Viruses that could wipe out mankind – or at least deliver a terrible cough with fever must be taken seriously. Sporting events or other crowded happenings are canceled. I was even warned not to attend church.
Guess what, folks – fishing, morel mushroom hunting and outdoor hikes are not canceled. This is exactly the time to rediscover the outdoors and share these experiences with your boys and girls.
However, keep in mind that children between elementary and middle school have an attention span of 10 to 12 minutes, although attention spans may be considerably longer when fish are biting.
You can’t generalize youth, so here are a few suggestions for different types of kids:
Book Worms: A childhood friend hated all kinds of outdoor activities, but enjoyed sitting under a tree and reading a good book, and this carried on to her married life. She reads while her husband and kids fish, occasionally in the boat during nice weather. There is not a thing wrong with this.
Just make sure your bookworm child is comfortable on the shore or dock, with plenty of water and snacks. Check the area for ants or other insects where he or she plans to stay. Keep the boat within sight of your child and leave a cell phone to communicate with you. Sadly, kids have to be monitored to make sure a bad person will not harm them.
Most importantly, let your child know this reading day is theirs and they hopefully will want to return.
Squeamish Kids: Some kids are not aggressive and like simplicity in fishing or other activities. For example, your boy or girl might be fine with watching a baited bobber instead of casting shorelines for big bass. Your child may even not want to touch the bait or fish, and that is fine too.
Later in life they may bait and take fish off the hook. The biggest mistake is forcing them to do what they don’t want to try. Offer the opportunity to slide a worm or minnow on their hook and see how they react. You can work your child into more active fishing tactics later. For now, let them sit and watch their bobber. This, too, is good advice for beginning fishermen.
Energetic Kids: Truth is, some kids equate watching a floating bobber to watching paint dry. This may be the case with your athletic kids. They get impatient when bites don’t happen quickly and want more action. You may have better fishing success with bass or other aggressive gamefish tactics.
Running crankbaits or spinners requires constant motion, making accurate casts to exact spots and then inventing convincing retrieves to fool big bass. This is like a chess game where making the right move equals success. Rolling a spinnerbait over a submerged log or slipping a crankbait through brush often means big strikes and furious fights.
Kids that like to keep moving love this kind of action when bass are hitting. The less experienced anglers may get bored when the fishing is slow and want to quit. This is the exact time to take a lunch break or simply go home.
Mentally Challenged Kids: I have worked with this group many years and learned one thing, most love to fish and you can’t generalize these kids or adults. Some are patient and some want immediate success, but simplicity is important. A Spincast reel like a Zebco 33, with moderate-sized rod is ideal.
Most of this group loves to fish with bait and bobbers, but may be afraid of the worms and minnows, so plan on spending your time baiting their hooks and taking fish off. Some like to do everything for themselves, but watch them carefully while handling sharp hooks.
A hooked finger resulting in pain and blood can cause a mental meltdown, not an uncommon occurrence with some challenged kids. So be prepared for this by quickly rubbing Neosporin on the cut, followed by a bandage. Then offer your child their favorite snack with a drink. It may be time to leave if they become inconsolable, so leave. Chances are they will want to fish another day.
Morel Mushroom Hunting: Some kids like to mushroom hunt, at least for a while. Problem is, you often have to cover a lot of ground before finding mushrooms and some kids become bored – my brother and I did. The trick is to walk slowly through the woods and study the ground until you find the tasty morsels. Your child will let you know if they are bored.
Hikes in the Woods: The type of hike you take depends on how physically fit your child is and if they like the woods. There are many good paved paths at conservation areas or parks that make these walks easier. More athletic kids may like exploring new areas and hiking through the woods without paved paths. Remember to spray for mosquitoes and ticks.
Camping: Most kids love camping, making s’mores and other adventures. Make sure they have a comfortable pad with a sleeping bag to sleep on. Comfort is necessary when camping with most kids.
Pay attention to insect control. Mosquitoes are a big bummer for camping. Setting up your tent on an ant hill is another mistake to avoid – but it frequently happens.
Have an adequate bathroom setup for your kids. This means some kind of portable toilet, toilet paper – if you can find some – and a blanket or some kind of cover for privacy.
Pick your spots carefully and there may be horses nearby to rent or even an orchard where you can pick fresh fruit for your camp. I highly recommend a camping table with folding chairs and a cook stove. Don’t forget to bring snacks and other goodies. I remember waking up in fishing camp to the smell of bacon cooking and coffee brewing.
The good, clean outdoor experience is still open for business. Make it fun so your youth will want to return.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.