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Fishing can be a highly technical hobby—the choice in rods, reels, bait, lures and lines can be mind-boggling. Remember, when on family outings, keep it simple and keep it light. This will keep you from fighting equipment and al¬low more time for fighting fish.
Light line with small, floats, weights, hooks, and bait can help you put some excitement on the end of the line fast. Kids tire quickly and often give-up while waiting for lunker bass to bite. Most kids would rather pull in 25 minnow-sized bluegill than wait for one trophy catch.
Combining activities can also make family outings more enjoyable. For instance, try making your own fishing rods from willow branches and a length of fishing line. Or find your own bait under rocks or in the weeds around lakes and streams. Make fishing a learning experience and an adventure. And don’t forget, fishing is not “catching” fish—it’s “trying to catch” fish, while being outdoors with family and friends.
A cane pole is a good way for little anglers to start fishing. Spincasting gear is a simple rod and reel for kids. The next step is ultra-light spinning gear.
Lighten up your line
Line that is 4 to 8-pound test will do the job; pound test is the amount of force it takes to break the line. Unless you’re targeting monster catfish or muskies, light line is your best bet.
Bag the big bobbers
Bobbers (or floats) are used to suspend your bait in the water and to alert you when to set the hook. The harder the bobber is to pull under, the harder it will be to hook a fish. Small floats will help convince the fish to take your tasty bait and run. “Slip” bobbers work well for kids. Slip bobber rigs cut down on the amount of line needed at the end of the rod and are easier to cast. Small ice fishing bobbers can provide a light touch any time of year.
Sink it with shot
Sinkers (or weights) help get your line down to the fish. They can also create “zero buoyancy.” Ideally, you want your bobber to just barely float on the top of the water. Squeeze small BB-sized split shot sinkers onto your line, one at a time, until your bobber nearly sinks from the weight. Since there is very little resistance when the fish takes the bait, it is more likely to bite the bait and run.
Small hooks = big catches
Use hook sizes 6 to 10 (size 6 is larger than size 10). Fish won’t readily take large hooks unless they are feeding like crazy. A subtle presentation is often needed to catch wary fish. Tiny hooks also allow small fish to “inhale” the bait, rather than nibble the bait off the hook. If a fish swallows the hook and you want to return the fish to the water, simply cut the line as close to the hook as possible and release the fish. For a safer hook, smash down the barb with pliers or use barbless hooks.
Great big gobs of worms won’t do
There’s no need to use whole, whopping-big, writhing night crawlers on your hook. Live bait such as red worms, wax worms (bee moth larvae) or crickets work best. Keep the bait approximately the size of your hook, so the fish is less likely to steal your bait. You can also cut the bait to fit your hook. When you’re finished with the bait, give to another angler, bring home for the next trip, or throw in trash—never dump your bait into the water.
If you would like to learn how to teach fishing to the youth of your classroom or community and be able to borrow fishing equipment from the DNR for free, please visit Go FishIN online or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.