By Terry Lacoss, For the News-Leader
Amelia Island and Northeast Florida have numerous fresh and saltwater fishing opportunities for youth fishermen. Now is an excellent opportunity to introduce your children to the fine art of fishing, while they are out of school.
There are numerous small tidal rivers, lakes and ponds where you can fish right from shore, staying safe from the threat of the coronavirus and, at the same time, teaching your children how to be safe when fishing.
While our beaches are closed, you can still fish one of the many small lakes and ponds on Amelia Island and in Northeast Florida, where the waters are stocked with largemouth bass, bream and catfish. These are excellent fishing waters for introducing your children to fishing.
Dylan Jenkins was recently fishing on an Amelia Island small lake when he hooked into a small largemouth bass.
“I was retrieving a seven-inch Zoom black-grape plastic worm when I felt a small bass take my plastic lure,” he said. “I reeled in my loose fishing line and set the hook, but my fishing line instantly became tangled. I was able to remove the tangles and reeled in a small bass.
“When that small bass was just a few feet from my waiting landing net, a huge bass soon followed my hooked bass and ate it right before my eyes. The worm hook that was set in the small bass became hooked into the mouth of the larger bass. I was now fighting two bass with my bass rod and reel.
“After a few jumps, I was able to land both bass, which were still hooked with my one worm hook. After taking a couple of photos, I let both bass swim free once more in the small lake.”
What an amazing experience for this young fisherman. However, when taking young fishermen to a small body of water, everything they experience will become memories for years to come.
I have found when taking young fishermen on my charter fishing boat, they enjoy casting. I will show them how to cast, watch their float, how to reel in the slack fishing line, and how to set the hook and reel in their fish. In many cases, young fishermen will reel in their bait before a fish is hooked and make following casts. They enjoy casting.
With this in mind, it is a great idea to take the time to make sure you have the right fishing gear for youth fishermen. The youth Zebco fishing combos come with a closed reel, which eliminates most fishing line tangles. Also, they are very easy to cast and reel in the hooked fish. Simply push and hold the reel button; releasing the button at the end of the cast is critical.
Show your youth fishermen how to reel in the slack fishing line before setting the hook into their fish. Once the fish is hooked, show them how to keep the rod tip high so the hooked fish fights the rod and not the reel.
It is also a great idea to bend down the barb of their fishing hook. This allows fish to be released unharmed and, in the case the youth becomes hooked, the hook can be easily removed.
Attach a small float just above the baited hook so they can watch when a fish takes their bait. Fishing with a small piece of fresh local shrimp will catch a variety of pond fish, including bream, catfish, bass and even small turtles, which is an excellent reason for bending down the barb of the hook.
The annual Fort Clinch Kids Fishing Clinic is also an excellent way to introduce your young fishermen to fishing.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Fish Florida, Friends of Fort Clinch, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and members of the Nassau Sport Fishing Association conduct the annual clinic, which will typically take place in early June.
Kids pass through several fishing clinic stations, where knot tying, fishing ethics, tackle, habitat and casting are taught. Afterwards they can fish from the Fort Clinch fishing pier.
The first 400 children typically will receive a free fishing rod and reel, and everyone enjoys a hot dog lunch. Children ages 5-15 are welcome to attend.
Hopefully, the event won’t be canceled because of the coronavirus. The News-Leader will keep you posted when the event is scheduled to take place.
Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all Florida State Parks closed on March 23.