MidWest Kids and Outdoors: Fishing and Feathers

Make fishing entertaining and educational by identifying birds
by Dave Mull, digital editor, MidWest Outdoors magazine and Television

To say kids get impatient and antsy while fishing is an enormous understatement. One way I’ve found to keep kids interested in the whole outing is to make a fishing trip just as much about nature as it is about catching fish.

Back when I had young nephews and nieces who wanted to go fishing—kids around 6 years old—one piece of gear I made sure to bring was a bird identification field guide. I’d carefully pack one in a large Ziploc bag.

One currently available is A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, one of the Peterson Field Guides by Roger Tory Peterson. Another good resource is allaboutbirds.org, which is a mobile device-friendly website built by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

When your charge sees a kingfisher for the first time, have him or her look it up. See a feathered entity you don’t know the name of? Unleash the kid to find it in the book or on a cyber hunt to find its name on the website.

Using a fishing trip to reconnect with nature and to teach kids about it has no downside—other than maybe not noticing that a bobber has gone down while doing so. Kids who appreciate nature and how to have fun in it become protectors of their playground. Considering a search of the App Store for a bird identification app yields only cartoons about angry birds and games to shoot them, it would seem that it’s an adult’s responsibility to get kids linked up with how to enjoy being outdoors early and often.