There’s nothing quite like the shared excitement of fishing with kids. The look on a child’s face when they hook a fish is joy itself.

It’s what makes taking kids fishing so magical.  I remember one of the first fish I caught as a child.  I was fishing in a pond stocked with hatchery rainbow trout in our city park.  The fishing had been slow but suddenly my bobber started dipping.  I was so surprised I completely forgot to use the reel.  I just ran backward and dragged that poor trout right up onto the bank.  The rush of youthful adrenaline just took over!

It’s the same rush that still has me hooked on fishing today.  Every time I feel that tug on the line I am just like that kid. Now as a father of four boys I want my kids to enjoy fishing too, however, taking kids fishing isn’t always magical.  It can seem much more like babysitting than fishing.  Time on the water is short so spending the day baiting hooks, untangling lines, and casting tiny Mickey Mouse fishing rods doesn’t always sound like a good time.  Taking kids fishing can be done and it can be an enjoyable experience.  Following these 8 tips to make taking your kids fishing a memorable event.

If you want to inspire your kids and instill a lifelong love of fishing, these 8 tips will help you take your kids fishing without going crazy.

Use the Right Gear:

Having the right gear makes most activities much more enjoyable.  It’s no different when taking children fishing.  The nice thing is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of stuff to have a good time on the water.  We have an entire guide to kids fishing gear here, but it’s safe to say that with a small investment you can be outfitted with all the gear you need. A small investment that will result in a life long love of fishing and the outdoors.  It all starts with the right fishing pole.

Pack snacks

Let’s face it.  I could fish all day without stopping to drink water.  I go into “fish mode” and become much more like a machine than a normal human being.  This helps me catch lots of fish.  It doesn’t make me very much fun to fish with.  When I take my kids with me I have to remember to deactivate the android angler mode and be a human being.  This means packing snacks and drinks.  It also means stopping to enjoy munching a granola bar with my seven-year-old while we take in the great outdoors.  My kids will hang in there at least twice as long when they have snacks in their lap.  This applies to any activity but why not take a little more time getting ready to pack some munchies and get more time on the water with them.Short trips are better

Snacks might help you stretch the time your kids will last on the water but there is still a point of no return. Planning a shorter trip will keep everyone’s experience positive.  If you’re headed out in the morning plan to cut it off at noon.  If everyone’s having a good time you will get no complaints about staying out on the water, but if your kids are miserable you will be hearing plenty of complaining.  Having a reasonable ending time raises your chances of everyone going home with fond memories, including you.

Aim for higher probability of success

Aim for higher probability of success
Speaking of higher probabilities, planning a successful fishing outing with your kids means taking trips to places where there is an increased likelihood they are going to catch fish.  This means non-technical fishing where there are lots of fish.  Yes it means you may have to pass on your favorite fishing spot, or your favorite type of fishing, but it will be worth it to see the smile on your child’s face.  We have a few ideas about perfect places to take kids fishing here.

  • Perch Docks – the fish are small but what kid doesn’t want to get a bite every other cast?
  • Stocked ponds specifically for kids – lots of hungry hatchery fish ready to light up your children’s faces.
  • Anywhere you have fished before and know how to get on the fish

Celebrate every fish like it’s a trophy

This one seems obvious but I’m surprised how many times I forget what life is like through the eyes of a child. I have a few memories of catching big fish as a kid.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them grew in size in the retelling.  As mentioned before, one of my favorite “high success” areas to fish with my boys is fishing for perch.  A trip to the perch docks isn’t going to produce many “Monster fish” but I make sure to celebrate each one like it’s a new record catch.

Teach them about nature

Kids are naturally inquisitive.  They are learning all about their surroundings all the time.  It’s true that I want my boys to fall in love with fishing but I really want to cultivate the sense of wonder that keeps me heading outdoors.  That means I can find just as much enjoyment when the fishing is slow. There is literally so much to spark their curiosity.  Here are a few things that have kept us occupied when the fish just aren’t biting.

  • Catch crayfish
  • Hunt for frogs
  • Build a campfire
  • Skip stones (I know… this may be why the fish aren’t biting)
  • Observe migrating waterfowl
  • Look under rocks
  • Catch bugs
  • Watch beavers 

Slowing down and taking in the scenery will help develop a sense of wonder and instill a love for the entire outdoors.  This is sure to pay off down the road.

Make safety a priority

Children are notorious for not being very aware of their surroundings and potential danger. Every trip to the water is a chance at a memory that will last a lifetime, but the last thing you want is for that memory to be a tragedy.  ALWAYS wear lifejackets on boats and docks. Teach your children about safety as you enjoy your time on the water.  Even a wayward cast of the rod can lead to a hook becoming lodged in a painful place, so spread out and keep your face clear of hooks. Don’t get so engrossed in your fishing that you lose track of how far away your kids are or what they’re getting into.

Make the goal about having a good time not catching lots of fish

Expectation is everything.  Success and failure is determined by what the goal is.  If your expectation is to catch high numbers of fish you will probably have many failed fishing trips with your kids.  If you move the goal line, success becomes attainable.  Kids are funny creatures.  My boys often find entertainment in the strangest ways. Turning over rocks, breaking tree branches, redirecting small streams of water, etc.  Success for us is bringing everyone home safe and with stories to tell.  Sometimes the stories are filled with catching fish, and sometimes the stories are about other things.  Either way the memories will be forever.

What are your best tips for taking your kids fishing?

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