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Captain’s Log: Teaching Children to Fish Will Get You Hooked

It's hard to beat the experience of helping a child land his or her first fish, and there are several options for delving into coastal waters.

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Fishing can be a bonding and learning experience for moms and daughters. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

Don’t let summer slide by without taking a child fishing. There are few greater joys in life than helping a youngster learn to fish and then land a fish.

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Capt. David Bacon

With your help, a child can learn about the natural order and about our place in the food chain. By teaching the values of ethical angling, you can help a child learn about conservation and the basics of fisheries management.

You’ll learn something, too, because you’ll feel so good about the experience and what you have contributed that you just might have trouble holding back a tear. I’ve been there! It’s difficult to explain to a child why helping him or her catch a fish made me shed a tear.

Good options include a quick stop at a local pier, harbor breakwater or surf-fishing spot, renting a skiff or using your 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 tackle shop and buy a few 1- to 3-ounce weights and packages of pre-tied leaders with small hooks and bait. Also buy 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. Children have a blast catching mackerel on light gear. From breakwaters, it’s reasonable to hope for a halibut or bass.

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

Each harbor has public launching ramps for boats. To rent a skiff, check the yellow pages of a phone book or inquire at a tackle shop. If you’re 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 youths who can stand their ground at the rail, but smaller children may have trouble with the competitive environment on these boats. Stay with the child at the rail and you both can have a good experience.

Children always love the full-service galleys aboard these boats. The landings strive to make it attractive to bring children along by offering lower fares. Each one usually offers a choice of half-day, three-quarter-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 dedicated to helping people learn to fish and interpret the surrounding conditions and sea life. The skipper will know what is biting, where the action is and just how to rig for success. This also is 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 new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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