Outdoor activities are always a great way to spend time with your family. They not only give you a chance to bond with your children, they give you the chance to get your kids outside, where they can soak up some fresh air and sunshine. Fishing is a great example of an outdoor activity that most kids will love, and most children love learning the basics.
But there’s a big difference between a successful fishing trip, which results in plenty of smiles and photographs of your kids holding big fish, and a bad trip, which may leave your children frustrated, cranky and resistant to future fishing trips. However, that doesn’t mean it is difficult to make sure your first trip sounds more like the former scenario than the latter. Just try to incorporate the following suggestions when planning your trip:
1. Provide your children with equipment and tackle that fits their age and size.
Don’t set your kids up for frustration and failure by handing them your old rod and reel, as it’ll likely be too long and complicated for them to use easily. Instead, provide them with a 5- to a 6-foot-long rod and a simple spinning reel. Most big-box retailers and sporting goods stores offer these types of “starter kits” for less than $20.
2. Pick a kid-friendly fishing spot.
Your kids will struggle a bit when learning to cast, so try to pick a place with plenty of space – you don’t want to take them to a crowded pier or beach when they are getting started. Often, the best places to try are small local parks. The ponds and rivers in community parks often hold healthy fish populations and provide bathrooms and other amenities too.
3. Target easy-to-catch species rather than the big-name gamefish.
Ignore the largemouth bass, pike, and walleye that experienced anglers like to pursue; your kids aren’t likely to catch such elusive and wary quarry. Instead, you’ll want to target the abundant and aggressive fish in your region. Different regions are home to different species, but bluegill, catfish, and perch are easy-to-catch and live in most parts of the U.S.
4. Dress your kids appropriately for the weather.
Uncomfortable kids become cranky very quickly, so always dress your kids in plenty of light layers to ensure they stay comfortable if the weather heats up or cools off. It’s also a good idea to fit them with a hat and pair of sunglasses during sunny summer days. Sunscreen and bug spray will also help keep them safe and comfortable while on the water.
5. Use real baits rather than artificial lures.
Many experienced anglers like to use fancy artificial lures when fishing, but your children will have better luck using real baits. You can use earthworms, crickets or leeches if your kids aren’t squeamish, but you may want to use corn kernels, dough balls or hot dog slices if your kids recoil in the presence of creepy crawlies.
It’s important to set a good example for your kids, and you don’t want to be fined for breaking the law, so make sure you obtain a fishing license (and any necessary permits or stamps) before heading to the water. Fishing regulations vary from one state to the next, but most allow kids under 15 or 16 years of age to fish without a license; however, you’ll need a license in almost all cases.
If you’d like to learn a few more tips, tricks, and tactics for helping your kids catch fish and making sure their first outing is fun, check out Outdoor Empire’s comprehensive review of the subject. There, you’ll learn more about picking the best equipment and tackle, as well as providing the creature comforts your kids will appreciate.