Today, hundreds – perhaps thousands – of youngsters will experience the first-time thrill of trout fishing through the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Mentored Youth Fishing Day on specially designated waters in the Southeast Region, including Locust Lake.
What lifelong anglers often forget, however, is what excitement bringing a trout to the net can be for any first-time angler. For that reason, consider recruiting a non-fishing friend to participate in the Southeast Region trout opener, which is a week from today, beginning at 8 a.m.
Once the recruiting process has been achieved it is important to remember that the novice knows even just enough to get by should never be taken for granted. That is evident by those who participate in the PFBC's family days that combine teaching and fishing and events like the National Wild Turkey Federation's Women In the Outdoors program.
Even some of the most basic terms, such as identifying rods as spincasting and baitcasting, will draw blank stares, so no matter how sincere or how versed an instructor is, it is important to remember that taking on a new outdoors activity can be intimidating – and not just for youngsters. Very often they are too embarrassed to ask a question, or simply unable to express themselves enough and know what to ask.
With that in mind, sometimes less is best when teaching novice anglers enough to get by and make them feel like they are part of the team when fishing with the "veterans." For example, when it comes to rods and reels, initially it is neither necessary nor important that a novice knows if they are using spinning or casting tackle, but they may feel more comfortable using their own tackle.
Also, avoid using terms such as "monofilament" and "braided" when talking about fishing line. All that really is important to a novice angler is that they have plenty of line on their reel, so that when – not if – knots and bird's nests occur the line can be cut and the terminal tackle retied.
For that matter, there is really no need to impress that new fishing partner by calling hooks, swivels, sinkers and such anything other than what they are. And because nothing is better than live bait except for those times when hatchery raised fish seemingly demand Berkley Power Bait for trout, there is no need to worry about using or explaining what leaders are and why they are used.
While there will be plenty of time to teach the value of conservation, nothing completes the experience of opening day more than a new angler bringing home their catch and enjoying it for that evening's supper. For that reason, go small with hooks, using nothing larger than a No. 8, but considering dropping down to a No. 12.
Using small hooks usually means the fish will swallow the bait, which guarantees almost no chance of survival, but, in this case, more importantly means a novice has no chance of losing the fish. For baits such as worms, kernels of corn, salmon eggs and prepared pellets use a single hook and for dough baits use a treble hook.
Probably the most difficult aspect of fishing for a youngster to master is the patience required to keep the bait in the water long enough to get a strike. For that reason, fishing with a bobber has many benefits in that the line can be cast a longer distance, the bait stays in the water, watching the bobber helps maintain interest in watching the line and multiplies the excitement level when a fish hits the bait and pulls the bobber beneath the water.
This brings up another important factor to consider when taking a first-time angler fishing – especially on opening day. Resist the temptation to fish a stream and chose the spacious shoreline of a stocked lake or pond.
Not only will there be more room for tackle boxes, chairs and food coolers, but the calm water of a lake or pond is a better choice over the fast-moving current of streams. And, be assured, when a new angler hooks that first trout, the rest of the day will be anything other than calm.