Kids, Crickets, Worms and Bream
Competition Isn't The Idea, Fun Is
If you are thinking about taking your child fishing, try to think about it from their perspective - not from your own. That isn't an easy thing to do. But if you stop for a minute and think about what the kid wants out of the trip to the lake or stream, it isn't necessarily the biggest fish or a record mount.
The first objective of the kid is having fun. Keep that in mind and your day will be a better one too. It isn't much fun for anyone if you make it too complicated. If you use a bait-casting rod and reel, who is going to be able to cast it - you or the kid? If you are thinking I'll do some flippin, who is going to cast that jig? Surely not the kid - I'm sure the accuracy and finesse needed to achieve a good flip isn't the first think on a seven year old's mind.
I believe more kids learn how to cast on Zebco 202s than any other rod and reel combination in the world. If not that combo, then may consider a cane pole with line an bobber. Either way, crickets or worms are the only way to go! Sunfish like bream, blue gill, warmouth, and red ear, are all great fish to start you kid off with. They are plentiful and can hit bait with a vengeance.
Keep It Simple
If you want a fishing buddy for life, make the trip all about them, not you. If you are going to use your super duper magnum elite bass boat, great. Just be safe and don't scare you little booger so they never want to ride in that boat again. You don't have to go far, you don't have to go deep, and you sure don't have to go fast. If you want to catch bream, pull up to the nearest dock or tree in the water. Tie on some number six or eight hooks, or even number ten, along with a split shot and a bobber. Allow a couple of feet between the bobber and the hook, and stick a fresh cricket right through the hard thorax of the critter. Let your kid toss the line out - or hand the bamboo rod out over the water.
You will know in five seconds if you are in the wrong place. If that bobber doesn't go under water in five to ten seconds - move. These little fish are usually so plentiful and not paid attention to by other fishermen, that it is unlikely they will be the least bit skiddish about killing your bait.
Before you go, have an idea of either what you are going to do if you catch a fish or if you are going to keep anything. Another thing to keep in mind - it is possible a fish might swallow a hook and not have a chance if you pull the hook out. So plan on explaining why you are keeping this fish even though it may not be as big as some of the others you have called "keepers." Plan ahead and discuss with your children what a keeper is going to be. If you have the idea that if a fish is big enough to get on your hook he's big enough to go into your frying pan, that is fine - just plan for those little bitty nibblers that foul-hook themselves and you have to explain that one too.
Eating What You Catch
If I kill it, I plan on eating it. Pass this on to your little tykes to please. Catch and release is fine and you should take some care in not wiping all the slime off the fish you catch. That slime protects them against disease in the water. If you catch a smaller than you want fish - carefully unhook it and put it back to bite another day!
Catching a nice basketful of bream or red ears can make for a great fish fry. I make a cut just above the eyes cutting back at an angle in the direction of the fins on the side behind the gills. At the point that I break through the backbone, I basically break the fish the rest of the way which will pull the entrails out back to the vent. It may be best if you cut the vent (anus) out prior to "breaking" the fish and everything will come out at one time. Take a finger and wipe the kidneys, that pocket of dark stuff between the spine and the area where the entrails are. Scrape off the scales off both sides of the fish using a dull knife.
My favorite recipe is to dip the whole fish in a combination of whole egg and milk, then dredge them through a 50/50 mix of flour and corn meal. I let that dry a bit then back into the eggs and milk and another dredge through the dry goods. Having enough oil at 375 degrees F, drop the whole fish into the grease until they come to the surface floating. Once they are floating, they are done - don't overcook these fish as they will get soft and dissolve. Salt, pepper, maybe some tartar or cocktail sauce and you are home free.
Bones in the Fish
Deep fried bream and other "sun fish" have a ton of bones in them. Deep fried, a lot of these bones - at least the fins - will be crunchy and are edible. Take time to "lift" the meat from the bones for your little ones - and keep some white bread around to eat with them. If a little bone does go down, the white bread seems to be just the trick to clear it. Everything will dissolve in your stomach. But take care to try to remove all the bones for your kids. They will enjoy the fun of catching and eating their food! Good luck!