Hook, Line, and Sinker
How to get kids hooked on fishing
"Please- pretty please- take us fishing," my daughters begged. A few months ago, my two young daughters, ages six and nine, became obsessed with the idea of going fishing. I was nervous about the prospect. For starters, I knew next to nothing about fishing. And it's not exactly a sport known for its fast-paced, kid-pleasing fun. Still, if my girls are begging to do something outside, you can be darned sure I'm going to try to make it work.
I hit the Internet, talked to some pros, rounded up some gear, and we headed out to cast our lines. Fortunately, we had a good recommendation for a fishing spot, so no sooner did my six-year-old toss her hook in the water and pull out a fish.
And once she hooked that first fish I could tell she would be hooked on fishing for life.
Want to take your kids fishing? It's much easier than you think to get started, and the rewards are well worth the effort. On our latest venture, the girls reeled in about a dozen fish between the two of them and we all enjoyed an afternoon sharing easy-going laughs and exaggerated fish tales in the great outdoors. Here's how you can get started:
Keep It Simple.
I'm talking a hook, line, and sinker. Oh, and bobber. The bobber is key because it gives the kids a visual clue to what's happening under water. Stick with an ultra-light rod and reel with light line so that your kids can feel the fish bite more easily. Small hook sizes from #6 to #10 are most effective for the fish you will want to catch in the beginning. If this is your child's first time fishing, use a pair of pliers to flatten the barb on the hook. It makes it a little harder to land the fish, but it makes it easier to pull the hook out of the fish- and out of you, when you inevitably get snagged by your child's over-zealous casting.
If they are really young, consider using a simple cane pole without the reel that kids don't have to cast. Jennifer Taggart, aka the Smart Mama, and her husband, Jed Welcher, made homemade fishing poles for their boys using tongue depressors, paper clips, and fishing line. Taggart also recommends using lead free fishing sinkers. "I wouldn't want my kids to handle lead containing fishing weights- they aren't goign to wash their hands after handling and there is a real opportunity for exposure. Plus, there isn't any reason to contaminate the stream/river/ocean/lake with lead containing fishing weights- there are other options," she explained.
This simple combo of fishing gear- barbless hook, lightweight line, lead-free sinker, and a bobber can be used to catch any species of fish on any body of water.
Follow the fish.
"If you want to get your kids interested in fishing, make sure you go where there's a lot of fish so they don't get bored," says fishing expert Joshua Jorgensen, co-founder of Muskie Challenge Fishing Tournament in Windsor, Ontario. Bluegills, sunfish, and small bass are perfect for kids because they prefer shallow water and are easy to find. Lakes and ponds that are freshly stocked with catfish and trout are another good option. Check out Nature Find for parks and nature sites in your area and talk with your local fish and wildlife agency to find out the best places for fishing with kids.
Leave your pole at home.
It's a lot of work to cast the line, monitor the bobber, and teach your kids how to tell their own "fish tales." Avoid frustration by making your kids the focal point on these fishing trips and wait until they can hold their own before you bring your gear along.
Can't make it to the water? That doesn't mean that your kids have to miss out on the fishy fun. Attach a piece of magnetic tape to the bank of a few lightweight plastic toys, make fishing pols out of sticks and string, and tie a magnet to the end of each string. Drip the toys into the bottom of an outdoor pool, fill with water, and let your kids fish the day away.
Jenn Savedge (Writer, Mother, Blogger). Full-time mom, environmentalist, and author who researches and writes about the two topics that are closest to her heart: children and the environment. She is Mother Nature Network’s official “green family” blogger. As a former park ranger for the National Park Service, Jenn traveled the U.S., learning about the environment in some this country’s most breath-taking wild places.
Get Outdoors with Your Family