Introducing Kids to Fishing

Fishing with kids is a great way to share your love of the outdoors. When you introduce kids to fishing, make it part of an outdoor adventure rather than the entire adventure. In doing so, you focus the attention on the process of fishing being a part of the fun and not just about the “catching”. If you can do this, the kids will develop a love of fishing whether they catch something or not.

Where to Fish With Kids
Fishing from the shore of a lake is one of the best options for a first time fishing trip. Avoid rivers or streams with younger children as they can easily fall in and be picked up by the current. Lake shores generally provide plenty of space for the kids to stretch their legs, practice their casting or just explore a bit. They make a great setting for a picnic lunch and often are good for swimming when it’s too hot for the fish to bit anymore or it’s time to take a break.

If you or the kids really want to fish from a boat, a lake is still a great place to start. Be sure to have kid-sized life jackets and review boating safety with them before embarking. Try trolling around the lake rather than drift fishing. If you are going with a group of kids and adults, you can set up a base on the shore to drop off and pick up new fishing crew. This way when the kids get off the boat, they can run, swim or if they wish, continue fishing.

What to Bring
As the best fishing occurs in the morning, you and the kids will want to wear layered clothing. A large body of water such as a lake acts as a giant mirror so use sunscreen and a hat to avoid painful sunburns. Bring plenty of liquids and snacks with you. Oh, and don’t forget the fishing gear and camera.

Teaching Kids to Fish
Before you go, read and study about fish together. What do they eat? What are their habits? What’s their role in the food chain? Discuss the fishing methods you will be using on the trip. Show them how a rod and reel works. Share the contents of your tackle box if you have one.

You don’t need to go out and buy any special or fancy kid fishing gear. However, a push button release reel and a short fishing pole will make it easier for kids to learn how to cast. Try attaching a slip shot weight on the end of the line and show them how to cast in the yard. Let them practice and get the feel of casting. This will give them more confidence when they are casting out on the water for real. When you do go fishing, use a pair of pliers to flatten or remove the barbs on your hooks. It’s not uncommon for beginners to hook something or someone.

Be patient. Young children often get bored fishing. Focus on the process. Observe the environment. Ask them to point out any jumping fish or birds that are feeding on fish in the water. Discuss what they know and think about this. Let them know it’s not always easy to catch a fish. As someone once said, “If fishing was easy, they’d call it catching”.

Remember to keep the actual fishing time short for this first trip. Or try a hike-and-fish approach for a more relaxed experience. As you hike, discuss where fish are likely to be and let the kids decide where you should stop and fish. This is a great way to make sure everyone gets to stretch their legs, explore and discover the area around the lake.

When the kids are ready to stop or take a break, let them. If they want to run, swim or skip rocks, let them. You want them to enjoy the whole experience of being outdoors and fishing. So unless it’s a safety issue, don’t be too strict.

Introducing kids to fishing can be a great experience with some preparation as well as flexibility. By emphasizing the discovery process, you can turn kids onto fishing even if they don’t catch anything that day.