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The Game Trail

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The Game Trail

How to get 'em outside

How can I get my kids more involved in the outdoors? It’s a question that Conservation Officers across the state and country are frequently asked. “Take them fishing,” is a likely response from us, a seemingly simple solution to the problem. However, it’s quite a complex answer that must be approached with caution otherwise you send that child running back to their video games.

The first few times the child goes fishing a positive experience is really important because this is when the magic happens and the child becomes hooked on a lifelong hobby of pursuing fish. If you are a parent or mentor who has not fished before, but you want to give that opportunity to a child, don’t fret, we’re from the government and we are here to help. Every year Idaho Fish and Game employees hold a Free Fishing Day clinic at local water bodies on the second Saturday of every June.  This year is will be held on June 12 at these nearby locations; Bonner’s Ferry—Snow Creek Pond, Clark Fork—Clark Fork Lodge Pond, Priest Lake—Priest Lake Golf Course, Sandpoint (Sagle)—Round Lake State Park. All events run from 9 am to noon.

If you’ve never been fishing, Free Fishing Day is an opportunity to start. Fish and Game personnel and volunteers will be at the above named locations to help adults and children alike if needed. There will be a limited number of loaner rods and reels available to practice with but if you have your own equipment you are encouraged to bring it.  We’ll be there to rig lines, bait hooks, and take fish off hooks.

While you don’t need a license on Free Fishing Day, all other fishing regulations including creel limits, opening dates and tackle restrictions remain in effect. Always check the rules and regulations for the water where you plan to go fishing.

Free Fishing Day is a great start to getting the kiddos out of the house and involved in an outdoor activity.  However, you can take your kids out any time of the year as long as the fishing season is open on that water.  I recommend taking a child to our “Family Fishing Waters.” Each Fish and Game region has Family Fishing Waters that can be located by going to our website at www.fishandgame.idaho.gov and clicking on the fishing section. Family Fishing Waters are a few choice spots close to home geared toward families and the likelihood you’ll catch fish. These waters are easy to reach and the rules are simple. Just to name a few in our area: Antelope Lake, Round Lake, Jewel Lake, Kelso Lake, and Granite Lake. As I stated, regulations on these bodies of water are easy to understand; fishing is open year round, limit of six trout and six bass, no limits on other species, no length limits, and you need a license if over 14 years of age.

Here are some tips to ensuring your child has positive and fun experience the first time they wet a line. First and foremost, always keep the activity about the kids.  That seems like a simple concept, but I seem to violate it with my kids all the time.  I took my three-year-old daughter out to Dover Bay when the perch were biting this spring. She was having a blast with her Tinker Bell kid’s rod and we were fortunate enough to be catching perch pretty regularly.  Typical of a three-year-old she lost interest pretty quickly and I failed to notice it until she tested the idea that her rod might float like the bobber. Shame on me I was too into catching fish. It’s okay if the kids make five casts and decide it’s time to splash around in the water or go explore because it has to be a positive experience.

Secondly, I would not get too fancy with the gear; keep it to a bobber, hook, split shot, and a good old fashion worm. It’s easy for the child to understand, and equally easy for a first time parent fishing. You can’t go wrong with a worm; it catches almost all species in most of our water bodies.

Finally, it’s a great opportunity to talk to kids about wildlife conservation principles, ethics and laws. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just simple concepts like, “we only keep what we are going to eat, and the rest of the fish get released.” Or, “the law states we can only keep six fish, the reason being to ensure that we and others will have the opportunity to catch fish here in the future.” By doing this you are creating an ethic and understanding in that child that will be carried with them for life. Unfortunately, most people who are chronic poachers learned as a child from parents that didn’t lead by setting a positive example or discussion. They unfortunately carry that destructive behavior and mentality well into adulthood.

Get those kids out for a day of fishing and remember to keep it simple, make it fun, and lead by a positive example. I’ll be at the Clark Fork Lodge Pond for Free Fishing Day on June 12 from 9 am to noon. Come on by and say hi and brings the kids for a little fishing action.

Leave No Child Inside

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

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outdoors, fishing, children

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