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Captain’s Log: Fishing Trip for Kids a Fun Way to Kick Off Summer Vacation

A day on the water fits the bill for an entertaining and healthy activity

Kids are pouring out of school for the summer, and their heads are brimming with anticipation of fun times ahead. Give them fun things to do, or very soon you may have children vegetating in front of the television and complaining — as they stir themselves to go to the kitchen for yet another unhealthy snack — about how bored they are. The solution is outdoors where sunshine, fresh air and activities combine for a healthy, fun summer.

For many children, ideas of fun summer activities are outdoors. When they poured out of school, I doubt their heads were filled with images of lying in front of the television. Your job is to aim them toward activities that will keep them entertained, healthy and learning. Few things fit that bill better than a fishing trip.

Your options include the local piers (including Stearns Wharf, Goleta and Gaviota), harbor breakwater or surf-fishing spot, renting a skiff or using your own boat, fishing aboard one of the big open-party sportboats, or a private-charter experience.

The simplest and least expensive option is shore fishing from piers, breakwaters and beaches. Stop by a local tackle shop and buy a few 1- to 3-ounce weights and packages of pre-tied leaders with small hooks, and bait. Also buy some small leadheads and Gulp! grubs. Ask a lot of questions while you’re in the shop, and you’ll learn where the bite is best and how to get there.

Most cities along the coast have a pier, and each harbor has a breakwater where fishing can be pretty good at times. Kids have a blast catching mackerel on light gear. From breakwaters it is also reasonable to hope for a halibut, bass, sand shark or shovel nose shark.

The best surf fishing spots change frequently, and it’s best to ask the advice of the tackle shop owner. Check out the beaches and find areas where experienced local fisherfolk surf fish. Try a bait rig in the same general area, or walk along and cast the leadhead/plastic grub rig or cast a shiny spoon. It is possible to catch corbina, surf perch and halibut.

Each harbor has public launching ramps for launching your own boat. To rent a skiff, check the yellow pages or inquire at a local tackle shop. If you are not an experienced boater, this may not be the best option. Safety is the primary concern, and knowledge of fishing spots and techniques is another important issue.

A trip on a big open-party sportboat is OK for bigger kids who can stand their ground at the rail, but smaller kids may have trouble with the competitive environment on these boats. Stay right with the child at the rail and you can both have a good experience. Kids always love the full-service galleys aboard these boats. The landings strive to make it attractive to bring kids along by offering lower fares. Each one typically offers a choice of half-day, ¾-day or all-day trips on the open-party boats.

A private-charter experience is the ultimate option, offering the best but most expensive adventure. The boat and seasoned skipper are totally dedicated to helping people learn to fish and interpret the surrounding conditions and sealife. The skipper will know what is biting, where the action is and just how to rig for success. This is also the simplest option in terms of preparation, since you can use the rods/reels, tackle and bait available aboard the charter boat.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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