Some of my earliest memories are of Dad and me, fishing together next to a gorgeous river or on the family boat. He would patiently bait my hook, watch me cast my line into the water, help me net the fish when it came close, and detangle my line when I had royally mucked it up. Fast forward many years and the memories are the same – although he refuses to bait my hooks anymore…
It’s now my turn to show my kids the beauty of fishing: catching a big fish, putting the little ones back for another time, and making memories like the ones I have with my parents.
In this article I'll share a few tips for fishing with kids so that you too can go out and have a great family fishing trip.
Where do you take kids fishing?
Although I prefer to fish from a boat where I can really get away from the rat race and revel in the peace that comes from fishing many kilometres off-shore, it’s not always feasible to take such small children (as we have) where I really like to fish.
So, how do I show my children the beauty of fishing on a lake or river?
First, I have to prepare myself for lots of tangled lines and possibly hours of sitting on a river bank waiting for the fish to bite. This takes a bit of planning – with lots of food, activities and patience thrown into the mix, not to mention the fishing gear. A first aid kit isn’t a bad investment either.
Choosing fishing gear for kids
Take your little ones to a tackle shop, where they can choose their own rod and reel. Nowadays, you can buy small rods designed for children in funky colours that are lightweight, and easy for small hands to handle. Look for an ‘egg beater’ (spinning) reel, as these are easier for kids to use than the bulkier overhead type reel.
Don’t compromise on which fishing line you use. Dad always made sure that the line that was on my rod was the same as what was on his. That way, if you do need to make running repairs at the river, all lines are built the same and are therefore interchangeable. Also, if you put inferior line on your kid’s reel and the fish decide her bait is better than yours, it could break before you land the big one.
If you are looking to get some gear for yourself, check out our guide to fishing gear for beginners.
Stay away from live bait
For many kids (me included as a child), the idea of putting live bait on a hook is disgusting and cruel. If your child is likely to be offended, then maybe omit the live blood worms from the bait stock and use frozen bait or artificial lures instead. It won’t matter to your child that the bait isn’t as good as live worms for fishing, and casting and retrieving with artificial lures is a great way to keep them interested even when the fish aren't biting.
When you catch a fish, let them reel it in (with your help of course)! Nothing compares to the feeling of a fish on the end of a line, and if this makes them more likely to enjoy the trip, then make it happen. Be aware that some kids might struggle to use a reel when there is the weight of a fish on the end. I have personally seen many a rod go overboard when a child has had enough. Oops…
Landing a fish for the first time
What an experience it will be when this first happens! If possible, ask another person to net the fish when it comes close so that it doesn’t get away. Take lots of photos of your little person reeling in the big one – it’s something they will treasure forever.
Handling fish you have caught
Be respectful to the animal you have just caught. Some fish species require you to bleed them once caught so they taste better. Others are not to be taken from the water and need to be put back immediately. All fish have a legal limit, both for the number of fish you can keep (the catch limit) and the minimum size they must be in order to take them home. It is your responsibility to know these legalities.
Check out your department of agriculture and fisheries website for information about size and bag limits within your state.
Good fishing and tackle shops have measuring sticks and stickers that you can put on the side of your boat which display the various size limits for fish species in your state. By adhering to these limits, we ensure these species will be around for our grandchildren to enjoy catching.