In the Wild with Greg Wagner

You say your kids don’t know how to fish? by Greg Wagner

Well, I’m Jo Momsen with Nebraska Game & Parks Commission’s Omaha Office and I have infiltrated Greg Wagner’s blog, ha! I am here to tell you that there are three easy steps for teaching young kids how to fish! But first, a little background information about me. I’ve been working for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for over 20 years and I absolutely love it! In that time, I bet I’ve taught more than 3,000 young kids how to fish in the Game and Parks Commission’s Youth Fishing Program. If you’d like more information about the program, go here:

The most important thing I have learned when teaching youth basic angling skills is to keep it simple, VERY SIMPLE! And, that is where my 3 steps enter the picture.

First, the equipment and bait. No need to over-complicate this part to youngsters. I tell first-time anglers they only need to make sure the circles on the two-piece rod are lined up, clip a bobber about 18″ up the line, tie on a hook with a good clinch knot at the end of the line, then, somewhere between the bobber and the hook clamp on a small, split-shot weight. Next, put that earthworm on the hook. You’ve got it, you’re ready to fish!
Second, the cast. I show kids the “little button” on the (spin-cast) reel and instruct them to press it down with their thumb while holding the trigger grip (located on the rod beneath the reel) with their pointer/index finger. If I have really young kids, I say to simply hold the rod over the water and take their thumb off and drop the line in the water, especially off of a dock. “Watch that bobber closely and wait for it to dance,” I’ll stress to them. For older kids, maybe 7 years and up, I have them use the overhand method of casting. I’ll make them take a quick look behind themselves for safety, reach back with the rod (thumb still on the button), and then bring the rod forward with one motion taking their thumb off the button when the rod tip reaches eye level. The kids will smile from ear-to-ear watching their line fly into the water!
Third, the catch. When bobbers begin to disappear under the surface of the water, pure excitement reigns with kids, it’s great to witness!  After hooking a fish, I’ll tell the young beginners to keep their rod tip up, their line taut and to start winding the handle on the side of the reel. “There’s gonna be a fish waiting at the other end to greet you!” I’ll exclaim.

Keeping it simple for kids, not over-teaching, and putting them on the water immediately will give them the hands-on know-how they need to be successful anglers. Once a kid catches his or her first fish, you’ve got ’em hooked for life!

Reminder that the Game and Parks Commission has fun-filled ‘Family Fishing Nights’ scheduled around the state to assist kids and families with landing those first fish. Equipment, bait and instruction will be available. Look for me at one or more of these events around Omaha this summer.  Here’s a link (below the pic) for complete details regarding those:

Before I forget, three other key points to emphasize to the kids while at the water’s edge:  Being safe, proper catch-and-release fishing and leaving the area better than it was found by picking up litter.

Pack your patience along with a ton of fun and I’ll ‘see you out there’ (as Greg says) wetting some lines with your kids!


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