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How to introduce your teen to fishing

By Patrick Campeau, professional angler

So, you’ve just booked a fishing holiday and, this time, your teenager is coming along. If all goes well, you’ll both come away with unforgettable memories. Who knows, maybe your budding angler will grow into a fishing aficionado, or even a pro! But, to make the most out of your parent-teen adventure, some preparation is required. Then, once you’re out on the lake, you can truly enjoy the moment.

Here are a few tips that make all the difference!

Fokus Productions | © Sépaq

Prepare in advance

Take the time to explain to your fishing partner what he or she can expect: how long it will take to get there, where you’ll stay, what amenities there are (shower, kitchen, dock, boat, etc.), the kind of fishing you’ll be doing, what species you’ll be fishing for, and other details.

Together with your teenager, do a thorough inspection of their fishing gear. It would be a shame to realize, once you get there, that their reel doesn’t work or that their line is no good.

Fishing kits designed for children are not the ideal choice for teenagers. Why not treat your budding angler to a rod and reel that looks like yours? That way, if you’re baitcasting, for example, your partner will feel like they’ve got the right gear, even if you only paid 30 dollars for it. You could also consider borrowing a rod from a friend or family member.

Next, make a list of gear you’ll need to bring (if need be, consult Sépaq’s memory aid) and get your teen to carefully prepare theirs: warm clothes, rain jacket, life jacket, bug repellent, sunscreen, cap, boots, sunglasses, sleeping bag, toiletries, etc. If something gets left behind, they’ll have to get by without it! You might want to double-check their bag before leaving, just to be on the safe side.

On another note, take the time to explain to your young fishing partner that you’ll be attempting to outsmart an animal that thrives in a completely different environment from yours. When it comes to fishing, there are no guarantees! But the cleverer and more patient, methodical, and attentive you are, the better your chances of pulling in a nice catch. That said, if you don’t catch anything, it’s not such a big deal! You’ll have spent some quality time together in a beautiful and tranquil setting. And the odds are, the natural surroundings will offer up plenty of fascinating things to observe!

Practice your casts

When I was a kid, my grandpa used to place the garbage can lid on the grass in the backyard. He would attach an old fishing lure (minus the hook) to the end of my line and make me stand about ten meters (30 feet) away from the target. I would have to cast my line and try to hit the metal lid. I loved those kinds of challenges! Plus, once I was in the boat, or on the shore, I was much better at throwing my line where I wanted it to go. Why not try something like that with your teen?

You can also set them the challenge of learning how to tie a knot, like the Palomar knot, for instance. Give them an old spool of fishing line so they can practice, and find a website that shows how to tie the knot. It’s a great way for them to work on their manual dexterity so they feel more comfortable when they start fishing.

Here’s a tip: Before you leave, show your teen how to handle a fishing net. Explain that you need to hold the net still in the water and wait until the fish you’ve hooked comes closer before scooping it up. Avoid chasing after the fish with the net, even if it’s a natural reflex in the beginning.

Another bit of advice: If you hook a fish that puts up a good fight, keep the rod high, which will tire it out and bring it closer to you. Then, slowly lower the rod to reel in the line. Explain to your teenager that the rod acts as a shock absorber, while the drag system allows you to let out more line when there’s too much tension. A demonstration can be helpful: Hold the fishing line and gently pull it so that the line runs off the spool. Your fishing partner will realize that when the drag system works, it makes a very distinctive sound. When they hear that sound, they should stop turning the handle, to avoid the line tangling.

Beside | © Sépaq
Charles Boutin | © Sépaq
Beside | © Sépaq
Hooké | © Sépaq

Make a plan

Teach your teen that fish are seasonal migrators and are therefore not always found in the same place. Their location depends on various factors: water temperature, predation, spawning period, weather conditions, and more!

Aquatic vertebrates are attracted by structures that alter the morphology of the lake or river bed, and they use these natural hiding spots to remain safely out of sight and to stay hidden as they hunt their prey… or try to avoid becoming one!

A sonar device, or fishfinder, makes it easy to find fish. It’s also a fun tool to learn to use. If you don’t have one, trolling can be a good way to locate the best fishing spots.

Encourage your teen to experiment and try different tactics. Who knows, maybe he or she will come up with the perfect plan!

Fishing for brook trout 

If you’re fishing for speckled trout, you could suggest to your young partner that they tie a swivel to the end of their line, to help prevent their metal spoon from spinning too much. Explain to them that the Williams Wabler, Lake Clear Wabbler, Geneva, Flasher, Toronto Wobbler, and other lures shimmer and wobble, attracting fish as they move. Show them how to install and tie off a leader behind the spoon, before attaching a worm, fly, or soft lure. Let them choose their combination and remind them to present with confidence!

Where’s walleye?

When the king of the Percidae family gathers in the shallows in spring—or at dusk the rest of the year—it can be fun to troll with minnows far behind the boat and wait for the fish to strike.

If the walleye are hanging around at the bottom, try using a jig head and soft lure. Show your partner how to jerk the jig about 25 to 30 cm (1 foot) off the bottom, then let it drop back down again, while keeping a bit of pressure on the line, as this is when walleye will most often go for the bait. The angler’s movements can be very subtle, and at the slightest tremor, they should attempt to hook the fish. Reassure your teen that there’s no shame in failing, and that if they think they’ve got a bite, they shouldn’t be afraid to try to set the hook.

Mathieu Dupuis | © Sépaq
Beside | © Sépaq

Prowling for pike

A predatory fish equipped with large, sharp teeth, pike tends to be attracted by shiny objects, including spinners. Whether you’re trolling or casting, try fishing near weed beds, in bays, and over flats to attract pike. And be sure to show your young angler how to handle pike properly, to avoid injury. 

Respect nature

Take the opportunity to point out how beautiful and bountiful nature is, and how we must keep it that way. It’s a privilege to be able to catch fish, or at least to try! But it’s also important we minimize our ecological footprint and show the utmost respect for Mother Nature.

Lastly, show your teen how to handle and release the fish they catch. Explain that it’s okay to keep and eat the fish, but that there’s also nothing wrong with letting them go so that future generations also enjoy the chance to experience the joy of fishing. Perhaps one day, your teenager, too, will become a mentor to others!

Happy fishing and happy coaching!

Patrick Campeau

About Patrick Campeau

Three-time Quebec champion and the only Quebecer inducted into the Canadian Fishing Hall of Fame, Patrick Campeau is celebrating his 35th anniversary as a full-time professional angler. He is recognized as a leader in the field. The Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association presented him with an honorary award in recognition of his involvement and of his dedication to the promotion of this activity. Patrick Campeau shares his passion, his experiences, and his adventures with the readers of a dozen magazines and specialized newspapers, including the Journal de Montréal every weekend.

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