I remember when I was growing up in Watertown, when my Grandparents Butch and Mary Menkveld took my brother and I fishing. They were always fishing and knew about everything there was to know about the outdoors.
I don’t remember the lake, but I do remember Grandpa giving us a cup full of bait, just enough to get start fishing and telling us, he wasn’t going to clean any of those little fish we usually catch unless we caught over twenty-five.
He thought that it was a safe bet, but forgot he’d showed us how perch eyes were such great bait for perch.
That evening when he and I were out behind the house cleaning the dozen of little perch we caught, he mumbled under his breath, “I should have never showed those kids that trick”.
We were fortunate to have several people in our lives to show us all the great adventures that were part of the outdoors. My father Cal, my Grandparents and good friend and neighbor Glen Matteson got us interested in the outdoors. Which was good as it kept us too busy to get into trouble, well anyway in much trouble?
Kids and fishing just naturally go together but there are a couple of things you’ll need when it comes to teaching a youngster about fishing, one is a lot of patience on your part and the other is something pulling on the fishing line, an eager biter, a fish that will take the bait.
When fishing with kids, the old K.I.S.S. rule is in effect, or the Keep It Simple Stupid rule, which means go with the basics, the old hook, line, sinker and a small bobber. The more difficult you make it, the quicker you’re going to lose the kids interest, as a kid’s attention span is very short.
In the fishing classes I give to kids as a Nebraska Aquatic Education instructor, I start with the basics, keeping it short and not too complicated, starting with how to handle a rod & reel, the short Mickey Mouse set-ups for the younger kids and a Zebco 202 for the older ones. I teach them how to cast, rig up the basic rig, including how to put a wiggly ole worm on a hook. With some of the girls, this may take a bit of coaxing, but after they’ve completed it once, and have something to wipe their hands off and after they’ve did it the first time, it’s not so bad.
The next thing we talk about is what to fish for, and of course, that has to be panfish as the, perch, bluegill and crappies are excellent fish to go after when introducing kids to fishing!
Perch are a schooling fish, which means; they swim in huge schools and when you find one, you’re going to have a good chance at finding a bunch and at getting them to bite.
Perch are cruisers, traveling all the time, but once they find a food source, they’ll hang around until they have eaten their fill or the food source moves.
In bodies of water where freshwater shrimp are found, perch will pig out on these tiny marine invertebrates and pack on the pounds.
Perch in these schools are very competitive; once you get the attention of one fish, others will join in, trying to beat the other fish in the school to the bait. They are eager biters, going after most bait including wax worms, pieces of night crawlers, minnows, minnow heads, perch eyes and at times even a bare gold hook.
A Proud Angler award for perch in South Dakota is one 14″ long or one weighing 1 ¾ pounds or better, while in Nebraska their Master Angler Award is given for catching a 15″ fish or a 2-pound fish.
During the early spring, bluegills are shallow water species, as that’s where they will do their spawning. Bluegills are nest builders, cruising the shallows looking for the ideal spot to build their nest. Once they find it, the males’ will fan out a depression or nest in the shallow water where the fertilized eggs are deposited and the fry are raised. These males will guard the nest and chase off any intruders. Excellent bluegill baits include worms, grasshoppers and plastic artificial baits.
A big bluegill, one that qualifies for the South Dakota Proud Angler Award or the Nebraska Master Angler Award has to be one that’s 10″ long or a fish, which weighs a pound.
Crappies are also nest builders and will continually fan the nest, oxygenating the eggs and keeping the silt from covering the fertilized eggs. They too will nip at and chase anything that gets close to their nests.
Good baits for crappies would be a small minnow or a tiny jig suspended below a small bobber.
After the spawn, crappies will congregate around docks or other overhead shaded areas and in along the weed edge. As the water warms, they’ll move deeper, relating to structure and can be found near brush piles as well as adjacent to docks.
To be awarded a South Dakota Proud Angler Award or the Nebraska Master Angler Award you’ll need to catch a fish in the 2-pound range or one that is 15″ long.
As with any shallow water fish, the key is to get to the pond or lake early, this is especially true in clear water lakes as weeds in these clearer ponds quickly fill in all of the shallow water, making it virtually impossible to fish.
You can still catch them along the outside edge, but once you have a fish on, they’ll dive into the weeds, making it tough to bring them in without breaking your line.
It doesn’t take a big fish like those mentioned above to get a kid hooked on fishing; all they need is someone to show them how, some basic tackle and something that will bite on their bait.
Kids and the outdoors, like kids and panfish just naturally go together/
Don’t you know someone who is new to the outdoors that you could introduce to fishing, when you do, it will be rewarding to both of you.