By Dave Hagengruber
Even though the famous clich tells us that in the spring our thoughts should turn to love, for many of us, spring means something else. The long winter has taken its toll across Montana, worms are being dug, flies are being tied, and rods are being assembled. Once again, it's time to go fishing.
Although some cherish the solitude and tranquility of fishing alone, for others fishing is family time. It's a time to get away from the phones and the televisions, and to be together outdoors as a family.
Fishing with your family offers great rewards. It's a chance for uninterrupted conversation. A time to share plans for the future, or to relive fun memories of the past. Fishing also offers the opportunity to just enjoy some quiet moments together as a family. Watching a bobber or resting in a canoe looking at the clouds can bring people together without the need for words.
But as great as the rewards may be, family fishing comes with its own unique challenges. For those fishing with young children, here are a few tips to make your fishing trip safe, fun and successful.
Most importantly, safety is the top priority. Life jackets are required at all times for anyone under 12 years old while boating. Life jackets are a great idea for kids when fishing from shore, too. Choose your fishing location with safety in mind. If fishing from shore with young children, avoid river areas with fast currents and high, steep banks. Instead, look for a flat, level location along a pond or lake.
The rate at which fish are caught is probably more important to a child than the size or species of the fish. Look for a spot where the kids can catch lots of fish. Don't worry if they are small or not the most glamorous species. Most kids would be happier catching a dozen small suckers or perch rather than one average trout or walleye. Personnel at your nearest Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks office can help point you in the right direction for fun children's fishing opportunities.
Don't spend all your time fishing. There are too many fun distractions around the water to allow most kids to concentrate solely on fishing.
Part of the fun is looking for frogs, playing with the worms, collecting sticks, and of course, throwing a few rocks. One vital component to a good fishing trip is food. Load up a cooler with plenty of water and drinks, snacks, and fruit.
A child's attention span is short, so keep the outings close to home and brief in duration. Leave the water a few minutes too soon rather than a few minutes too late. Always leave them wanting more.
Most of all, be sure to laugh and enjoy your time with your family. That's what family fishing is all about in the end.