Take a Kid Fishing -- Can you remember the first time you went fishing? You may even remember the first fish you ever caught, landing it with little skill, standing next to someone who patiently helped you reel it in. Now is the chance to return the favor. Choose a weekend, invite a niece, nephew or next-door-neighbor, and post a "Gone fishin'" sign. Now is the chance to teach a relaxing, rewarding sport to a youngster, who, if taught right, will be forever caught by the fishing bug.
Make it fun. If you wear out your young friend by trying too hard to catch fish, it will seem more like a chore than a sport. If your friend wants to swim, catch frogs or have a spitting contest, then by all means, let him do it. (Better yet, do it with him.) Always make the appropriate noises and pretend you're having a blast, even if the fish aren't biting --and especially if your young charge fouls up her line for the hundredth time. If the day is fun, she'll associate fishing with fun.
Catch fish. Pick a place close by so your companion doesn't get bored on the drive. Look in the phone book for places that sell stock fish; they might let you pay to fish, and catching a fish at those places is pretty much guaranteed. Let your budding angler land the fish but help her enough so she doesn't lose them. In most states, kids under 16 don't need a license, but law vary, so check it out first. Contact Idaho Fish and Game at 800-554-8685, & lt;www2.state.id.us/fishgame & or Washington Fish and Wildlife at 866-246-9453, & lt;www.wa.gov/wdfw & .
Go prepared. Pack the night before and don't expect the young person you've invited to help much. Pack all the essentials to make it fun, easy and safe. If you're going in a boat, have him try on his life jacket before you leave, making sure all the belts and buckles work. Pack games and something for playing catch. Prepare for rain; you don't want to disappoint your friend by canceling the trip just because of a bit of moisture in the air. Take along lots of food and good snacks he normally doesn't get to eat at home, like gummy worms, sunflower seeds and jerky chew. Remember to include good strong sunscreen and a first aid kit.
Be patient. If your fellow fisherperson sees you getting upset about little things, cussing every time you get a knot in your line or when a fish breaks loose, she'll do the same thing. Don't push her too hard. If she doesn't want to put the worm on the hook, don't make her do it. Instead, put a worm on your own hook. Once she sees you yanking fish out of the water with a worm, she'll be sure to ask to use one, too. That's when you tell her the worm she's using has to have the scent of her own hands before a fish will agree to get caught.
Praise them. If he doesn't really like a particular aspect of fishing, tell him he's really good at it. When I was a kid, I remember I didn't like cleaning out my fish. So my dad and mom, at every given opportunity, said to friends and neighbors, "Mary Jane cleans fish better than anyone we've ever seen. She has real talents along those lines." I took on bragging rights for my superhuman fish-gutting abilities, and from then on, I was cleaning everybody's fish.
Teach a tyke the art of pike. Let him be the one to release the fish if you're not going to keep it. However, don't let him throw it back into the water; show him how to be gentle with it instead. Have him hold it under water and slowly move water through its gills before he lets it go. If he keeps some fish, teach him how to cook it on a skillet over a campfire.
If you teach kids early on to respect the water and the fish they're catching, then it will remain an unspoiled and available escape for others down the road. The exaggerated sizes of the fish they catch will probably never change -- kid stuff, naturally, continues into adulthood. Still, years later, they'll come home dirty and smelly, tired and happy.
NOTE: Many thanks to Emil, my 19-year-old son, who recently reminded me about the pleasures of learning to fish and who also helped me to figure out the essentials of teaching someone to fish for the first time. Photo taken by Emil's buddy,