As a father of two children with special needs, I understand that both preparation and patience are essential ingredients when fishing with children. Without a doubt, kids have short attention spans and this is increased 10 fold when fishing. If you don’t catch fish quickly then you’re likely to be bombarded with complaints of boredom and requests to move onto another activity. Therefore you will need to plan ahead and maximize those opportunities. Over the years I have hosted multiple kids and family fishing clinics and developed some key strategies to ensure fishing is a fun, safe and rewarding experience.
Kids that share a passion with their parents like fishing are likely to build stronger relationships, and this guide will teach you the basic fundamentals to gaining a new fishing buddy. These recommendations will give you a great starting platform and on your way to watching your young one reel in their first catch followed with a big smile eager for more fishing action. So here are the key essentials when fishing with kids to make the experience fun and safe for all.
When planning your fishing trip carefully take note of the weather forecast and plan your fishing session during pleasant weather conditions. Ideally your looking for comfortable conditions with low winds, no rain, and low UV levels. Keep an eye on the local tide times and where possible fish near the peak of each tide which is generally when the fish are most active.
Selecting a rod and reel
Don't use your rod and reel which are simply too long and heavy, instead take the kids to your local tackle store and buy them a rod combo appropriate to their size. Rod combos such as the Shakespeare Amphibian, Rogue juniour, Mojiko small fry & Shimano Kidstix are terrific and affordable options. Add a tackle box with hooks, sinkers and line to get them excited. Put them in charge and let them choose the styles and colours. A good idea to purchase a 2 piece rod which can be easily stored in the car boot.
The kidstrust website has put together a comprehensive review of toddlers fishing rod packs which can be seen here https://kidstrust.org/best-kids-fishing-pole
Rigging up and keeping it simple
When rigging up your kids fishing rods do so with small hooks, small sinkers, and small baits. This will be easier for them to handle and will greatly increase their catch rate of bread and butter species like mullet, salmon, bream, flathead, redfin, whiting, trout and carp. A great starting rig for kids is a simple running sinker rig. Simply place a small running sinker above a swivel then below the swivel tie on a 40cm leader to a size 8 long shank hook. It its very simple yet very effective and works remarkably well for a range of baits and fish species. It’s also a good idea to crush the barb of hooks which will avoid any nasty accidents
What to pack
Keep it simple, pack the kids fishing rods, maybe a rod for yourself, the bait, a net, a tackle-box with hooks, sinkers and line and you're ready to go. Set up the fishing rods and rigs before leaving ready to cast that way when you reach your destination your ready to fish and don't have the kids sitting around for 15 minutes watching you rig up.
Pack plenty of snacks, a couple of drinks and a chair for the kids to sit on. Pack sunscreen and hats. Even on overcast days, you can easily get sunburnt. A good idea is to bring alternative activities such as balls, a cricket set, bucket and spade or books for times when the bite has gone quiet. BUT leave the gadgets including iPad and iPhones at home. The old saying replaces the Xbox with a tackle box.
Pack a camera and remember to capture the moment by taking lots of photos when the kids land a fish.
Picking the right location
Location is critical, so make sure your chosen destination is somewhere with the all basic amenities such as nearby toilets and also pick a location that doesn't require long travel times. Pick somewhere fun to fish like the beach, river with playgrounds and walking tracks. This way kids will associate fishing with fun and if your not catching fish you can still have a fun day doing an alternative activity in a fun location, which won't deter them from future fishing sessions.
Choose a location which you have caught fish in the past, this location needs to be safe, so avoid strong surf, slippery rocks, or fishing near step ledges or areas renowned for pests like snakes. Again beaches, jetties, parks with rivers and estuary systems are great choices.
Every school holidays Victorian fisheries do a tremendous job stocking many of our popular lakes with trout yearling's. So make sure you keep an eye on school holiday stocking programs which is a great way to get your kids onto a few trout. Victorian stocking program schedule can be seen here https://vfa.vic.gov.au/recreational-fishing/fish-stocking/school-holiday-trout-stocking
What fish species to target
Target bread and butter species that are easy to catch and in abundance. Species such as mullet, salmon, whiting, bream, flathead, pinkies, trout, redfin, leather jackets and even carp are ideal choices. I really enjoy taking my kids to estuary systems and catching heaps of mullet on bread. This way the catch is frequent and the fish are a size that the kids can easily handle. As the kids get bigger and more accomplished then branch out to bigger species that are a little more challenging to catch.
Teach your kids about the different species of fish and how to handle them properly. Such as the dangers of flathead spines and redfin gill plates. Always lead by example by handling fish with respect and practicing catch and release. This should be your preferred option and the kids will get a buzz watching fish swim away and teaches kids the importance of fishing sustainability. However, if you do plan to keep a couple of fish to eat then make sure you follow the legal size limits for your state.
What bait to select
Don't forget to pack the bait, it would be wise to research the right baits for the area your fishing and species of fish that your planning to target before going out so you're prepared. Generally, you cant go wrong in most areas using pilchards, pippies, bread, blue bait, whitebait & scrub worms.
A fun activity with the kids in its own right can be collecting your own live bait such pumping bass yabbies, crabs or sandworms from the beach.
Be calm, patient, encourage & set realistic expectations
It is key to have a positive mindset, always remain calm, show immense patience and continually encourage your kids. Your kids will feed off your emotions so you need to have a positive one. Temper your own expectation as things often don't go to plan. For instance, you may not catch any fish or the kids might misbehave but lowering your expectations will ensure you don't give up and that you keep persisting until you find what works for you and your kids.
Make The experience fun but always put safety first. If you’re planning to fish as well then only take 1 rod for yourself which will allow you to fish but still keep the focus on your kids.
Engage with your kids throughout, encourage them over and over again, keep reinforcing that there doing well. If you're not getting a bite then show them the same respect and move onto something else.
Slowly build up your child's exposure to fishing. Start with brief fishing sessions then gradually make them longer. Build up their skills by teaching them how to cast, how to use the reel properly. As their skills improve you may want to start using lures and soft plastics. Take the kids to the local tackle store and get them to choose their own plastics with funky colors and shapes. Eventually get them to assist with rigging up, tying knots and spooling reels.
Teach your kids a couple of knots and rigs. I highly recommend teaching them the uni knot or the blood knot with a simple running sinker rig which will work perfectly in any situation.
Continually educate your children about the different fish species your targeting. What their legal size limits are, how they should be handled, if they're dangerous, and always encourage catch and release.
Make every fishing experience about having fun
Always look for opportunities to make the experience more enjoyable. Some ideas could include packing a picnic, having a bbq and enjoy a nice lunch with the kids whilst the rods are set up and ready to catch a fish.
Go camping and make fishing a key activity that is done during camping.
Taking some time out to try and spot fish such as stingrays, dolphins and small schools of fish, or other active animal life such as birds, pelicans or butterflies. This always makes the kids excited.
If your fishing on the beach add in some fun beach activities such as building sand castles, collecting shells, walking in the shallow water, playing cricket, or having a brief swim.
Practice catch and release. Young kids may not comprehend the idea of keeping the fish for food and they always enjoy watching a fish swim away. Often I will take my kids into a shallow area where they can go in the water and release the fish which is something they love to do.
Recently I purchased the Savage Gear lure making and painting kit. It was very affordable and I had hours of fun painting soft plastics with the kids. This is an amazing way to spark their interest by designing their own colours and patterns and catching fish with them.
Know when to stop
Fish for small periods at a time and build up their patience levels. Knowing when to stop is key to ensuring they will want to go again. If you take them for hours and hours at a time when beginning they will immediately connect fishing with boredom. If you expect them to sit around for hours then your setting yourself up for failure. You will be far more successful by starting with shorter sessions, even as short as 30 minutes, then building them up.
Don't take them too frequently, there kids and need to have their own hobbies. Make sure you have breaks between fishing days to allow the kids plenty of time to do their own activities without feeling obligated to always fish with you.
Final word from the author
I love fishing and hope that my kids will become my lifelong fishing buddies that I can take traveling around the state sharing fun experiences and visiting new locations. I hope to incorporate fishing with other fun experiences such as camping and traveling. In my experience, its only made my relationship with my kids stronger and introduces them to a potential lifelong passion.
Anyone under 18 does NOT require a fishing license, so take advantage of that and get out fishing with your kids. You can obtain a copy of the latest Vic fishing guide here to help you get familiar with fishing rules https://vfa.vic.gov.au/recreational-fishing/recreational-fishing-guide
If you have any further ideas then please share them by sending your ideas to email@example.com or if you would like to send us pics of your kids fishing we would love to add them to the page.
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