Keep it simple when introducing kids to the outdoors

Do you remember how you were introduced to the outdoors? Was your first experience angling for sunfish, or was the annual tradition of a Minnesota deer camp your first recollection.

Camryn Talbot was not sure what to think with her first sunfish. Submitted photo
Camryn Talbot was not sure what to think with her first sunfish. Submitted photo

I can vividly remember two different outdoors adventures that I experienced as a youth that still to this day bring back fond memories that I will never forget.

The first was an ice fishing excursion. A borrowed portable shelter was obtained by my father. Now remember, 50 years ago, a portable shelter was anything but portable. Wood walls and canvas were the norm, and the heating plant was a small wood stove.

If I remember correctly, a few small northerns were caught, along with my prize catch of a jumbo perch, but it was the incident of the collapsing chair which made the entire trip one to remember.

A folding type metal lawn chair with the woven fabric was my chair. The only problem was that a five-year-old never sits in a folding chair correctly. The preferred position for an antsy youth is to sit as close to the edge as possible.

It was this position which caused the chair to fold back up launching me, legs first right into the hole soaking me almost up to my thigh. Need I say more, the ice journey was over.

The second most memorable experience was wading for bass with my father. I wasn’t old enough to yet carry a fishing pole, the water was much too deep to operate a rod and reel efficiently, but watching him cast into the reeds with jitterbugs and hula-poopers and watching a largemouth bass break the surface of the water on a calm evening really piqued my interest.

So how do you properly introduce kids to the outdoors? I am not sure what the proper approach is.

Each parent will have their own method and style, but one thing is for sure. Do not do it the wrong way.

Don’t put a new fisher kid is a boat and send them out on a rough lake.

Don’t take a new fisher kid muskie fishing, or any type of fishing which will take some skills and finesse.

Don’t give a new fisher kid some high end expensive equipment unless you don’t care if it ends up full of sand or at the bottom of the lake.

My niece heaved a nice rod and reel into the lake when she was reeling in her first sunfish when she finally realized an eight-inch finned creature was near.

Don’t let a kid play with the leeches. There is nothing worse when a leech attaches to a young kid’s arm.

Don’t give your kid a Rapala to cast with his Snoopy rod. This is a sure bet that it is going to impale some flesh, maybe even yours.

Don’t let your kid onto the dock without a life jacket if they can’t swim. Retrieving children out of the water by a fully clothed adult is not my idea of a good day.

Some do’s are to keep it fun and keep it simple. Exploring the shallows in a row boat or paddle boat spotting fish swimming in the reeds is truly an adventure.

Fishing from a dock using a simple bobber will entertain a kid for hours. Use artificial baits, like small plastics or Berkley Gulp! or Berkley Gulp! Alive! instead of live bait, which tends to die quickly when in the control of kids.

Panfish just love these small artificial baits and will inhale them just like live bait. The beauty of these baits is that you can just screw the lid tight on the jar when you are done using them. No more keeping worms out of the sun or keeping them cool on ice.

Most of all, just keep it simple and fun.

Mentoring a new fisher kid is extremely rewarding to both the adult and to the child. Just seeing the expression on a kid’s face is priceless, but the biggest reward is knowing that the skills these young folks learn about the outdoors today can and will be used for a lifetime.