The excitement that young girls and boys exhibit when they catch a fish for the first time is fun to see. Then they want to catch another. And another. And pretty soon they’re asking, “can I hold the rod/cast the bait out/put the worm on the hook/reel the line in?”
So the first fishing 101 question is when to start taking kids fishing. The answer is as soon as you want, but probably between the ages of 2 to 4, when they have good control of their bodies and movements, and can communicate fairly well. That’s probably closer to 4 than to 2, and it’s when they have a little more attention, stamina, interest, and patience. Ask yourself if the child is capable of holding the rod if he/she catches a moderate-size fish.
And that leads to the question about when you can start teaching a child to cast. It depends. Maybe age 4, probably 5, certainly 6. Most 5-year-olds can throw a ball, swing a baseball bat, and do other things requiring motor skills. But abilities and attitudes differ among youths of the same age. Some are bigger, stronger, more coordinated, or simply more determined. Whatever their age, if they want to do it, get into your extreme patience mode and show them.
Here’s advice for anyone who wants to learn how to teach a child to cast a fishing rod:
Start with an appropriate size rod. It should be small and light. What’s small? Thirty-six to 48 inches, maybe 5 feet if the youngster is older. Use a kid’s fishing rod rather than an adult’s fishing rod, or at least use something that would be light and small for adults. • Start only with spinning or spincasting gear, the latter being a hands-down favorite for kids because of its simplicity of use. Basic spincasting gear will not hold up to much saltwater use, however. • Consider starting with an underspin reel on a spinning rod. Several companies make underspin reels, which are spincasting reels that feature a line-release trigger rather than a pushbutton line release, and are mounted under a spinning rod handle rather than on top of a spincasting rod handle. I started my kids, nephew, niece, and grandkids with such an outfit. It’s easy to master. • Here’s the most practical and helpful way of how to teach a child to cast a fishing rod: practice first on land in an open field, not while also trying to catch fish on the water. Teaching a child to cast onshore gives him/her time to develop timing and coordination, and you can build up to increasing accuracy by giving them distances to achieve (start short) and broad target areas to shoot for. • Set the gear up for left- or right-handed use, whichever is appropriate. Let them do what comes naturally to them. • Use practice casting plugs, which are aerodynamic weight-forward rubber or plastic objects without hooks, to start and to gain proficiency. • After they develop some ability, have them practice casting with something akin to what they’ll be angling with, but without a hook (like a float rig). • Make sure that the gear a child uses is in good condition, especially the line, rod guides, and reel functions. It’s exasperating and discouraging if the tackle is junk and/or hampers their efforts. • Stress safety with constant reminders to look behind them when they’re about to cast. Eventually it will become second nature. • Once they’re casting on the water, work with them to control their casting around people on shore or in a boat, near objects, and in closer quarters. You can’t always just rear back and fire away, so have them always thinking about the circumstances.
Finally, most young anglers don’t need a fishing license, but check to see what your state’s regulations are. If you’re an adult accompanying them and assisting them, you may need a license even if you’re not actually fishing. So check.