Hook Youth Anglers



Arkansas offers one of the greatest fishing spots for children in the country. It’s called Dry Run Creek. This gorgeous little stream is full of giant trout. It’s located next to the Norfork National Fish Hatchery a few miles east of Mountain Home. It fishes for less than a mile from the hatchery outflow to its confluence with the Norfork River just below the dam. Only youths under 16 and mobility impaired anglers may fish Dry Run Creek.

The Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery website reads, “With its specially designed walk ways, ramps and fishing platforms, the Dry Run Creek construction project completed in late 2010, has made it even easier to navigate the waters both by land and by water allowing the angler to hunt and stalk the behemoths that rest in the depths of Dry Run Creek.” 

While you do occasionally see someone “instructing” a little too much, doing what many might call fishing not teaching, for the most part, the rules are readily observed. When you have general public supporting a special destination reserved for hooking anglers as much as fish, and a state game agency dedicated to providing such an outstanding youth angling opportunity, you have the makings of a fine place for young fishermen to develop. More states should take a page out of Arkansas’ book. 

In a recent press release issued by Arkansas Game & Fish, Randy Zellers, Assistant Chief of Communications, outlined his “Seven tips to get young anglers on the line.” Zellers recommendations are solid. I’ll address each of his tips. 

  1. Go Where It’s Good

Nothing is more important in hooking a young angler than catching fish. Young folks aren’t in this for the peace and relaxation. They want action. They want to catch fish. Taking them on a trip that produces the most fish possible should be your goal. Farm ponds and small lakes are prime destinations. It’s hard to beat worms under bobbers for bluegills when it comes to numbers. If they catch a big one, great, but it’s a numbers game. Fast action is the key to keeping them engaged. 

  1. Use the Right Rig

Don’t make this complicated. Push button reels and casting rods exist for a reason – they’re easy to use. Zeller recommends, “A Zebco 33 combo that includes the rod, reel, some line and even a few hooks, bobbers and split shot weights can be found for about $30 at most sporting goods stores.” He’s right. Likely no other reel has caught more first fish than a Zebco push button. 

Lure ’em in

My grandpa tortured me walleye fishing with jigs over open water humps and bars. We’d be out in the middle of the lake vertical jigging and I’d be bored to tears. Kids want action. Let them cast a lure that doesn’t require much technique to retrieve. Spinnerbaits for bass. Road Runners for crappie. Something that spins and moves. Remember those ridiculous fidget spinners from a few years ago? Yeah, kids like that stuff. 

Watch and Learn

Maybe you’re not an angler but there is a young person in your life asking you to go fishing. If you don’t know where to start, a simple Google search is going to offer a ton of information. YouTube has endless content about fishing. You can search for the type of place you’re going to fish, like a farm pond, or you can search the exact water you plan to fish. There will likely be some helpful videos available. Your state fish and game agency is another great resource. Every state I know of has some sort of program for introducing fishing to youths. Many even have loaner equipment you can use for free. 

Prepare for Success

If you’re going fishing, don’t be surprised when you catch a fish. First off, know what you are going to do with the fish you catch. Are you going to release them, or are you going to keep them to eat? I’m a big fan of keeping some fish and having a fish fry with kids. They usually find it pretty cool to eat fish they caught. If you are going to keep them, be sure to follow all the rules and regulations. You’ll need a means of keeping the fish, like a stringer, bucket or cooler. A good, sharp filet knife is key. Electric knifes are worth the money in my book. Go back to YouTube and learn how to filet fish. It’s easier than you might think. 

Comfort Is King

Once you have a kid interested in fishing, you can push them a little more. Get them up earlier, keep them out in the rain or whatever. But when you are trying to spark their interest, make sure they are comfortable and having fun. Go during good weather. Have plenty food and drinks. Have a chair or blanket for them to sit on. Let them check their phone. Just allow them to come into the excitement of fishing at their own pace. Their excitement level isn’t the same as yours. If you try too hard, you can easily push them away. 

Keep It About the Kids

Don’t be that guy at Dry Run Creek trying to hook the 30-inch trout in the kiddie pool. It’s about the kids. It has to be all about the kids. Make sure they know you share their excitement and that their success is your success. At the end of the day, when you get to listen to them tell their fishing tale and you see that big smile on their face, you will be more rewarded and fulfilled than you could ever be from catching a fish yourself. 

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler
bbutler@driftwoodoutdoors.com

Pic: Dry Run Creek in Arkansas is a special place for young anglers. 

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