Fishing: A Gateway Sport to Nature

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Clearly there are physical, psychological, and emotional benefits to being out in the field, yet today fewer and fewer families are spending time outdoors. Let’s explore how to ignite the desire to be outdoors through fishing.

The world is different today and to some extent so are families. Studies show that today’s family is less likely to take children outdoors even when it is known that outdoor activity has a positive effect on an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical health. The data also indicates that while outdoor participation has been declining, problems with children’s physical and psychological health have risen dramatically.

Getting children outdoors means getting the whole family outdoors too. So it isn’t just kids that need to be encouraged to spend time outdoors. The Outdoor Foundation Organization tracks the impact of outdoor activities and notes that fishing has a significant effect on participation in other outdoor activities. Fishing has been used by organizations to get families afield.

  • An Example for Advocating the Outdoors through Fishing

Although some groups advocating for children's outdoor participation run into many barriers, some have overcome these obstacles. In south Texas the Hooked for Life (Kidfish) organization has for the last four years brought together community leaders, educators, and civic groups to hold an annual fishing tournament for kids. Families in Cameron County have a per capita income of $13,695, one of the lowest in the state of Texas. In 2011, Hooked for Life participation broke the Guinness World Record for the largest kid fish tournament. This year over 2,000 kids between the ages of 6 and 16 showed up on a sunny Saturday morning.

The Hooked for Life board spearheaded by David Mendez, a local architect, hope that for years to come, hundreds of children and parents will embrace spending time outdoors.

Fishing Futures founded by Shane Wilson, a south Texas educator, has expanded its reach beyond south Texas. This organization is one of the fastest growing fishing programs in the nation. It began eight years ago and has now expanded to ten states and one foreign country.

Regardless of these successes problems still exist. Community resources, family finances, time commitments, and distance plague many communities. The most difficult is identifying individuals and organizations with the skills and resources to engage the interest and acceptance of children to outdoor activities.

Aside from Hooked for Life and Fishing Futures, many organizations are attempting to connect children to the outdoors through fishing. In Texas these include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Departments' Angler Education Program, Take Me Fishing Organization, Hooked on Fishing Not Drugs, and other local and regional organizations. Although, national organizations try, it is the grass root effort that tends to make a real impact.

  • Family Involvement through Fishing

Families play an important role as many of ours did to encourage involvement in the outdoors. Many of us didn't go fishing because of an organization or a school activity. Parents took us on outings. The sad thing is that it will become more difficult to encourage families to spend time outdoors. Parents now lack appropriate outdoor skills; however fishing is a simple activity that can be easily learned.

Connecting to organizations as those described above provide a valuable service, but often stop short of actually getting children outside. A single event put together by these organizations is certainly a start, but families need to make a stronger commitment. Making the outdoor adventure a family affair will help to stop the decline in outdoor participation.

Involving families will get kids outside. Single families can’t do it alone. This has become a problem since fewer family members have outdoor experiences. Communities can organize outdoor outings and fishing is an easy way for several families to participate. All family members should be side-by-side as they learn skills to later encourage and support each other while in the field.

  • Developing the Right Attitude About Fishing

Adult family members need to learn skills and ways to support children. Organizations should provide skills to nurture a love for outdoor experiences in children. Responsible family members should realize that young children have short attention spans, so a fishing trip may include other activities like including a picnic or swimming.

If a child would rather throw rocks in the water, let them, even if it annoys a parent who wants to catch a fish. Remember that adults have many more opportunities to fish on their own while their children are growing.

Remember that children will want to go fishing only if they have a good chance to catch one, so give them the best opportunity to do so by taking them fishing to a well-stocked pond. If one isn't available try to find a friend that knows a good spot with plenty of small fish. Kids really don’t care about the size.

Children want to bring their catch home. Many ponds have a "catch and release" policy. This is a great place to develop a conservation ethic. Learning how to safely release a fish is a great experience. Even if you fish a spot without a policy, fishing state and county regulations must be followed and every fish legally caught must be consumed or released. Bringing a fish home for the plate is a great way to eventually teach children the source of the food on the dinner table.

Don't forget safety. Sunscreen, water, and a first aid kit are a must. If the family fishes from a boat remember to wear a personal floatation device (PFD). Parents should model for the kids.

  • Resources that Support Fishing with Children

Several books are available that give good advice about taking children fishing. One of my favorites is a book written by Tom Rosenbauer entitled Family Friendly Fishing. It's available through Amazon and you can find an excerpt of his first chapter by Googling the name “family friendly fishing”. Another place to browse the net is a URL that can help you select fishing tackle. There is great advice on this link and I personally believe what is said is absolutely true. Paste the following URL on your browser,

Finally, bring a camera and document their catch. How I wish my parents had taken a picture of my first catch. It would be right up there on my wall just like all of the fishing pictures we have of our kids.

If you need more information about fishing with kids, visit these Facebook pages (Arroyo Flats Fly Fishing) and (Hooked for Life Kids Gone Fish'n (KidFish)). To learn more about Fishing Futures visit

Last words--”Take your kids out fishing, be patient, and encourage them to enjoy all the nature has to offer.”

Reynaldo Ramirez Jr, Ed.D.

The University of Texas at Brownsville

College of Education, Dept. of Teaching, Learning, and Innovation

Chair/Associate Professor

31940 Cactus Road

San Benito, TX 78586