This has been a strange fall. We have enjoyed a few warm days and way too many cold, rainy days.

But even though hunting season is around the corner, don’t miss the opportunity to take your child fishing on a nearby farm pond or small lake.

This has been a strange fall. We have enjoyed a few warm days and way too many cold, rainy days.
But even though hunting season is around the corner, don’t miss the opportunity to take your child fishing on a nearby farm pond or small lake – at least on the few warm days we have left.
I remember fishing farm ponds in the fall during my youth. The water always seems to look darker, possibly because of the fallen tree leaves covering the bottom. The cool breezes and beautiful, colorful leaves just added to the experience. I even remember the smell of wood burning from nearby fireplaces or neighboring farms. This time of year can be magic to a kid and not bad for older folks, too.
My buddy and I loved to fish a No. 2 Anglia Mepps with light-brown bucktail in these conditions. We caught a lot of bass, bluegill and crappie because the fish did not realize that it was hunting season. They only knew that winter was coming and it was time to gorge. Yellow or white crappie jigs really worked well too. But nothing matched using live worms or crickets.
We used to spend a lot of time fishing behind the house of an old fishing buddy who just happened to have four beautiful daughters. They occasionally threw a package of Halloween candy or an apple at us. Sadly, they only liked us as friends – can’t win them all. But I will say we are still friends to this day, some 40-plus years later, so may it worked out for the best. Here are a few more tips on taking a kids fishing in the fall:
SNACKS: Sandwiches snacks and drinks are mandatory. My great grandmother was an excellent cook. She would make fishing trips a picnic, adding to the adventure. This is a good time for your child to learn the importance of picking up their trash and taking it to a suitable trash can. Point out trash that some left on an earlier trip and show how it spoils the beauty of nature.
Be extremely conscious of potty breaks. If you think little kidneys and bowels work fast in a car, wait until you get them in a boat. Don’t hesitate to make several trips to shore – even if the fish are biting. Bathroom facilities are always welcomed, but not always present. Remember to bring a small spade and toilet paper. Burying waste products is an important environmental lesson for kids and some adults. Be sure that you dig the hole at least 75 feet from the shoreline to avoid drainage into the lake or pond.
Finally, use this opportunity as a learning experience. Even the most careful scouting and planning will not mean the fish will bite. While waiting, point out nature like a swimming water snake, soaring hawks, tadpoles and fluttering dragonflies. Your child will start appreciating nature at an early age.  
FIND PRODUCTIVE FISHING FIRST: You can bore any child by spending a couple of hours trying to find a spot where the fish are biting from a boat. This is why I suggested taking your child to a small lake or pond. Locate good crappie or bluegill water and know the best techniques for catching either species.
TEACH THE BASICS: Let the child create their own experience. Some adults do everything for the child, and this can be a mistake. Encourage the child to do as much for themselves as is possible.
Take the time to explain why you are tying a certain hook or lure on the line. Younger children will have trouble mastering a well-tied knot on monofilament, but they can pick out brightly colored lures or certain bait. Kids need to develop self-reliance, and putting their own bait on the hook is a start. Yet, don’t force the issue. Some kids don’t want to touch a slimy old worm or minnow. This will change with time and experience.
Children under 7 or 8 are best equipped with a simple rod, reel, hook, line and sinker. Later they can learn techniques for casting and different type of retrieves. But for now, keep it simple. They will want better equipment as their skill levels increase.
SETTING THE HOOK: An eager child will likely lose a fish or two by setting the hook too hard. Teaching them to set the hook quickly but gently will improve their technique. Remember to let them land a fish, even if you have to set the hook and hand them the rod. You can explain setting the reel’s drag when the child develops more skill and understanding.
CHOOSE FISHING EQUIPMENT WISELY: Ultralight rod and reels are excellent for children. You can purchase less expensive versions that will no doubt eventually be damaged or destroyed. But take your child on a successful fishing trip and you might be surprised how prized that fishing rig will become. Note that some kids still want to learn with a spin cast reel. I highly recommend Zebco in this instance.
Your child’s reel should be wound with 4- to 6-pound test line. Find a small, inexpensive tackle box and stock it with a few jigs, bobbers, hooks, weights and other neat stuff. Teach your child to neatly arrange and organize. Early attention to organization will pay off in enjoyable trips as long as the child fishes.
PROPERLY FITTING LIFE VESTS: Each child in your boat must wear a life jacket. Make sure the vest fits snuggly and comfortably. Trying to fit an adult-sized vest on a child’s frame is a mistake. The child will be uncomfortable and it is an unsafe act.
Remember to avoid boat rings, inner tubes or float toys. Instead, take your child to a store and find a Coast guard approved version that fits. Convincing the child to wear that vest – even on hot, sticky days – is the adult’s responsibility. You can set a good example by wearing a vest, too.
BE A WEATHER WATCHER: Choose your days well before taking that child fishing. Avoid windy, rainy or cold days like we have been enduring this fall. Remember to take extra jackets for weather changes.
KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE: Boredom in youth may strike at any time – even when the fish are biting. Forcing children to stay out longer than their attention span allows is a good way to turn them off from fishing forever. A friend will sometimes make the child want to stay longer. Naturally this doubles the demands on adults. Ideally, there should be an adult for each child under 10.
Remarkably, the child that you take fishing may take you fishing someday. You will always be marked in their memory for this excellent experience during a crisp fall day.