One of my favorite things about fishing is the bond it creates between families and friends. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of learning how to fish at a small campground in backwoods Mio, Mich. I look forward to taking my future kids on their first fishing trip — and in the meantime, I enjoy taking nephews, nieces and friends’ kids out to experience the magic that hooked me at an early age.
Fishing with kids can be rewarding, but it comes with a different set of parameters. So if you are thinking about taking your youngsters out for the first time — or if you need some pointers to make your family fishing trips a better experience for everybody — here are a few recommendations.
Set reasonable expectations: This applies to both you and the kids. Adults — especially experienced anglers who are used to taking things seriously — need to adapt their game plan. Examples include shortening trips, going to places with easier access and realizing that catching just a few small fish will count as a win for young anglers. It’s also important to let kids know what’s in store. If you prepare them for the possibility of hot weather, bug bites and slow fishing, they will be less disappointed if fish aren’t jumping in the boat right away.
Individualize the experience: Little kids are just like the rest of us — everyone is different. To maximize your young angler’s experience, load up with their favorite snacks, make a big deal out of every catch (even if it’s a tiny bluegill or an ugly carp), and allow them to set the pace for the day. Some kids will want to do everything themselves — and they’ll need you to fix things when lines get tangled or lures get snagged. Others will want your help tying knots, baiting hooks, casting and even handling fish. The key is to find the right balance so you both have a good time.
Come prepared: Preparation is key to any successful fishing trip, but it’s especially important with kids on board. Make sure you have enough food, water, sunscreen, bug spray and life jackets to keep everyone safe. Get some reliable reports ahead of time and bring a variety of tackle and bait to maximize your chances of success. And be ready to call an audible if things don’t go according to plan.
Make it FUN: Fun should always be the top priority when fishing with kids. On a recent trip with my nephews, we boated more than a dozen bluegill and a couple of nice bass. But if you asked the boys, going swimming afterwards and grabbing an ice cream cone on the way home were the highlights of the day — and they can’t wait to go fishing again next time they come to town.
There’s nothing better than seeing a kid’s eyes light up when they catch their first fish. Some — like me — will be hooked right away, while others will take time to find their sea legs. But with the right mindset and proper preparation, your fishing trips can become something the whole family looks forward to.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.