Fishing with children is an amazing way of spending time outdoors. If done correctly, introducing a kid to fishing helps you bond and have a wonderful time together. Not to mention, you will begin to instill an appreciation for the outdoors in the child.
However, if you are not an avid fisherman (or fisherwoman) yourself, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. Where to start? How should you begin? What can you do to make sure that the child won’t feel pressured? Worry not – we’re here to help! Below are a few tips to ensure that the both of you will enjoy a fun and safe fishing experience.
Buy some basic gear
For kids who are just starting, you’ll want to make it really simple and easy. Our suggestion is investing in ultra light, small equipment combos. A fishing set that’s suitable for children should ideally consist of a rod, a reel, some corks or bobbers, line, some hooks, some sinkers, some bait, and a basic tackle box. Children can easily handle basic gear and the likelihood of catching fish is just about as high as with more complex equipment and a whole lot less frustrating.
Choose a lightweight rod, as short as possible, but not shorter than needed for where you’re planning to be fishing. Having too long a road will make it challenging to handle for a young child. The line should be a top quality one that doesn’t tangle easily and supports small to medium fish. Another good idea is to use barbless hooks; they are much easier to work with compared to barbed hooks. Plus, they minimize the possibility of an injury to either you or your kid.
If you will be fishing in an area known for small panfish, you should not need involved gear. If you plan to be fishing for more advanced sport fish, you will need to invest in the appropriate lures. We recommend keeping it simple. Go for sunfish and crappies if you can find them.
Buying a tacklebox is a must, but it doesn’t always have to be terribly extensive. In fact, the lighter the box, the easier it is to carry around. Most fishermen use a tiny fraction of the gear in their tacklebox on any given trip, so you really don’t need to overdo it. Just buy something meant for fishing, because the compartments will help keep things organizations. A mess of fishing line and hooks is never a good thing.
Regarding bait, worms usually work best and kids have fun playing with them. Nevertheless, a lot of children can be uneasy with live bait; bait their hooks for them or try alternatives like kernels of corn, cheese, or even hot dogs.
Find shore fishing spots
When your kid is taking his or her first fishing steps, you should look for spots where both of you can cast from the shore. It makes everything very convenient. Try finding an uncrowded place and look for a waterway with plenty of fish in it to catch. The kid will be very happy whatever kind of fish he or she catches. If you end up being the first one to catch a fish, let the child hold your rod for a bit in order for him or her to get a sense of what catching a fish feels like.
One of the best ways to fish from the shore is to find a dock or a pier. This will enable the water just off the surface to have some depth, and you will find fish in that area. Giving yourself even 3-4 feet of water will improve the fishing dramatically. If you are fishing from the shore and the water is extremely shallow, you risk having lots of snags and tangles, not to mention few fish to catch.
We did an entire piece on how to find shore fishing, here.
Make it fun and rewarding
This experience should be fun and entertaining. It’s pretty important to show your little one that they can actually catch fish, or at least get bites on the end of the line. This will get the child excited to try it again and again. Don’t stress about snags, missed bites, etc. Just find a spot where you can keep the action going and have them reel in fish, however small.
Keep in mind that a live fish can be threatening to some kids. If they catch one, teach children respect for the fish, show them how to handle it and how to safely release it. And even if you don’t catch anything for a while, try incorporating some other exciting activities in between such as playing, exploring nature and enjoying some tasty snacks.
We can’t stress enough that you need to keep it fun. It is not about trying to catch something you will mount on the wall, it is about getting some action.
Don’t worry about prize fish
As we mentioned above, children will be extremely happy if they catch any fish at all, no matter the size. So go for the little, fun fish first. Let the child build a series of small successes. This way, they’ll gain confidence as they focus on learning how to attach a bobber, how to cast and how to identify different types of fish.
Panfish are generally abundant everywhere, and are often the easiest to catch from the shore. You don’t have to overthink the tackle and gear, either. A simple rod and reel, with a bobber and hook, and pieces of worm will usually be highly successful with sunfish, bluegills, and yellow perch. Keep the hook small, or the fish will easily be able to steal your live bait.
You might even catch a crappie, a species of panfish that can actually be quite desirable to catch and puts on a great fight.
Make the fishing trip short
Kids get bored more easily than adults, so it’s highly recommended to make the first few fishing trips short and exciting. You might plan on spending between one and two hours of actually fishing. Most kids have short attention spans and if they get bored of fishing take a break and turn your kids’ attention to exploring the surroundings. You can even go for a swim.
If the fishing is not very good that day, look at bugs, catch grasshoppers, admire all the other things in nature that are going on around you and make that a part of the experience and the outdoor thrill. Bring along plenty of drinks and snacks to keep your kid from getting cranky. And of course, don’t forget sun protection and a small first aid kit.
Consider a guide
There are a lot of specialized fishing guides out there who are experienced in working with kids. Choose a reliable one and let him or her take both of you on a short fishing trip where the child will learn the basics of this sport. Less stress, more excitement for both of you! Plus, you can find out about some tips and tricks yourself and apply them when you’ll go fishing later with your little one on your own.
Keep it simple, make it fun, and they’re gonna be hooked on this sport. Follow the advice we provided above and enjoy an amazing, meaningful time together. And always remember that, regardless of age, good things come to those who bait!