are seldom home on weekends.

"We'll be fishing," he said. "Kids who live near the big city need their getaway time just like adults. Our time on the water is like a pressure valve, just as much for Morgan as for me. She loves it and I do too."

Taking kids fishing is not a pastime reserved just for fathers, either. Consider the mother and son who recently spent an afternoon catching bluegills and redbreasts from a southwest Georgia creek.

"I really need to go home and start dinner," Mom said as darkness approached. "It's really hard to get away, though, when you see the kids having such a good time." Then, smiling, she amended her statement with, “Okay, I’m having fun, too.”

These are only a few take-a-kid-fishing scenarios one can witness in the South as the weather warms and people take to the lakes and streams on a regular basis. Anglers wishing to join the ranks of those who derive pleasure from fishing with children need do little else but find a willing kid and go. And no rules have yet been written that say the young person has to be yours or even related to you. More than a few avid anglers learned the sport from grandparents, uncles and aunts, or unrelated adult friends or neighbors who proved to be good “reasonable facsimiles.”

Of course, there are certain rules that are important to follow where child fishing buddies are concerned.

(1) Make each trip a short one. Much as they enjoy fishing, children's attention spans are seldom geared toward extended time periods on the water or anywhere else.

(2) Keep it simple. Unless the child is an advanced angler for his age, casting artificial lures for wary species like bass can be more frustrating than rewarding. Crickets, worms, and simple fishing poles have been basic kid equipment for generations. No one has yet found anything better.

(3) Choose your fishing destination with care. Do your best to pick a spot where the child can catch fish without a lot of down-time between catches. Catching becomes less important as we grow older but regular nonproductive outings can turn young anglers off in a hurry. Fish on the line with minimal time in between is a big deal.

(4) Don't expect a kid fisherman to behave like an adult. Bait his hook if he or she wants you to. Untangle snarled lines with a smile on your face. If the young angler spills Gatorade in your tackle box, remember you should have kept it closed in the first place.

(5) Keep in mind the trip is for the child's benefit, not yours. There will be plenty of times when you can leave your young partner at home and go alone or with another adult. Be satisfied with catching fewer fish or a lot of little ones. Share the kid's excitement over a couple dozen three-finger bream that you don't really want to clean, but gladly will, when you get home.

Not too many years ago, during National Fishing Week, the chosen theme was "Take a Friend Fishing". At the risk of creating yet another cliché, what better friend does a person have than his kid?