Neil Taylor, Strike Three Kayak Fishing
It is our hobby. You do it enough, you can get your fill of it. I really don’t need to catch another fish in my lifetime. I’ve done it all. I’ve had my fun. That was part of becoming a guide. It was either burn out on fishing or shift to giving other people the experiences I mastered in my intensive time on the water in my early years in Florida. I’ve caught more fish than most of my friends combined. I’ve felt the sheer force of the pull. I’ve enjoyed the Triumph. I have been described as Nonchalant when I’ve caught a large fish, probably true. But, helping someone else to catch one of those fish that was once a major thrill for me to trick and ultimately catch is “why” I became a guide. Literally. No matter how much you enjoy what you do, you can burn out on it.
The best ones of all: Taking the kids. A kid? So excited before a fishing trip they can’t sleep. As a guide, I would say pretty easily, taking adults fishing is easy. The kids. The kids require specific effort. The reward is greater.
I often get the question: Is my kid too young to take fishing. The answer isn’t an easy one. I’ve had kids that are just under three years old that do fairly well. I’ve had kids that were seven years old that did not do particularly well. I say that by 8 years old it should get easy. Try to keep it basic. Spinning gear is probably the best choice. For my regular fishing trips, I don’t use floats. When you have kids it is not a bad idea to use the bobber floats. More than anything else: It gives them something to watch. To make the whole experience go the best it can: Talk. I learned it when I had my nephew. I could get four solid hours out of him if I talked most of the time. Later in life they will learn the solitude of fishing. When they are kids, point things out. If you have to: Make things up. But the more you keep their interest, the longer you will be able to have them out there. Point out the birds. Talk about the entire ecosystem. Get them interested in the whole picture.
Not everyone was so lucky that they had someone to take them fishing when they were younger. Often it is no fault of their parents, perhaps they didn’t have that experience themselves. As time has gone on, I look for opportunities to introduce kids to the sport of fishing. Taking kids out on the water brings back my own memories of fishing with my Dad and three brothers, something we continue to do whenever we have the chance. Some of my own excitement has changed over the years but the memory of sleepless nights leading up to a fishing trip (and thinking “I wish he would drive FASTER” when we were on our way to try our hand at catching what’s in that water) come to mind.
There are a lot of things that lose their intensity with more time on the water. The thrill of a truly big fish is exhilarating. The satisfaction of having that experience lives on in your mind forever. To see a kid with a really big fish is the best. But seeing them with any other fish is usually pretty good as well.
I call this story: “Learning what not to say.” Nick Guess, first fish. A redfish. He had it on but new to fishing and just a very small boy, he didn’t get the hook set that well. At the best, the first time the fish turned toward him the bait and the hook came out. I was about to make the worst choice in words anyone ever made. “Oh, you lost it.” MISTAKE. He laid the rod down and made a wailing noise. I was slapping my forehead for saying it. Picked up the rod and got the bait back out there. Ten seconds later I said “Do you want to cry about that last one or are you ready to fight this one? This one is bigger” (And I rammed the hookset home on this one.) Review, I decided “Oops, it got off” would have been a must better choice than “YOU LOST IT.”
Having taken my nephew Garrett out in a kayak with me since before he could even walk, I have extensive experience with kids. I would say the fun in it for me is listening to what they say. My nephew, usually very talkative was very quiet one day. After an hour had gone by I asked him what was wrong. He turned his head and he said “Do you ever think you could have done a better job wiping your butt?” I wanted to just laugh but I didn’t. I think I went with “Yeah, but you will only do that once.” That was just one of many stories.
The 5 year old (Nicholas) used expressions you’d hear from people in their 40’s. With Andrew (7) he was mostly wanting to know if his picture would be on the internet after the trip. (It was funny after he’d caught a couple of redfish and his Dad and brother had only caught one a piece he got on this kick: “Do you think I have a gift?” and I’d answer with something like this, “I sure hope so, because I love to get presents.” He’s say *no, no, no I mean like I’m a gifted fisherman?* His Dad chimed in “Only if you can catch them like this the next time we’re out*.)
With Nick, he was less interested in pictures and more interested in “going to find some of those snook you were talking about.” He also told me at one point “That makes a lot of sense” and I said to him “Oh yeah, why?”
“Uh, because you said the very same thing about an hour ago. If you said it a second time that makes sense”. I had to sit there, scratch my head and think on that one for a while. I look at his Dad and there’s this funny smile on his face.
I couldn’t get any pictures of them holding fish. That evening at dinner Chris told me “You have to keep in mind, those redfish seemed big to me, imagine what those fish looked like to them.” Very good point. Very little I can tell them that is going to put them at ease enough to hold it.
The “losing the fish” part was the most memorable part for me. Chris told me that Nick’s the kind of kid where if he’s doing something new and it doesn’t work out the first time or two, he takes it hard like that. But Chris used the opportunity wisely and with Nick crying he said “Neil, does that ever happen to you?”
And about an hour later after he had hooked up a few more times, another fish got off and when he reeled it up I had to confess to him “See this here?” and he looked at the end of the line “This is what you call Evidence of Bad Knot Tying” the line was curled from the knot I didn’t tie very well (probably because I tied the knot in water that was nearly up to my neck at that point). “So Nick, you lost that one because of me and I’m sorry.”
He forgave me.
Another good one from over the years: Aidan. Now, this kid all about fishing. He was excited. We took him for snook. His father, not so good with the snook. Aidan had the technique. He had the drive. He had the success.
Try to make these trips more on the short side. Be patient. Teach them “Safety”, try to get them out where they will catch some fish. Teach them how to cast. Show them how to set the hook. Work with them on how to fight a bigger fish. Show them how easy it is to hold them. Show them how to hold the fish to get the best picture. Teach them about conservation. Teach them the regulations. Teach them how to tie a knot. Subsequent trips, if they are doing well, start to talk to them about using lures.
That should give you a few more notes to work with. It’s not hard. Make the effort. They will thank you for it many times over the years.
Here are the FWC’s tips for taking kids FISHING
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Neil is an outdoor writer, speaker, web site owner and pioneer for better resource protection. Join Neil to make the fishing world better, wherever you see the opportunity.