“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

Henry David Thoreau

There are many important things that we as parents try to teach our children. We work hard day in and day out to make sure that we are providing the best opportunity for them to learn. We want them to have the self-confidence, education (both formal and real life), and work ethic to be able to make for themselves, a happy and rewarding life. We seek help from schools, churches and coaches in this great endeavor, but the principle responsibility remains ours. This responsibility demands and is worthy of, all that we have to give.

Sometimes, however, we work so hard that we miss the obvious things right in front of us. One of those is teaching our kids to fish. Whatever the makeup of your family, it is worth the time and effort to take your kids fishing. The return on this investment will be amazing.

Allow me to share ten reasons why I think this is true:

Reason One: A Beginner Can Be Successful

Learning to fish is not very complicated and success can come on the first day. Unlike many other hobbies and sports, learning to fish is relatively easy. Assuming you are starting out with a hook, bobber and perhaps a live worm or ball of bread, the hardest part is getting your child to learn patience. Sometimes, mom or dad has to hold the pole during the “be patient” part, but as soon as that bobber goes underwater and the rod tip bends, junior or little missy is going to get excited. No need to wait three months for your child to learn how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the piano…. you will have a pro or at least a “wannabe” at the end of the first day.

Reason Two: There Is No Limit to the Growth of Your Skill Level

Better than the best video games that offer increasing levels of difficulty, there is no limit to the level of skill that you can master in fishing. As you get better, you progress from smaller to larger fish…from ponds and lakes to the great deep oceans…from pan fish that nibble on your bread to fish that can eat you instead. Each level demands a better understanding of the environment and the equipment needed to catch your target fish. There are even still species yet to be discovered….no virtual reality is needed when reality is virtually just around the corner.

Reason Three: You Can Get Hurt but Generally Without Much Lasting Trauma

Yes…getting hurt may be one of the best teachers of life lessons. It’s not that we want our kids to get hurt, but we do know that experiencing pain from things that are not really serious is much more preferable to injuries that cause lasting damage. Aside from ice fishing and fishing in other extreme conditions, fishing is normally a passive event. Everyone has a story of a hook in a finger or a lure in the back of the head but these things normally heal. Leaning how to dehook a fish without getting stuck by your hook or the fish’s teeth or fins requires you to pay attention. Paying attention is one of the first steps to learning. Remember…no pain no brain.

Reason Four: You Have to Learn How Things Work and How to Fix Them When They Don’t.

I don’t know anybody who has fished for any amount of time who does not have a mechanical malfunction story. Rods, reels and fishing line break. Batteries die. Bilge pumps don’t work. Outboard motors break down. Propellers get wrapped in weeds or rope. Boat trailers may lose an axle or have a flat tire. There are plugs that are sometimes remembered only when the boat is quickly filling up with water. There is bait to buy and keep alive. There are licenses and boat regulations to consider. There is bad weather, hot sun and early morning departures which impact your whole day. There are stringers of fish that drift away because nobody tied them to the boat and anchors that have the same fate…a well-meaning toss overboard with no rope attached to the boat. There are tangles and knots. There are long hot hours that go by without any bites except from mosquitoes.

The list is endless. Just as important as learning how to pay attention is learning how to figure things out. Just backing a vehicle up with a boat and trailer down a boat ramp with all eyes upon you and others waiting their turn, is a learned skill. …not out of compulsion but out of the desire to get on the water and catch some fish. This is the best kind of learning and will not just help in fishing but later as they work to solve the challenges of life.

Reason Five: You Are the Captain

You are out in nature where you are the captain of your ship even if your ship is a small pond and your great big ocean is just the bank of the pond that you must navigate…it is still your journey. You decide when and where to fish. You decide on the lure or type of bait. You decide when to start and when to finish. The weather is both your friend and enemy and influences the success of your journey. Learning how to navigate through smaller decisions will help empower them when they are faced with significant choices in front of them. This independence is a great place for our children to develop their decision-making skills and judgement.

Reason Six: There is Risk and Reward

Every time our youth go fishing, they get instant feedback on their investment. They find out early on that if their fishing equipment is not functional and well cared for they may miss a trophy fish. They understand that where and how many times you cast your lure will often make the difference between a trophy or being skunked. They learn that the harder they work the luckier they get. Learning this subtle pattern of behavior is a necessary part of growing up. Later in life, tough results are not so subtle and fishing is a great way to get the principle ingrained into their character.

Reason Seven: Fishing Is an Equal Opportunity Teacher

All can participate and enjoy this wonderful sport of fishing…all can get skunked…all can get a hook in the finger…a dead battery…and a boat that sinks because the plug was not installed. Nobody is denied the right to fish, though there are often local laws in place that govern how we fish. There are millions and millions of acres of public waterways in the United States that allow free public access. By one estimate, there are over 95,000 miles of freshwater and salt water shorelines in the United States. Another estimate puts the number of US anglers at 50 million. If you want to fish, your choices are almost limitless.

Reason Eight: Eating fish is healthy

We all know that when we go to a restaurant and are given choice between a nice sirloin steak grilled to perfection with sautéed mushrooms and grilled onions on the side or a piece of fish, we are supposed to choose the fish. Now I am an almost 100 percent catch and release guy but that did not occur until my mid-thirties when I began to learn how to actually catch fish. Before that, almost anything that I hooked, ended up on my stringer and in somebody’s frying pan. Still to this day, if my 90-year-old mother who grew up on a farm, goes fishing with me, she insists that I keep at least one for her to cook. Knowing that there is a meal that can be accessed if needed in a real pinch, is a good skill to give our youth.

Reason Nine: Fishing Can Be A Great Social Experience

Though some fishermen enjoy the solitude offered by nature while fishing, others make it a social event. Friends, family, potential clients and business partners often find some of their best conversations have taken place between catching fish on a boat. This quiet time creates an environment that invites casual conversation that sometimes leads to more in depth topics. Many parents have had that important talk that needed to take place with their child while sitting in a boat waiting for something to bite.

Reason Ten: Fishing Spans the Generations.

Many grandparents have enjoyed taking the grandkids fishing. It is a pastime that all can enjoy and serves to bring families together. Traditions are passed on and engrained. It is a sport where grandpa does not have to just sit on the sideline and cheer. Instead, he is a valued asset to the outing and an important contributor to the day’s storytelling of the big one that got away.

Fishing is much less about the end result than it is about the journey. It is about teaching your children how to solve problems without them even realizing they are growing. It is about them learning that having fun does not always mean things won’t go wrong. Going fishing is about spending time talking with your kids while you are waiting for the fish to bite or for someone to tow you in. It is about introducing your children to the wonders of nature. Going fishing is making a miserable outing into something that your kids will treasure forever.

Don’t rob your kids of these experiences. Even in the Bible it tells us while raising kids we are not to spare the rod…and, I might add, nor the reel and a box full of tackle. Do all that it takes to make a fishing trip possible. Fishing does not take the place of good parenting…nothing does. However, it is another very potent item in your parenting tackle box to help you get these knot heads into productive members of society.

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