N.H. Weekly Fishing Report - September 3, 2009

Most of us know a child who would be thrilled to go fishing.  This week, fisheries biologist Andrew Schafermeyer gives some sage advice on how to take kids fishing and make it fun for everyone.  Kids under 16 fish free in New Hampshire, so it's a great time for them to learn!

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Taking a Child Fishing
By Andrew Schafermeyer, Fisheries Biologist, NH Fish and Game Region 1/Lancaster

A lot has been written about the benefits of helping a child learn to fish. A wholesome experience, a connection with nature, or a bond between family members make it seem a very special experience. Once a decision has been made to head for the pond with fishing poles and kids in tow, though, there may be a lot of questions. Rather than focus on all of the reasons to take a child fishing, let's explore those concerns. Although fishing can be as simple or complex as any sport, I'll direct the focus of this column on how to take a child fishing -- simple and easy.

Let's set our target age at children around the age of ten. There is a lot of flexibility in this task, and what works for some will probably work for most.  We will also go into this venture with a stringent budget. I won't be recommending any approach to fishing that will break the bank.

Rule number one is perhaps the most important one. In order to excite and keep a child's attention toward fishing, they must be catching fish. I understand that it may impart a beginner with a false and unsportsmanlike image of success, but nothing brings a child back to fishing more than success. Almost every waterbody in New Hampshire is home to yellow perch. They are an abundant and aggressive fish and can often be angled with ease. Watching a child catch these fish can be as exciting (for you and the child) as watching them hit a home run or win a spelling bee. Even when catch rates are low, they provide steady action.  Yellow perch can be found throughout New Hampshire; here in the North Country, locations that provide yellow perch opportunities include Cedar Pond and Nay Pond in Milan, and Umbagog Lake in and around Errol.

Another way to find catchable fish is by following the stocking schedules provided on the New Hampshire Fish and Game website. You can always call the office of your local biologist and seek advice concerning hotspots. Hatchery fish are a management tool to provide opportunities where they may otherwise be limited. Trying to catch hatchery trout can provide some rewarding trips for youngsters and adults. Local northern New Hampshire spots to catch stocked trout include Mirror Lake in Whitefield and Christine Lake in Stark. Trout are stocked throughout the state, and information is posted at www.fishnh.com/Fishing/fish_stock_current.htm.

Once you've chosen your location, your next step on the action plan is to select gear. Most kids will learn quickly the mechanics of casting a closed-face spinning reel. Mounted on a six foot, medium-action rod, casts will improve with practice. Encourage your student to practice aim first and distance next. Casting a plastic plug or something similar in an open field or lawn is a fun way to practice.

There aren't many fish that aren't fooled by a worm on a hook. In fact, there are probably more fish caught on a bobber and worm in a single season than by any other method. Baiting a hook is a great way to get a young person to experience the whole process of fishing and is, in most instances, impossible to do wrong. I often thread a plastic worm on a hook because of its durability and weight. Rigged weedless, it is also a safety measure because the hook is hidden in the plastic.

An important and overlooked part of catching a fish is the hook set. When a young person senses a strike, instinct is to begin reeling in as fast as possible. I've seen anglers of all ages make this mistake. One of the reasons for fishing rods to be as durable as they are is for the hook set. It is impossible to create a good hook set with the reel. Instead, a quick, whip-like motion with the rod will ensure a solid hook up. Once the fish is hooked, you can get on with the business of reeling it in.

Finally, it is important for everyone involved to have a good attitude. Fishing is sometimes slow and lines get tangled. Sometimes it rains and the wind picks up. Once you overcome these obstacles and fishing becomes fun regardless of outside factors, you - and your student angler - will be hooked for life.

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Interested in finding more ways to encourage kids and families to get outside and involved with the natural world? Check out the New Hampshire Children In Nature Coalition (NHCiNC) conference "Building Nature-Based Communities" on October 1, 2009, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at Camp Yavneh in Northwood, N.H.  The session aims to provide community leaders and organizations with the resources, tools and support to make local change to reconnect children, youth and families with nature.  Registration is $10.  Visit http://nhcinc.eventbrite.com.

Following the conference, NHCiNC will hold the first annual "Get Out and Play Weekend!" on October 3-4, 2009. The event will be an opportunity for children, youth and families statewide to get out and participate in or organize their own nature-based activity outdoors. Keep an eye out for more information as the date approaches at www.NHChildrenInNature.org.

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