Most adults who are passionate about fishing were first exposed to the sport as kids. Whether it was a parent, a relative or friend, it’s usually someone else who fishes that takes you for the very first time, and that experience is key to whether someone develops a passion for the sport.
Probably the biggest mistake experienced fishermen make when they take kids fishing for the first time is trying to catch them something large or the fish of a lifetime. Kids don’t really have high expectations, and since they have a low skill set, it’s a bit frustrating casting and reeling for the first time, so it’s better to concentrate on teaching those skills, while at the same time targeting small fish that are plentiful so they have a lot of success to reinforce the experience.
If you don’t have a boat, look at going places where they’re comfortable with the surroundings like a dock or pier, or the beach, where they can fish and swim. The Naples Pier is a great spot, since it has a lot of fish like snapper, jacks, ladyfish and Spanish mackerel to keep the kids busy, and the other anglers on the pier are usually willing to help a novice angler out.
Don’t make things too complicated, but try to teach at the same time. Remember that kids have a very short attention span, so if they get distracted or want to do something else, then take a break and come back to fishing later. Be sure to provide a lot of encouragement, telling them they made a great cast or did a great job reeling in a fish. Just make it fun, and they’ll want to do it again, and the more often they go, the more their skills improve.
You can also take kids to fishing club meetings and events like seminars and fishing/outdoor shows where they’ll get a chance to learn how the people who make a living catching fish target them. Seminars are a great way to shorten the learning curve, and kids are really good at paying attention and then implementing what they learned when they get on the water.
A lot of fishing clubs have outings where club members will help kids learn more about targeting specific species, and then there’s also tournaments, most of which have kids divisions so there’s an opportunity there for kids to get some recognition for their catches. In either instance, be sure to make it fun and no pressure to catch fish, so that they’ll want to do it more.
There really isn’t any exception for experience. You have to make a lot of casts to get accurate, and you have to fish a lot to gain the skills and knowledge to catch fish on a regular basis. There are no short cuts, other than learning from someone else where and how to target different species.
The nice thing about taking a kid fishing is that once they get turned on to the sport and feel comfortable enough that they can do it themselves, then they can go out and do it on their own. When that happens, you have a fisherman for life, and they’ll want to share their knowledge and skills with others, which helps expose more anglers to the sport.