Healthy Kids
  • South Central Wisconsin
  • July 2013
Written by  Nathan Zabel

A new “angler” on family fun

Few thrills equal the sight of a bobber getting pulled under water. Seeing that little, colorful plastic circle plunge under the waves generates so much anticipation and excitement, and then the fight is on to land the fish pulling at the other end!

Many people long remember nostalgic fishing tales from parents or grandparents. These stories bring up memories of baiting hooks with night crawlers, leeches, minnows and even corn kernels. Then there is the waiting … and waiting … and waiting, which can seem to go on forever! It is all worth it, though, when that bobber gets pulled underwater. Hopefully, after the line is reeled in, there will be a nice fish on the other end worthy of a picture to put on the fridge; and, of course, a picture is worth a thousand words!

Getting kids outdoors to go fishing is one of the simplest and most beneficial ways to introduce them to nature. In the Madison area, there is an abundance of fishable water and many opportunities to get angling. A unique variety of fish can be found just steps from the busy streets and sidewalks of Madison — from little bluegills and colorful trout, all the way up to trophy muskie and giant sturgeon. However, introducing kids to fishing is not necessarily as much about landing a trophy fish as it is about enjoying the outdoors.

Not sure where to begin? Many local organizations offer introduction to angling classes for youngsters and teens. Every year, the Aldo Leopold Nature Center (ALNC) offers summer camps where kids can spend time fishing and enjoying the outdoors. Day camps are being offered where children 4-10 years old can learn how to cast and what types of bait to use, and even get a chance to catch a fish at the nature center’s pond. For older anglers ages 10-16, ALNC offers week-long trips with one goal in mind: spend time outside!

One trip is to the Kickapoo River, where the campers will have a chance to canoe one of Wisconsin’s natural treasures and also try their hand at fishing. Another trip is travelling to the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where students will have the opportunity to hike, camp and fish from the shores of Lake Superior. These are all programs that are offered with the goal of introducing kids to the outdoors so they will develop an appreciation for the outdoors and a willingness to protect our natural resources.

Signing a child up for a week-long trip to the Porcupine Mountains is not the only way to introduce them to the outdoors and the joys of fishing. There are plenty of fishing opportunities that can be found in the Madison area, from the city’s many parks along the chain of lakes to a variety of boat rental services and guided charters that hit the water.

Another great way to get your youngster angling is to bring them to the Madison Fishing Expo February 21-23, 2014, which will feature a variety of introductory classes and ways to get your child fishing.

Taking a child fishing will leave a lasting impression, and even if no fish end up pulling the bobber under the surface of the lake, there is a very applicable saying that many people have probably heard, “That’s why it’s called fishing and not catching.” So grab a fishing pole, dig up some worms and find that tackle box. See you on the water!

Nathan Zabel is the education assistant and a naturalist at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center. With locations in Monona and Black Earth, ALNC provides hands-on programs (field trips, summer camps, family programs and events, scout and home-school programs, workshops and interactive exhibits) in the spirit of famed ecologist Aldo Leopold. To find out more, visit or call 608-221-0404.

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