Introducing kids to an old-fashioned pastime


What began as a hunt to replace a broken fishing pole has transformed into a part-time niche business for Matawan resident John Hye.

Hye, a set and prop builder for Broadway productions, runs The Kids Fishing Shop, an online fishing and tackle shop that sells equipment geared toward youngsters and offers fishing instruction for children.

“The Kids Fishing Shop started on Christmas Day 2007 when my stepdad gave my young nephew a fishing rod as a present,” Hye explained. “We went the same day to Bucks Mill Park [in Colts Neck] and in the process of fishing, the rod broke.”

Hye and his family went in search of a new rod at local sporting goods stores but were disappointed with the selection of children’s fishing rods.

“My mom had a Web site called Garden Tykes, which sold garden tools for children, and we wanted to expand to outdoor activities,” Hye explained. “So we started assembling fishing kits for children and selling them online. We sold three Sunny Kits in three weeks.”

According to Hye, The Kids Fishing Shop sells children’s fishing equipment in sets or individually. The Sunny Kit, at $20 apiece, includes a cane pole, a backpack, hooks and bobbers.

“We decided to open the shop online, and now we sell character rods with Mickey Mouse and SpongeBob,” he said. “We have a variety of basic children’s fishing rods under one roof and, hopefully, one day we will have our own brand.”

Hye said he has made sales across the nation since the shop opened and has even sold a number of kits to a fishing lodge in Montana.

“We set up our tent at fishing derbies and outdoor events, and I am currently trying to find a way to hold our own fishing derby for local kids to participate in,” Hye said. “I have a lot of friends that have different kinds of bass boats and kayaks, and it would be nice to have the boats out somewhere on a pond so that the kids can see the different boats in action.”

The Kids Fishing Shop not only offers child-appropriate merchandise but also offers fishing lessons.

“We started out just doing freshwater fishing lessons, but we also started to do saltwater fishing,” Hye said. “Freshwater fishing is more accessible and the equipment involved is not as expensive for beginners. With the way the fishing and tackle industry has become, it can be pricey. When it comes down to it, all you really need is a stick, some string, a hook and a piece of bread.”

Hye said that the first time he helped children catch fish made him want to teach more children about the old hook, line and sinker.

“I was working in Freehold one day and I drove over to Lake Topanemus on Pond Road and took out my pole,” Hye said. “There were a group of young kids who were there, and they came over to watch and later asked their mothers if they could try to catch a fish with me. So I let them try it out, and five of the 10 kids caught their first fish.”

Hye said that young children enjoy learning about the different fish and even like touching their slick scales.

“They love touching the fish,” Hye laughed. “Sometimes only with their fingertips— it’s funny.”

Hye began fishing at a young age with his grandfather and father and hopes to teach many other children how to fish and enjoy the sport.

“Anytime you can see a kid catch their first fish, it’s pretty cool, and I am just hopeful that they will do it again,” Hye said.

One of the main differences between freshwater and saltwater fishing, Hye said, is that saltwater fishing offers more variety.

“There are more species of fish in this area in saltwater,” he said. “The fish are usually bigger in saltwater because the bodies of water they grow in are usually larger than freshwater ponds and lakes.”

Some freshwater species found locally are bluegill, bass, pickerel, crappie and catfish.

“Saltwater fish grow much faster, too,” Hye explained. “If you catch a 5-pound bass (a freshwater fish), it is probably around 7 or 8 years old.”

Hye believes that when something is simple, it is more enjoyable.

“When you simplify it, it becomes more fun,” he said. “It is so relaxing. When I work an eight-hour day I am exhausted, but I could stay out fishing for 16 hours or until dark.”

Hye’s passion for fishing apparently is contagious, His fiancée, Rebecca Lambert, a school psychologist, is now hooked, he said.

“We run the Kids Fishing Shop together, and she started fishing when we started dating, just because it was fun and something for us to do together,” Hye said. “Now, she is really good at it.”

The Kids Fishing Shop will teach children ages 5 to 10 in private or in group sessions at $20 per student and will provide all the supplies needed.

“We usually go out to spots close to people’s homes for about one to two hours, and it is great to see the kids catching their first fish,” Hye said. “Some of the places we go to are Bucks Mill Park in Colts Neck, Holmdel Park and Lake Lefferts here in Matawan. Bucks Mill is one of my favorite spots,” he said. “There are two ponds, and you can fish all along the edge. There is also an eclectic mix of people there at any given time.”

Hye said he decided to start The Kids Fishing Shop because fishing is a good hobby to promote among today’s youth.

“There are a lot worse things that kids could be doing besides fishing,” Hye said. “This gets them away from the computer, away from the television and out in the outdoors. It teaches patience and respect for the environment and is low impact on the environment.”

For more information on The Kids Fishing Shop, visit the store on the Web at