The great Japanese violinist and educator, Shinichi Suzuki, once stated "Children learn to smile from their parents". If you agree with Mr. Suzuki, the opportunity to make your child smile and possibly give them a hobby for the rest of their life could lie behind a simple fishing trip. Taking your child fishing; pulling them away from the television, the video games and school work while introducing them to something beyond a passtime can be just as rewarding for you as for your child. All fishermen can agree that sharing their sport with children is more than important however, the execution of this trip is vital to capturing the interest and passion of your child.
Live bait. Let's face it, tying on an in-line spinner or crankbait isn't the best way to get a youngster hooked up. Even if you are adamantly against using live bait, putting a nightcrawler or minnow on the hook monumentally increases the chance of catching fish and catching should be the main goal of the day.
Another must for this trip is borrowing or purchasing a small rod. Kids love receiving things and giving them a fishing rod of their own will excite and intrigue their interest. There are plenty of 4' rods on the market or at your local fishing shop and most are reasonably priced. Even the most experienced anglers have occasional issues with open-faced and baitcasting reels. You do not want to spend the day with your child trying to fix "bird nests" in your line and becoming frustrated with knots and spools. A close-faced reel with a button release enables simple casting and the opportunity for your child to do the casting themselves.
As far as set up, it really depends on which type of fish you and your little partner will be targeting. Whether it be bluegill and panfish, catfish or bass, putting a float or bobber on the line will keep you from getting snagged in the bottom and also allow your child to see the strike when it happens. An appropriately sized hook is also important. Tying on a 1/0 hook and telling them this will help them catch a monster might get them excited, but in reality, when you're casting six feet off shore for 5" bluegill, it isn't going to do you too well.
The Harrisburg and Lancaster area has some spectacular fishing waters and many of them are well suited for your small companion to have a great day. A few family-friendly waters in Harrisburg include: Little Buffalo State Park, the Susquehanna River, Conodoguinet Creek, Middletown Reservior and Wildwood Lake. The Susquehanna River has many parks and fishing accesses along its banks. There are several in Harrisburg and Middletown that allow easy fishing access to the river.
In Lancaster, Muddy Run Reservior, the Susquehanna River, Lake Grubb and the Conestoga River all have opportunities for youngsters to catch fish. Along the Susquehanna River, Columbia, Marietta and as far south as the Holtwood Dam have accesses to the river.
Fishing will only grow by being passed along by those who love it now. Taking a child fishing not only ensures the tradition of the sport, but enables a child to have an experience that is unlike any other. There may be only one thing that can rival the sight of pure joy within the smile on a child's face as they reel in their first fish, and that is that of the adult who is with them.