There’s really no better place than Kodiak for kids to learn how to fish, and no better time than July and August.
School is out.
The weather is often great.
And the waters teem with willing fish!
I grew up loving to fish, as did my wife. I’m proud to report that we’ve passed it along as a family heritage. Our daughter loves to fish, as does our granddaughter. And they’re good at it.
It’s hard for me to come up with an experience more rewarding than a good day on the water with kids. Fishing is part and parcel of our most memorable family gatherings.
But love of fishing is not something we’re born with or not. Most likely early experiences in life cemented a love of fishing, or turned you away from it.
As much as I grew up loving to fish, my brother vacillates between indifference and dislike. His son is even less enthused. The fishing love clearly faded on that particular branch of the family tree.
The distinction between us is that I’m a couple of years older, and at a critical phase I spent many days fishing with our grandfather. By the time my brother was old enough for the same experience our grandfather had passed away and our parents had less time and opportunity for fishing.
Even when there’s lots of opportunity for kids to fish however, there’s no guarantee they’ll like it.
That’s fine if it’s their own choice not to fish, but in truth it’s more likely that early experiences actually drove the kids away from fishing.
In raising our kids my wife and I applied lessons we had learned from our own parents, and especially our grandparents.
The big distinction between the two previous generations boiled down to time available for fishing. By definition retired grandparents had more time for fishing with kids than did parents.
But it goes one step deeper.
With few days off in a busy life, when parents are more inclined to do their own fishing than to focus on the needs of kids learning to fish.
Speaking from my own experience during busy periods of my life with limited opportunities to fish, kids can be a hassle when you’re anxious to do your own fishing.
Each time your youngster needs help with something it’s a disruption. If you’re unwilling or unhappy when interrupted, the kids know it. Things go downhill fast when the kids get frustrated or lose interest while you want to continue fishing.
There’s a simple solution to all that:
By that I mean put down your own fishing rod and concentrate on your kids. Even as you make your own kid-free fishing trips at other times, set aside days or hours when your own tackle stays in the car and you devote yourself to your kids.
Such breaks in your fishing don’t have to be long, but especially with the youngest kids, they’re important.
Also — don’t force your kids to keep fishing when they want to quit.
Short young attention spans won’t endure slow action. When the kids want to do something else, go right along with them.
I owe my love of bird-watching to slow fishing periods when our kids preferred watching seagulls and eagles. All these years later we still have jars of sea shells and interesting rocks accumulated on kid-fishing breaks.
In no time at all your kids will know that time on the water with you means quality time with your full attention. Even more important for you and for them, they’ll develop the skills that allow them to become more independent anglers.
In short order you’ll find yourself able to use your own tackle in the company of a proud and accomplished young angler.
That’s the real beginning of a lifetime of family fishing. Your kids are likely to enjoy fishing as much or more than you do. Talk about a great lifestyle, when your kids love fishing and it becomes the focus of summer for all of you!
I started this column with the claim that July and August are kid season.
I can sum it up in two words: pink salmon.
If you haven’t experienced a pink salmon yet, you’re in for a treat. At the peak of the run the rivers and river mouths literally turn black with salmon, they’re so numerous.
And so willing!
If a person young or old can cast even a short distance, they have a great chance to connect.
Pink salmon average a little over three pounds and can put up quite a tussle. Depending on the individual youngster, they might even be too strong for anyone under 5 or 6 years old.
That’s not a problem either: Hold the rod and let your favorite youngster reel in the fish. You might even need to cast for them, but kids love turning the crank on a reel whether to retrieve a lure and experience a strike or to retrieve a fish.
I well remember our granddaughter’s first encounter with pink salmon. She was so young that she gave up on casting and started digging in the sand. But each time one of us hooked a salmon she abandoned the sand toys to dash over and reel in the fish. Days later she was proud to tell everyone about all the salmon she caught the fish.
If you have a boat, be well-advised to set aside times for flounder rather than salmon or halibut.
Anchor over a sand or gravel bottom in 30-feet to 60-feet of water and tie a 1-ounce jig onto a light spinning rod. Bait the jig with a sliver of herring and lower it to the bottom.
Then hang on for action! Flounder fishing from a boat is a great way for kids to start fishing, because they don’t even have to be able to cast to be successful.
You can also spend a sunny morning or afternoon on the grassy shore of one of the many lakes stocked by Alaska Department of Fish and Game with rainbow trout. Action is slower than with pink salmon or flounder, but there is lots more room for kids to play and romp between fish.
Sure, you’re likely to be the one watching a bobber or rod tip for a hit, but the kids will appear in an instant when you holler, “Fish on!”
Be prepared for surprises when fishing with your kids. As their interests and skills grow, they’ll become more independent.
But things don’t always go as planned.
Sure that can mean problems to be solved, but your good graces and sense of humor in helping them will teach life lessons extending far beyond the water and fish.
Of course, some “problems” are anything but problems in fishing terms.
I well remember the day when our daughter wandered downriver in search of pink salmon and called for help dragging back the first silver salmon she’d ever caught. And she did it all by herself.
Then there was the time our granddaughter called for help with a “flounder.” She got lots of help when it turned out to be a 75-pound halibut with her little 1-ounce jig planted firmly in its jaw!
After 40 years of enjoying Kodiak and over 20 years writing the Outdoor Kodiak column, Hank Pennington still can't get enough. He can be reached at email@example.com.