teach a kid to fish
Outdoor How-To

Kid-Friendly Fishing

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, probably a simple freshwater 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.

Where to look for good shore fishing…….

DOCKS, PIERS, AND BOAT RAMPS

You will almost always find some good fishing holes around docks, piers, and boat ramps. Boat ramps can be especially good places because a lot of the fishermen who fish from their boats often empty their bait containers out when they get back to the boat ramp. Small fish like minnows and perch are attracted by the bait, and then larger fish are attracted by the small fish.

Be mindful when you are fishing near a boat ramp so you are not in the way of the people launching their boats. The best idea when fishing near a boat ramp is to fish off to the side of the ramp.

A large number of water ways have docks and fishing piers built off of them. Many of these fishing piers will even have bait and tackle stores located nearby. These docks and piers are often constructed in places that are proven to be good fishing holes.  Because the pier extends into the water many feet, fishing off a pier is one of the best ways to fish in some depth even though you don’t have a boat.  If you think you can catch some bass, you will be aided by the fact that they like shade, and a dock or pier provides exactly that.

STATE PARKS

There are many state parks that are either situated beside a lake or waterway or contain many such bodies of water within them. So, you will more than likely be able to walk around the shoreline of lakes, the ocean or along rivers when visiting them. Remember that fish like to have some place they can hide if they feel threatened by a larger fish. As such, look for areas that have small trees or brush along the edges of the water.

If you find a hiking path that runs close by streams, creeks, rivers or lakes you will likely have found an excellent place to fish. You might have to walk a short distance but hiking paths often offer you access to water ways that are not accessible by boat. Just grab a backpack big enough to carry your tackle and walk some of the hiking trails that are located near waterways.

Try to find a place without obvious weeds growing near the shore.  While the weeds might be a great home for fish, they can be really tough to fish in.  The best spots tend to be near — but in not — weeds, or near structure like a rocky drop-off or a downed tree.

CREEKS AND STREAMS (AND THEIR BRIDGES)

Local creeks near to where you live can offer some great bank fishing and very few creeks are wide enough and deep enough for motorized boats to travel on. Thus, there are plenty of fish in such smaller  streams of water but only an angler fishing from the shore will be able to catch the majority of them.

Bridges can be your secret weapon as a shore fisherman or fisherwoman.  Fish close to bridges that cross the creeks and rivers because the bridge pilings offer some security to the fish. If you are going to stand on a bridge to fish, do be very mindful of possible automobile traffic.  For many popular fishing holes, there are places under the bridge (away from car traffic) which have a safer area to fish from — but still, be very, very careful!

Look for places where the trees lean out over the water and cast a shadow. In the heat of summer fish tend to go into deeper water because its cooler. If the water is shaded by a tree it will be cooler and small fish will swim to the edge of the water to feed. And where there are small fish present larger ones won’t be far away.

Fish next to natural protection like logs in the water, or shrubs that grow out of the water.

RIVERS

River banks and sand bars in rivers offer ample opportunities for bank fishing. Look for places where the river turns just a little. Where a waterway turns there is usually a deep hole of water right in the center of the turn where the bank is steepest. Big fish such as catfish like to get in the deep waters of those turns as the current there is not as strong and those lazier predators can simply hang out waiting for smaller fish to swim by and provide them with an easy lunch.

Sandbars can offer some good bank fishing, but you are going to want to cast your line out to the deeper water off of the sandbar. Little fish like minnows can be spotted in the very shallow water, but where there is a sandbar there is a deeper channel of water flowing where it gets deeper. Cast your line into that deeper water and wait for it.

Where bridges cross river can be great fishing spots under those bridges. There are sometimes small boat ramps that have been established close to bridges or sandbars along the river. You can often fish right off of the boat ramp because river boat traffic is usually not very frequent.

PONDS

A pond is an excellent place for shore fishing and  fish there can often be plentiful and quite large. The problem with pond fishing is that you must make sure that you are not on private property. If the pond is on private property be sure you get the owner’s permission to fish in their pond.

Another factor to consider with small ponds is that it may not actually hold any fish!  Just because a pond exists doesn’t mean there are fish in it.  Some ponds are too small to support fish, because they might be too shallow causing the water to have oxygen levels too low to sustain fish life.

BIG WATER BEACHES

Public beaches on large bodies of water often a destination for fishing enthusiasts, especially on the coasts. Fishing on a surf can allow you to pull in saltwater fish which you might normally only be able to find when fishing from a boat, way out on the open water. It is essential to be careful, though. Fishing a surf, especially on an ocean coast or a huge lake like Lake Superior, can be unpredictable.  We recommend only doing this if you know the area, understand the weather and tidal patterns, and are wearing a life preserver.  And we do not recommend taking young children along for this type of fishing.

MAKE THE FISHING 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.  If you are one of those “everything is a competition” people, try to check that at the door when you go fishing with a child, otherwise you might ruin it for them.

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.

 

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