We’ve all heard the saying “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” While that expression refers more to the idea of teaching people to fend for themselves rather than rely on others, it does contain a certain level of truth when taken literally.
In fact, fishing, as an activity in and of itself, is one of the most educational activities that parents can do with their kids. Sure, taking them out to the lake and casting a few lines can teach them how to find food, but there are actually a number of important life lessons that they can learn from a fishing excursion.
If there is one thing that any angler needs more than anything else (well, besides a rod, reel, and bait, of course) it’s patience. It’s all but impossible to predict what’s going to happen when you get out on the water. You might have the greatest day ever, with fish practically jumping out of the water into your boat. Or you might spend the entire day casting your line and catch nothing but an old boot and a sunburn.
In today’s instant gratification world, an activity that requires patience can be a valuable teacher. Sure, it’s not always exciting waiting for the fish to bite, but when they do, the excitement of reeling in “the big one” more than makes up for it.
2. Nautical Skills
Do your kids know the difference between port and starboard? Do they understand the basic principles of boating? You don’t have to have a huge, fancy boat to explore your local lakes and rivers to teach your kids the basics of life on the water (although you can find great deal on a used boat from Boat Angel that may be larger and have more features than you’d expect). Not only should you teach the terminology and skills like reading the weather and tides, but as children get older and more capable, you can allow them to drive or navigate the vessel with supervision — lessons that will stay with them for life.
It might seem like hanging out on the shore or a riverbank to cast a line is a relatively low risk activity, but even if you don’t take a boat onto open water, there are still some safety principles to keep in mind. Doing anything near water requires extra diligence, and a fishing trip is the perfect time to teach your kids about how to stay safe near the water, what to do in case of an emergency, and how to prevent accidents.
Let the kids help you pack an emergency kit with flashlights, flares, matches and other equipment, and explain the appropriate use of each item. It’s also a good idea to provide some basic first aid training — fishhooks and cleaning knives can lead to some nasty cuts, and it’s important for everyone to know what to do if someone gets hurt.
Reacting appropriately in emergencies isn’t the only problem-solving skill that kids can learn while fishing. Fishing is never an exact science; the bait that works wonders one day is useless the next, and the fishing hole that your neighbor swore was packed with fish is a ghost town. Since factors like the weather, the amount of sunlight, water temperature, and more can influence the location of fish and the type of bait that’s most effective, teach children to think about what is making their efforts successful or not, and encourage them to try new ideas to see if they can have better results. Critical thinking and a willingness to try different solutions is vital to effective problem solving, and fishing supplies an opportunity for real world application of those skills.
5. Conservation and Nature Principles
Too many children today spend too much time cooped up inside, with most of their interaction and entertainment coming from a screen. Getting out into nature and trying to catch a wily fish or two opens up their eyes to the real world outside of video games and television shows, and allows the opportunity to learn more about the natural world — and why it is so important to protect it.
Taking the kids fishing doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Even with just basic tackle and a container of night crawlers from the bait shop, you can spend a few hours at a local waterway passing on wisdom that will carry your kids through the rest of their lives. So pack up the tackle box, pick up a fishing license, and head out for a life-changing experience.