I was too young to remember my first fishing trip. My father, brother and grandfathers all taught me to fish. Fishing is a wonderful sport for bring children and parents closer together. My father passed on a lot of his morals and wisdom as we talked during those fishing trips.Getting kids interested in fishing is great for the sport and is a great parenting tool. So here are a some tips on how to introduce your kids to fishing.
Make having fun, not fishing, the point of your trip.
I am a hard-core fisherman. When I go fishing I have one purpose and one purpose only. I want fish! But when I take young kids fishing I have to remind myself that the point is not to put fish on the bank, it is to have fun. If I catch less fish but we have a great time then we have had a successful trip. Kids are much more likely to want to go fishing again if you don’t let catching fish interfere with the kids having fun. If the kids start chasing fireflies and throwing rocks in the water, just be glad they are having fun.
Get a rod holder and a bite alarm.
Lure fishing, or even fishing with bobbers can end in frustration if the child is too young to reliably cast or hold a rod still. The best thing you can do is get a rod holders and a bite alarm and take your kid cat fishing or carp fishing. Once you have set up your gear, you put the rods in the rod holder, attach the alarms and then you forget about your rods and pay attention to the kid. Catch frogs or throw a ball around and when the alarm goes off the child can run back to the rods and reel in the fish.
A bite alarm can be as cheap and easy as a fishing bell or you can buy a hi-tech bite alarm with wireless receiver to carry around as you play. As long as you can hear it when a fish bites, that is all that matters.
The main advantage of electronic bite alarms is their volume. Not only does this mean that the kids can hear the alarms from further away, they are also more exciting and they allow you to night fish. My absolute favorite fishing trip involve pitching a tent next to the rods and waking up to the sound of a massive fish setting off the alarms. In the eyes of a child this is the ultimate sleep over and a fabulous way to be introduce kids to fishing.
Pick a safe spot.
Constant supervision isn’t enough to keep real young kids out of trouble. Avoid places with swift current, wild animals, sharp rocks, ect. if you are constantly worried it will just make everyone unhappy. Even if the fishing isn’t as good, pick a safer spot where you can relax and the kids can run around without your having to hover and yell constantly.
If a kid fails too much they will get frustrated and hate fishing. A little practice can go a long way to helping a child have a successful fishing trip. Practicing casting and fighting a fish really helps.
To practice casting, my dad would tie a lead sinker on the end of the rod and have me cast at a bucket in the yard.
To practice fighting a fish, have the young angler hold the rod while you hold onto the lead and run back and forth the backyard mimicking a fishing. Use this to teach them to keep the rod tip up, to stop reeling when the fish takes drag and to reel in when the fish starts to tire or go near a snag.
If you don’t mind looking silly running back and forth across a lawn, this can be great fun and an excellent way to teach kids how to fish.
Bank fishing is often best.
This rule doesn’t apply to ever kid or every boat, but when most kids are in a boat you are constantly having to tell them to sit down, don’t rock the boat, don’t learn over into the water, watch what you are doing with the rod. If you have a bank where the kids can run around, everyone is much more likely to have a good time.
Have some activities prepared in case the fish are slow biting.
When I take kids fishing and things are a bit slow, its amazing how much fun they can have playing with my other fishing gear. I keep a couple bait sling-shots in my tackle box for chumming and ever kid I know loves slinging bait into the lake. When that doesn’t work, building a fire and roasting marshmallows, catching frogs, throwing rocks, swimming, making a cane pole, or playing a game of catch can turn a slow day into a great one. Always have a “plan B” activity ready in case the fish aren’t biting.
Make sure they are comfortable.
It take a lot of fish to salvage a trip when young kids are cold, wet, tired hungry or sunburned. As an adult I can ice fish without gloves and I do alright, but when I was young I could never stay warm no matter how many layers I had on. Make sure the kids have proper gear, snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent or whatever the need to be comfortable and if the weather turns sour don’t be afraid to call it a day and go out for ice cream or burgers.
If you are going to be fishing for a while, bring a fishing bivy or a large tent to use as a base camp. If you pitch the ten near the bite alarms you can stay our of the sun or rain and stay comfortable and have fun despite less than perfect weather.
Catching fish is key to loving fishing. If I am taking kids fishing to a spot that I go to frequently, I will often arrive a bit early or go the night before and chum the area. Sour wheat and corn are great chums for catfish or carp. Throwing a couple pounds of chum into your fishing hole before hand can really pull in the fish and make for fun and exciting action.
Bring a net even if you don’t need one.
If you have more than one kid coming along or if a kid is hesitant about wanting to reel in a large fish, netting the fish can be loads of fun. I have had more than one kid prefer netting the fish over reeling it in. Having one kid on the net and one kid on the rod gets more kids involved when the alarms go off.
Choose an appropriate rod length.
Small kids can have a lot of trouble reeling in a 10-20 lb carp or catfish. When the butt of the rod is half their size, this can make things hard. If you have a very enthusiastic young fisherman, I like to use my 12′ rods because the long rod makes the fight harder which they love. If I have a young fisherman who is unsure or less enthusiastic I bring my 6′-7′ rods so that it is less intimidating.
Consider getting a fighting belt.
If I am catching decent sized carp or cats, and a kid is overwhelmed or shys away from wanting to reel in the fish then a cheap saltwater fighting belt can really help making fighting the fish more enjoyable. A lot of small kids lose interest in reeling in the fish because having the butt of the rod dig into their crotch or hip hurts. Sometimes we adults forget how small they are. To a 60 lb kid a 20 lb carp feels like a 80lber would to me. A simple fighting belt can take the discomfort away and makes the kid feel like he is wrestling Moby Dick to shore.
Get a keep net or carp sack.
My dad had a hard time teaching me catch-and-release. As a young boy I would cry or throw a fit when he would put my fish back. Young kids want to show off their catch. A keep net or carp sack can be a good way to humanely keep the fish alive while you take pictures or get mom to come over and take a look. And it is a lot of fun to turn all the fish loose at the end of the day.
Having their own gear.
Some of us just love gear, and your kids can be the same. Having your own rod or tackle box can be a really big deal for a kid. Being able to take my tackle box fishing and catch my own fish with my own gear was a big deal when I was little. Just hold off on getting them any hooks until they are old enough to not leave them lying in the carpet.