There is an old adage about fishing and it is something to remember when going out with a kid; You are only as good as the size of your smile. It is of utmost importance that you supply a fun time that happens to include fishing, not the inverse.
Many of the best fisherman who can handle anything angling hurls at them, become all thumbs when it comes to an 8 year old.
There are three basic type of kids. The first will bug you to take them fishing, get up early without whining and sit enraptured even if there are no fish. The second like the idea but are impatient and easily distracted. Lastly is the child that wants NOTHING to do with fishing. The rub is you need to TAKE A KID FISHING first to figure out which of the above 3 types you have. Happily it takes only about 15 minutes to sort out which of the above three groups your child fits.
By far the most prevalent type is the second group. That is the group I want to focus on. Group one needs no help. Group three needs to be left alone. One quick word about group three. If you try and force the issue that child will not pick up a rod ever again. Never push this child. My oldest falls into this group and a fishing trip to him includes a boogie board. An interesting note is that many group three children belong to the most die-hard angles. Its natures little joke.
So lets say you have a very average group two child. First, make sure that you are taking them fishing and they are not following dad or mom around watching them. Many people who try and get children interested make this fundamental mistake. Lecturing them and saying watch me do this is a dead end.
Rule 1- When you are introducing a child to fishing, leave YOUR equipment at home.
Next, take them somewhere that a quick catch is guaranteed. Trade in the big catch for a bunch of small sunfish or snapper blues. Watching a line waiting for a twitch from a sleepy cold trout in April while shivering is sure to put the child off.
Rule 2- Look for quanity not quality. As a boy I would catch sunfish for hours and days on end.
For sure make sure you bring diversions like juices, ball and glove, or even walking shoes. Remember YOU are not fishing. If your child wants to wander off and talk to the ducks or like my youngest; go off chasing seagulls---you need to let them. Not only that you need to participate. This way fishing is good time full of playing and exploring.
Rule 3- Do not be worried if a child puts down a rod and reel to investigate a mole crab, go help him get another.
Finally, be ready to leave. If they are done, they are done. I like to take the kids to places in the bay that offer crabbing, surf tacos, and 5 and dimes to distract all of us when enough is enough. The promise of the boardwalk or boogie boarding later is a strong incentive to trade a little time fishing first.
Rule 4 is the child sets the agenda, not you.
If you follow this path not only will your child in group two graduate to the fist group quickly, you may even convert a child in the "eewwww" or "I'm bored" catagory.
The biggest thing to remember is that kids have long memories about these type of trips. If they are full of boredom, cold/heat, non activity that will be imprinted on their psyche forever. Humans, as animals are programmed to avoid things they do not like.
Likewise if fishing is a fun time full of non threatening fun and endless activities revolving around the child, they are far more likely to want to go back. Do that a few times and soon you will find your child riding shotgun at dawn bouncing in their seats getting ready to go have fun....and did you see the size of the smile.....on Dads face too.