Fishing is a wonderful family activity, which often serves as the most cherished memory on any given vacation. You can fish in most parts of the country, and it doesn’t require a huge investment of time, energy or money. In fact, you can even design entire trips around fishing with the fam.
But here’s the thing most parents miss: Kids do not like staring at a bobber for hours without seeing any fish. Even the most patient and dedicated children will quickly lose interest in fishing if they don’t have success. And this falls to you, mom or dad. You not only have to teach your child how to fish, you have to align the stars and planets appropriately to ensure they end up with a fish on a hook.
Obviously, you can never guarantee that you’ll catch fish -– a fact to which many professional anglers will attest. But, if you embrace five key strategies, you’ll significantly improve your chances of catching fish with the kids.
1. Use the Right Gear
Set your kids up for success by furnishing them with rods of the appropriate size and complexity. A spinning rod in the 4- to 6-foot range with a spinning or spin-casting reel serves as the perfect rig for most youngsters. And don’t be afraid to hand your kid a cane pole, which will alleviate the need for your first-time-angler to cast or reel. Cane poles allow your child to simply plop the bait in the water and wait for a nibbling fish. Once they hook a fish, they can simply lift it from the water.
2. Go to the Right Place
To have any chance of catching fish, you’ll have to find them first. This is easier in a boat than it is from dry land, but with a little bit of scouting, you can usually find a productive location within a reasonable distance of your home or vacation spot. Also, because you are fishing with kids, you’ll want a place that is free of things like overhanging trees or critter-filled shoreline vegetation. Docks, sandy shorelines, retaining walls and similar locations make good starting points.
3. Target the Right Kind of Fish
Serious anglers often flock to the water in pursuit of largemouth bass, walleye, pike or brown trout, but there is a reason they do so: These fish are difficult to catch. But various panfish -– including bluegill, green sunfish and pumpkinseeds -– are often easy to catch and make great targets for first-time fishers. Catfish are another worthy target for novices. And although you’ll likely catch fewer catfish than panfish, the catfish will often be larger (and arguably tastier).
4. Use the Right Bait
Fancy artificial lures may help avid anglers catch finicky gamefish, but they aren’t as helpful for catching bluegill and catfish. Instead, you’ll want to thread a float onto your child’s line and tie a hook on the end. Bait the hook with a worm, cricket, doughball, piece of corn or slice of hotdog. It pays to bring along two or three of these options, and experiment until you find the one the fish want.
5. Use the Right Kind of Patience
Even in the best of locations, with the best baits and the best equipment, fishing requires patience. And this is often the most challenging aspect of fishing for children. While you can’t completely eliminate the need for patience (nor should you), you can help keep your kids interested in the activity by allowing them brief “escapes.” For example, you could let your youngster flip shoreline rocks for a few minutes or simply allow them to run around and play with siblings or friends. Then, once they’ve had a brief break, encourage them to come back over and give fishing another try.
If you’d like to learn more about teaching your children to fish, check out Outdoor Empire’s comprehensive review of the subject.
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