Helping your kids fall for fishing
My dad always introduced me to new people as “his fishing buddy” when I was a kid, and it was undoubtedly true. My love of fishing comes from him, and it came at a very young age. As far back as I can remember, fishing with him was always something I looked forward to.
Everything about it was fun. It wasn’t until I got older and started taking kids fishing myself that I realized everything my dad did and didn’t do to make sure it was a pleasurable day. He made sure we weren’t gone too long. He made sure I could handle my own rod and reel. He made sure I wasn’t uncomfortable.
If there were times when we weren’t having fun, I don’t remember them. We were fishing in small ponds, rivers, and lakes, though, not the Gulf of Mexico, so if he sensed I wasn’t enjoying myself, he could quickly pivot and we could either make the short walk back to the car or we could be back at the dock in just a few minutes.
That’s not an option when you and your fishing buddy are fishing offshore. There’s no quick fix. So planning ahead is critical when introducing kids to offshore fishing.
The single most important decision you can make is picking the right day. A forecast of calm seas will set you up for success before you even leave the dock. If chartering a boat is an option, find someone who specializes in family-friendly fishing. Not every captain and mate is a match for youngsters who are just learning. Even if you have your own boat, taking a charter allows you to focus entirely on your kid or the kids on the boat while eliminating all of the other stresses of an offshore trip.
Captain Troy Frady of Distraction Deep Sea Fishing Charters in Orange Beach, Alabama, has built his business over the last 20 years by focusing on family fishing trips. “For some kids, it’s all about catching fish,” says Frady. “But most want to engage in everything from driving the boat to tying knots. Kids want to touch, feel, learn, and ask lots of questions, and we encourage them to do so.”
For those taking their first trip offshore, Frady recommends a half-day, six-hour charter instead of a full-day offshore excursion. “Sometimes less is more … fun,” says Frady.
Captain Frady knows that the most entertaining part of any trip is catching fish, even if you can’t keep them. He’s long been a proponent of practicing catch and release. If red snapper is out of season, does that make it any less fun to catch for a kid? Of course not. But it also offers a chance to teach kids a bit of conservation. On Frady’s charters, after landing a fish, a picture is taken, the fish swims away, and the kids learn why they let the fish go instead of keeping it for dinner. There are also in-season fish to be saved and cooked up for dinner after the trip, but the number of memories made will always outnumber the number of fish kept.
Frady also fishes light tackle, which is so smart. “Light tackle not only produces more bites but is also much easier for the kids to handle,” he says. “They’re not intimidated or overwhelmed by big, bulky tackle.” Using smaller gear allows even the youngest ones in the group to get in on the action.
This summer, my 84-year-old dad came down for a visit and wanted to go offshore snapper fishing. So I did what he had done for me so many times. I made sure we had fun. Getting bounced around on a boat at his age is about as much fun as it would be for a 6-year-old, so I made sure to pick the right day when it was slick calm out on the water. We left the dock at 10 a.m. and were back by 3 p.m.
I downsized my tackle. We caught our limit of snapper, which we kept for supper. But more importantly, my dad and “his fishing buddy” had yet another fun trip.
Family-Friendly Fishing Charters
Here are two area companies with fishing excursions perfect for the kids to tag along on.
Distraction Deep Sea Fishing Charters
Captain Troy Frady
Orange Beach Marina, Orange Beach, AL
Un Reel Charter Boat
Captain Justin Destin
305 Stahlman Ave., Destin, FL