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Fishing with Kids by Beckie Gaskill

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First Published July 12, 2017

The love of fishing, for most anglers, started in childhood. Someone, usually an adult or maybe an older cousin or sibling, took an angler fishing at a young age. From there grew a love of the outdoors and a lifelong hobby. But bringing children fishing can bring about stress for some. Children are not merely small adults. Their needs are different and their thoughts more fleeting. It can take a bit to keep them engaged. But if anglers think of fishing with kids as an overall experience, rather than just a fishing trip, it can relieve the stress and make for a great day for everyone involved. Catching fish is great, of course, but there are many more memories to be made along the way when fishing with kids.

To fish from a boat or from shore

The first decision for an angler to make is whether to fish from shore, or to get in the boat. Shore fishing is great for children because it does not keep them confined in one spot. They can explore and look around and investigate the world - something children do naturally anyway. Fishing from a boat can be fun, too, but it depends on the child, and the boat. On a pontoon boat, for instance, there is room to move around, stretch out on a seat or even the floor, maybe the dog can come along. However, in a smaller jon boat, quarters are a bit more cramped. Standing up and moving around is held to a minimum. The main idea is to take the child’s comfort zone into consideration. A seven-year-old who cannot sit still through a 10-minute hair cut will likely have a better experience fishing from shore where they can move around and explore other things while fishing. An older child who is more patient and can stay still for longer periods of time may do better in a smaller boat.

The amount of time an adult angler is willing to dedicate to the sport also differs greatly from child. Depending on the age of the child, it may be necessary to only spend a couple hours at a time on the water or at the water’s edge. Children of the same age will even have different attention spans. It is important for an adult angler to make the experience fun for the child and not to keep the child too far past their limits. There will be other days, and more trips to take.


This might seem obvious to some anglers, but children require snacks to keep them occupied. From the beginning of Cheerios ® cereal, small bags of snacks were supplied to children in every venue from grocery stores to church pews. Snacks are also a great idea when fishing. Children will need food to keep focused on the task as hand. Nothing will cut a fishing trip shorter than not having a response to the inevitable “I’m hungry!” It is a good idea to bring special snacks, too, ones the child only get to enjoy while fishing. Special snacks make fishing time even more fun.

Wildlife viewing

Anglers should not overlook the fun of seeing and hearing other animals while on the water. Whether it is animals on land, water, or in the air children love seeing and learning more about every animal they see. Bringing along an identification guide is a great idea. Children can look through the book to identify a bird they saw fly overhead. They can learn the difference between a muskrat and an otter. Most children will even enjoy an insect I.D. guide. Bugs and children go together like cheeseburgers and fries. Children love to learn about the world around them, and this learning can give them a break from fishing, allowing them to come back to it with a new focus once their identification time is done.

Tree I.D.

Along the same lines, tree and shrub identification can also be a great way to spend some time when the fishing is slow. Different kinds of trees offer different kinds of cover when they fall in the water, so learning about this can help future fishing endeavors. Certain trees are better habitat for certain animals or birds. Again, learning comes so naturally to a child it will certainly add to the experience of being on or near the water.

Fishing stories

Even adults love a good fish story. Telling stories of past fishing escapades is not only fun for all, but it builds bonds between adults and children. Stories starting with “don’t tell your mom,” or “I never told grandpa about this story, but we took his boat once and…” are sure to bring a smile to a small face, and to build a bond over a harmless “secret” which was actually exposed years ago. Stories about the “one that got away” are also great. Those stories can teach a child not every tug on the line will result in a fish successfully coming to the boat – and it is okay. Fishing can teach young people a great deal, as can adults sharing stories of their successes and failures on the water.

The equipment

The Snoopy or Barbie pole found in a typical big box store is truly not the best, or the easiest, set up for a child who is just learning. Those combos are definitely geared toward children. However, like many things in the fishing industry (most of the baits anglers buy fit this category), they are meant to catch the fisherman, not the fish. Push-button reels can be difficult to operate and are susceptible to line twist, making it difficult or impossible to cast very far.

Instead, setting a child up with a spinning reel combo will make fishing more fun. Even the youngest of children can learn to use a spinning reel. Smaller size reels, such as a KastKing Mela 100 series (depending on the brand, it may be a 100 or 1000 series) will fit a child’s hand well, making casting much easier. A medium-light rod is usually great for a child starting out. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Allowing a child to practice on land with a practice plug for a while before ever getting to the lake can help them build confidence and feel as though they will be successful from the start.

Fishing with children can be a great experience for both the child and the adult. Adult anglers should not take it too seriously. Children just want to have fun. Fishing can be fun, even when the fish aren’t biting. Remember to bring plenty of snacks, and let the child experience the world around them. Try to answer all their questions, and do not forget to discover the unknown answers together once the fishing trip is done. The proper equipment is very important. When learning, a spinning set-up is the easiest and most forgiving. Tailor the day to the child and they are sure to come back for more, learning and progressing with each trip.

Beckie Gaskill

For more great how to's for fishing with kids, visit the blog "Get the Net" and the article Take a Kid Fishing