The last week I have had a mix of kids in the boat from a wide range of ages. Even if kids don't think they are going to like fishing, if you get them out, they will enjoy it more than they think, especially if they catch a few fish.
Most young anglers don't really care about what fish they are catching. Getting a bite and fighting a fish is exciting. If the walleyes aren't cooperating, chase after some fish that are for the kids' sake. If we are really honest with ourselves, we all like the bite and the fight.
For some that don't get the chance very often, it is just fun to ride in a boat, sit on a dock, or explore along a shoreline. You and the kids will see eagles, loons, osprey, geese, ducks, and even an occasional beaver or otter. This is all cool stuff for them, and for us.
The chance to share quality time enjoying nature helps make memories. If you think about your own fishing experiences as a kid, it was fun even chasing after the biting bullheads or the ever-willing-to-bite sunfish. Your memories are also about the experience of the lake or river, and the time shared with parents, relatives, other family, or friends.
Keep it simple. A bobber is a great way to start out with kids. It doesn't take long for them to learn how to handle a rod and reel, cast, and set the hook. Let them practice in the yard with a weight on the line. It is ok to tangle and learn how to untangle. Today's youth is also very data friendly. Get them on the task of looking up instructions for fishing on many available internet sites for fishing information. Get them books on fishing with pictures, illustrations, and "how to" instructions.
It can be difficult at times as kids will occupy your time when they are fishing, so check your own fishing desire to make it about you at the door, and make it about helping make them a lifelong fishing partner. The more patient and instructional you are in the beginning, the more you will help transition them to self-sufficiency. Learning how to bait their own hooks, hold fish, take fish off, and even clean fish, are great baptisms into adulthood.
In my experience with kids in boats, most 6-year-olds and under can manage about two hours or so. Kids 7 to 12 can handle about four hours before they will stray with focus and attention. Most will need to be over 12 and have some experience before being able to handle up to eight hours in a boat.
Read the kids level of engagement and tailor on water changes so you don't "burn them out." Make sure they are dressed for weather, and don't keep them out if they become unreasonably uncomfortable. It is a fine line between challenging the elements and enjoying the challenge, and getting turned off to the experience because of cold, rain, wind, or sun, and it was too much.
Shout outs of appreciation go to all the fishing clubs for what they are doing for kids (like the recent FM Walleye Club outing with the Kamp KACE kids at Cormorant Lake), and our own local "Let's Go Fishing" volunteer crew for all they do for kids, elderly, and vets.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)