Whether you are planning on pulling up in an RV or pitching a tent for a couple of days, you should make some time to take your kids fishing. Fishing is not only one of the most iconic camping activities, it helps foster a love of the outdoors in kids. For many, it turns into a constructive and healthy lifelong hobby.
But, if you want your children to have fun while fishing, you need to ensure that they actually catch fish – few kids will be happy staring at a bobber all afternoon unless they’re getting the chance to battle a few fish in the process. And while it is impossible to guarantee that you’ll catch fish on any given day (even professional anglers come up empty from time to time), you can certainly improve your chances of catching a few by following the tips below.
1. Provide your kids with proper equipment that suits their age.
Youngsters often struggle to handle rods and reels intended for adults, so make sure you set them up with a rod and reel suitable for their size. A 5- to 6-foot-long spinning or spincasting rod is usually ideal. Similarly, skip the fancy artificial lures, which will likely become snagged on every underwater hazard in the lake, and set them up with a worm-, leech-, or cricket-baited hook, and tie on a float or sinker (depending on whether you want to fish near the surface or near the bottom) about 1- to 2-feet above the hook.
2. Target kid-friendly species.
You may have visions of catching a gigantic bass or a trophy pike, but your kids will have trouble catching these wild and wary species. Instead, have them target the abundant, bottom-of-the-pecking-order species available in the lake or river your visiting. The best species to target will vary from region to region, but perch, bluegill (and their relatives) and catfish are typically good choices, and most locations in the US will harbor at least one of the three species.
3. Dress your kids for the weather.
You can fish year-round in most southern portions of the United States, and if you aren’t afraid of the cold, you can even try ice-fishing if your travels take you to snowy destinations. But no matter what time of year you fish, make sure to dress your children appropriately – you don’t want them to become cranky because they are hot or cold. Layers are the best approach, as they’ll allow your children to add or shed garments as the day progresses. And don’t forget to spray them down with plenty of sunscreen when the sun’s rays are strong.
4. Always follow the local rules and regulations when fishing.
It is imperative that you set a good example for your kids and instill a respect for the fishing regulations in effect in any given body of water. Failing to do so may put a premature end to your fishing experience and leave you facing heavy fines as well. Fishing laws vary from state to state, so you’ll have to do a little homework before heading down to the water. Fortunately, many states either provide online license-purchasing options or offer licenses in bait shops near high-traffic fishing sites. Additionally, children under 15 can usually fish without a license, although some states do require that all anglers – regardless of age – obtain a valid license if they are holding a rod.
5. Talk to the locals.
Even though you can probably do a bit of Googling and figure out the basic fishing techniques that will work on a given body of water, no one knows how to fish a lake like the locals do. Just take five or ten minutes to talk to the staff at the local bait shop or anyone you may encounter down on the water. Most locals will know some of the best bait to use, areas to fish and species to target.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that you need to maintain a positive attitude, provide plenty of encouragement when your youngsters struggle and heap on the praise when they do well. Make sure to take photos of any fish caught and you may even want to let your kids take credit for a few of the fish you manage to reel in – we won’t tell anyone.
If you’d like to learn a few more ways to help ensure your kids enjoy their first fishing trip, cruise on over to Outdoor Empire and read their comprehensive review of the subject. There, you’ll learn more about keeping your kids comfortable, setting them up with the best equipment and identifying the best fishing spots on any body of water.