There are a few things you can do to make a fishing trip truly enjoyable with children. The first is to load up on patience. Whether you’re dealing with a four-year old, an eight-year old or even a teenager, things will go wrong. How wrong, and how fast they go wrong, will depend a lot on how patient you are.
It will also depend on what kind of gear you allow them to use, and of course, how organized you are. Gear considerations are important. We often don’t give children a good chance for success because we hand them fishing gear designed for kids.
If this seems counter-intuitive, it’s not. A Snoopy rod that is three feet long and outfitted with a cheap spin-casting reel is a great way to keep a kid from being able to cast, set the hook, or fight a fish. All three of those are pretty important when it comes to having success in the boat, on the bank or while fishing off of the dock.
Even a young kid can usually handle a real fishing rod, even if it’s a couple feet taller than they are. A rod with a little backbone to it will allow the child to actually cast, and if they should need to, set the hook and fight a fish. This is important whether you’re targeting sunfish or something larger.
And then there is the need to be organized.
Keep It Together
Remember that patience thing? Well, one way to stay a zen master when it comes to fishing with kids is to preserve some level of order with your gear. If you’re simply watching a bobber and hoping to catch some bluegills, or maybe you’re trying to catch a smallmouth on topwater, how you stay organized is crucial.
With a simple bait fishing setup, it’s best to keep hooks and sinkers handy, oftentimes in a small hard case in your pocket. You’ll need hooks, you’ll need sinkers, and you’ll possibly need a few replacement bobbers. How easy it is to retie and get the setup back into the lilypads will make all of the difference in how interested the youngsters stay in fishing.
If the kids are a little older and capable of casting lures, organization matters a lot. Again, in many situations the’ll get hung up and lose tackle. It happens. How often and how quickly you can re-rig them to keep chunking away from bass or notherns will contribute greatly to how much they enjoy the experience.
And if they catch one, that organization will be crucial to not going from the exhilaration of fighting a fish and swinging it into the boat to suddenly realizing that you’ve now got to wade through a litany of scattered lures, a net, and other fishing detritus to release their catch.
The thing about kids catching fish is that they are going to want to hold them and they are going to want their picture taken. A fish-handling glove is a great idea for kids so they don’t get whacked by a spine or a tooth, and so that they can get a safe grip on their catch and won’t drop them, which can be bad news for a fish you were planning to safely release.
As far as the camera, whether it’s your phone or an actual camera, keep it convenient and ready to go. The less time their catch is out of the water, the better. Not only will the youngster get to hold their catch, have it captured in a picture, but they’ll be able to let it go and get back after the next one.
The easier that is, the better it is for all involved.