At Carolina Skiff, we believe that introducing kids to fishing is a great way to promote fun, learning and an appreciation for our environment.
Because of this belief, we’re a proud sponsor of Don Dingman and his kid’s fishing program Hook The Future.
During the recent Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, we attended Dingman’s “Kids Fishing Clinic” and compiled a list of some great fishing tips from the experienced angler that you can teach your kids.
Tip #1 – Don’t fish for just anything – fish for a specific species.
“You’re going to catch a lot more fish when you target a species first,” said Dingman, who started Hook the Future as a way to encourage parents to spend more quality time with their children.
Dingman said the fish species would determine where they live in the water column – the area between the top of the water and the ocean floor –, which would impact where and how you would fish.
For example, if you’re angling for Grouper, Dingman said your bait needs to be near the bottom. That means putting enough weight on your line to ensure your bait reaches the Grouper. To achieve this, Dingman recommends attaching a float rig to the line.
“With a float rig, I like to float my bait really close to the bottom, and if I don’t catch any fish, I shallow up a little bit at a time until I figure out where the fish are in the water column,” he said.
If you ever find yourself with an empty cooler while the boat next to you is catching fish after fish, Dingman said the first question shouldn’t be “what bait are you using,” but rather, “how deep are you fishing or what depth is your bait in, and how much weight do you have?”
Tip #2 – Use the right kind of lures.
Today, when shopping for lures, there are countless color options from which to choose. However, Dingman said finding the right lure is easy.
“Fish see in dark and light,” he said. “Keep it simple. If they don’t hit the light one on a given day, they’re going to hit the dark one. Don’t make it so complicated.”
Dingman, who also runs a popular YouTube channel dedicated to fishing, said dark and light lures don’t need to be just black and white.
“My wife’s favorite dark and light is pink and purple, and she catches just as much fish as I do with a [light-colored lure named] glow and a [dark-colored lure named] root beer,” he said.
Whether inshore or offshore fishing, Dingman said he will set a dark and light lure on either side of the boat and whichever side the fish key on first will likely be what he uses for the day.
“Don’t get so stuck on colors,” he said in a recent YouTube video. “Dark and light – you’ll catch more fish.”
Tip #3 – Match what the fish are eating.
Another simple trick to catching more fish is to match what they’re eating, Dingman said. That may mean either catching the baitfish being eaten by a specific species or matching that with an artificial lure that is similar in shape and movement.
“If the fish are feeding on shrimp, you want to throw a lure that looks like a shrimp,” he said.
Tip #4 – Use sound to attract fish.
When fishing for Redfish, for example, Dingman recommends using a lure that sounds like a shrimp snapping its tail as it swims. The sound will first attract the fish, and then the movement or action of the lure will encourage the fish to bite.
Tip #5 – Use light to attract fish.
When offshore night fishing for swordfish, Dingman attaches a light to mimic bioluminescent squids, upon which the swordfish regularly feed.
For inshore night fishing, Dingman recommends finding the smallest glow stick in blue or green. Then, using your favorite glow bait, he said take the hook out of the front, place the hook toward the back and attach the glow stick to the front.
“It’s going to catch more trout, more Snook and it keeps you in the game,” he said of the glow stick method.
Tip #6 – Avoid getting snagged on the bottom.
If your child’s line continually gets hooked on the bottom, Dingman recommends switching to a jig – a weighted hook with your favorite soft plastic or live bait – that faces up and away from the obstruction.
Tip #7 – Make reeling in the fish as easy as possible.
For children, reeling in a big fish can be difficult, especially if the child is younger and smaller than a full-grown adult. But there are simple tricks parents can use to make reeling in a fish easier and more enjoyable for children.
First, Dingman said attach a fighting belt to your child around the top of his or her hips and not up high on their stomach or chest. This will ensure the child has enough room to safely reel in the fish.
Then, ensure the child is using a lightweight, short-butt rod, which will be easier to handle. If you don’t have a short-butt rod, simply cut the rod butt to an appropriate length for your child and attach a tennis ball to the end, which helps avoid sharp edges.
Next, be sure to set your drag tension to the child and also the fish. Then, evaluate your child’s stance – promoting an athletic stance with their feet set slightly wider than their shoulders, with bent knees and their torso facing the fish.
If your child needs further assistance reeling in the fish, the best thing an adult can do, said Dingman, is to help the child grip the rod and then promote the pull up/reel down action.
“Give them a hand [and] just help them, [but] don’t go through them,” he reminds. “It’s not your fish, dad.”
To help your child maintain a tight line after hooking a fish, ensure their belly button is always facing the rod tip.
What’s next for Don Dingman and Hook the Future?
As a long-time sponsor of Hook the Futureand the “Kids Fishing Clinic,” we’re proud to not only support Dingman, but we’re giving away a 15 JV CC to one lucky clinic attendee. If you attended any of the Dingman’s clinics this year, be sure to follow his instructions to sign up for your chance to win.
From all of us at Carolina Skiff, thank you to Don Dingman and his family for their continued work with Hook the Futureto bring parents and children together through quality time on the water.