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Photo: Jimmy Lovel
Photo: Jimmy Lovel

Teach Kids to Fish

Sports fishing is a great way to have fun around the water with kids, says Capt. Mike Pigott, who operates NightWing Charters out of Antigua. “This is one reason why all three of the Antigua and Barbuda Sports Fishing Club’s tournaments have a youth division. Over the last few years this has become a tough trophy to win. However, tournament fishing really isn’t where you want to start.”

Begin by encouraging kids to have an interest in their environment and specifically the aquatic environment and the creatures within it, recommends Capt. Gary Clifford, who runs the 31-foot Innovator, Yes Aye, out of True Blue Sportfishing Charters in St. George’s, Grenada. “Then demonstrate this to them by taking them fishing for small fish at first and show them how catching a fish allows you to see it close up and to hold it before releasing it back into the water – something non fisher people never get to do. This is the starting point to get them to want to catch a fish too. When they do, they get to feel the sensation of the fish pulling the line and it all builds from there.”

Roger Casellas, an avid fishermen and member of Club Nautico de San Juan, enjoys fishing with his son, seven-year-old Roger, Jr. “Here in Puerto Rico we have the opportunity to fish both in freshwater and saltwater, inshore or offshore. I think that, depending on the conditions, inshore fishing can be practiced at an age of three to four years. With the right sea conditions, kids age five years and older can start offshore fishing.”

Puerto Rico’s Jose Pavia, also a member of Club Nautico de San Juan and father of junior anglers, Bianca and Jorge Enrique, agrees. “Usually by eight years of age you can take your child out for a half-day fishing expedition with calm seas. At that time you want to have your child fish for mahi-mahi, wahoo or small yellow tail tuna. By age 10 to 11, you can test taking your kid to fish for billfish if they can handle the whole day.”

Use much smaller lures when trolling offshore with kids, says NightWing’s Pigott. “A two-to-three-inch squid like artificial lure works very well with small tuna and other small fish that swim along the drop off. Most kids would prefer catching lots of little fish as opposed to trolling all day for one big fish. There are always more small than big fish. Plus, when there is more action going on, kids tend to get less sea sick.”

In general, the good thing about fishing at an early age is that it’s all about the catch not the equipment used, says Casellas. “A kid’s excitement is based on what they catch. A kid can start fishing with an aluminium can with line and a simple hook, lead and any kind of bait.  There are beginner’s rod and reel combos sold at accessible places such as Kmart. After some experience, a custom rod and reel can be matched to age, gender and type of fish targeted.”

One of the biggest joys of sports fishing, for young and old alike, are the stories that make memories for a lifetime. True Blue’s Clifford shares just a couple tales from his charters with children. “The youngest angler to catch a sailfish on my boat was an eight-year-old. He wound it in all by himself. Then I had a 13-year-old catch 13 barracuda, blackfin tuna, false albacore and king mackerel all on one day.”

In sum, Casellas shares his tried and true theory: “If you plan to go out with your kid on a boat offshore at an early age, you have to choose the right weather. Be wise and patient with the amount of time you spend to make sure it’s a good experience for them. This will guarantee future interest or as they say ‘hook’ him or her on the sport of fishing for life.”

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