Preaching to the choir is good, but growing the size of the choir should be an underlying goal…
As sportsmen we’re pretty good about preaching to the choir. Outdoor magazines, blogs, forums, fishing social network sites and outdoor TV shows all do a good job of reaching others who also share our passion. What as outdoor enthusiasts we’re not so good at is reaching out to the mainstream and grabbing the support of others who don’t realize what the outdoors has to offer. We often preach the concept of taking a kid fishing, but the truth is we suffer in the chore of recruiting new members to the outdoor fraternity.
Instead of just taking our own kids fishing, we need to make an effort to involve kids and also older individuals that aren’t already tuned into the outdoor message. Take pictures and post them to mainstream social networking sites so others can see and follow your example.
When fishing clubs or other groups are involved, make sure that the local TV, newspaper and radio stations are invited to these events. Those of us who love fishing are in a public relations war that can be won or lost by how we conduct ourselves and who we involve. Preaching to the choir is good, but growing the size of the choir should be an underlying goal.
Getting kids involved in fishing starts when these boys and girls are young enough to be wide eyed and open minded. Notice I said both boys and girls. Fishing is non-gender specific and both sexes readily enjoy and excel at the rewards of fishing.
If more girls were introduced to fishing at an early age, chances are the outdoor contingent would be much larger and there might be fewer broken marriages in this country. Gender biases that paint fishing as a “men’s activity” have potentially limited the advancement of fishing more than any other factor with the possible exception of apathy.
It’s important to promote that fishing is one of those non-gender-specific activities that naturally appeals to boys and girls. The great thing about fishing is young people are readily drawn to the sport and as they mature these same people typically become more passionate about the “fishing game”. No matter what your age, fishing tends to make people feel and act young at heart.
The formative years happen when kids are in the toddler stage and continues into grade school. Statistics prove that if children are not introduced to fishing before the age of 10-12, chances are good they may not develop a keen interest in this activity or the outdoors.
Make It Fun & Interesting
People who are the most passionate about fishing are sometimes poor candidates for introducing others to the sport. Fishing can and often stimulates a competitive bone and competition can quickly leave a sour taste in the mouths of those who don’t find success immediately.
The lesson here is to make sure when we introduce children to fishing we leave the competition at home and base early fishing trips on the foundation of making these adventures fun, intriguing and most of all memorable. Avoid pitting one child against another even if the spirit of the competition is intended to be in good fun.
In the big picture actually catching fish isn’t that important when we first introduce young people to the sport. Even if not a single fish is caught, the activity of fishing can and should be fun, rewarding and something the child will relate positively to and look forward to repeating.
There are a lot of ways to make early fishing trips intriguing if not successful from the standpoint of catching lots of fish. A trick I used with my own kids was to take occasional breaks from fishing and give them dip nets they could use to scoop up aquatic insects, minnows, frogs and other aquatic life. Kids naturally love to play in the water and a few early trips wading around in the shallows is the perfect opportunity to teach kids the concept of a food web and how all aquatic creatures depend upon one another for survival.
Kids very quickly understand the basic concept of a food chain and those small things like plankton and aquatic insects get eaten by bigger things like minnows that in turn get eaten by larger fish. Understanding this basic principle creates a foundation for fishing and an appreciation for all the life forms that live in aquatic environments.
My camera man for Fishing 411 TV, Paul Chilson is a 5th grade teacher. Paul uses some simple natural science lessons taught along the shoreline of a marsh near his school to encourage kids to go home and ask their parents about fishing. Amazingly most of the 5th graders in his class every year have not been previously introduced to fishing.
It’s important to reiterate that introducing kids to fishing does not have to be complicated or expensive. My own first fishing experiences were surprisingly modest. I grew up near a meandering creek with culverts at every drive way and road crossing. The culverts were the perfect place for creek chubs to hide and my fishing equipment consisted of a length of monofilament line tied to a small hook baited with a piece of a worm or nightcrawler dug from the family garden.
Early on catching those creek chubs was the perfect “angling” challenge for a budding fisherman. Later on as my fishing skills and desire to learn more developed, I returned to the same creek to catch chubs for bait to target larger fish!
The point here is that planting the fishing seed is a progression of activities culminating in the actual act of catching a fish. Over time fishing can grow from a simple to more complex activity, but it needs to start with humble beginnings.
Getting started in fishing requires a foundation of basic information and it’s important that the foundation be an interesting and fun experience. The species or size fish a child ultimately ends up catching is not important. What is important is that in doing so the child experiences the natural excitement of the catch and an appreciation for the aquatic environment that made the adventure possible. Fishing is inherently fun and to hook (pun intended) others into the sport all we need to do is make time and put the wheels in motion.
Keep Or Release?
Interestingly enough one of the big hurdles every fisherman young and old must wrestle with is the decision to keep or release their catch. The beauty of fishing is there is no right or wrong decisions here. Keeping the catch to provide food on the table or bait for other fish is easily justified. In the same token, releasing the fish to swim another day defuses any concerns over killing the fish and provides a perfect opportunity to teach the concepts of conservation.
Let the child take the lead when it comes to keeping or releasing their first few catches. Some kids are going to want to keep their catch and that’s completely understandable and appropriate. Others are going to be a little squish about killing the fish and for them it’s best to live release the catch.
Lessons learned here are stone cold critical to understanding how anglers play an important role in fisheries management efforts. What better way to plant the seed of “selective harvest” and “catch and release” but with young people whose minds are like sponges anxious to soak up knowledge?
In general fishermen are good stewards of the environment. Anyone who appreciates fishing understands that fish need pollution free environments with a balanced food web to survive. The younger a person learns these “Mother Earth” lessons the more likely they are to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Summing It Up
Anyone who is passionate about fishing is undoubtedly interested in sharing their passion with others. As fishermen we do a pretty good job of sharing our passion with family members, but outside that inner circle few fishermen work at passing on this gift.
To grow our sport we need to reach out to mainstream America. The good news is fishing is a wholesome and fun activity. When exposed to fishing, most people (young or old) are going to quickly recognize that fishing is not only fun it’s one of the most rewarding activities a person can be involved in. In short, if we keep it simple and keep it fun, those who try their hand at fishing are going to have a rewarding experience that can very well last the rest of their life.