Fishing With Your Child

How To ensure your child's first fishing trip is a success to be repeated, and a fond memory for later years.

Except when in use or spread on my kitchen table for some maintenance, my fishing tackle is always in the trunk of my car. My father taught me never to leave home without it. I was five or six when my dad's fishing lessons started. I applied them with my own kids and darned if they're not driving around with theirs in their trunk, too. Capturing and holding a youngster's interest in fishing isn't always easy, but there are ways.

The first fishing trip is crucial. Effort should be made to guarantee excitement, even if your child gets skunked. Here's what worked for me.

1. Start stirring up interest well before the trip. The first fishing kit should be like the first baseball glove, bicycle or ice skates. Go to a store together to look over beginner kits and array of lures. Try to avoid the obvious junk, but look for a kit that has a few lures with it. A small tackle box is mandatory, plus a fish stringer to accommodate the big ones. If you have spare tackle gathering dust in the basement or garage, so much the better. Make the equipment a gift in any case. Share cleaning it up, oiling the reel, putting on new line.

2. Before the Big Day, get into your yard or any open space together, and practice casting. We used to use a light sinker on the line and set up a garbage can as a target. My dad made it a game and, incidentally, enabled me to learn not only how to cast but also to be able to do so with some accuracy.

3. Pick your fishing location carefully. River bank or stream fishing is usually the most successful, especially if you plan to make a day of it. If you do use a boat, stay inshore as much as possible, and keep busy--trolling, casting, jigging.

Boredom or restlessness can wreck a first fishing trip quicker than no fish. The shore, as opposed to the unrestricted space on a boat, offers many more activity opportunities. Hunt frogs and crayfish, gather cattails, skip stones, hike and explore, even go for a swim. Make sure you take along a couple of minnow nets. If you must boat, schedule lots of shore stops.

4. Start out very early, earlier than the normal get-up hour for the kids. This, too, makes the trip special. Take lots of clothes. Better to peel them off as the day warms up than to shiver because you didn't bring enough. Be sure of an extra change on hand. Where there's water and kids, there's invariably wet clothes.

5. For that first, and probably second and third fishing trip, make sure you're well stocked with patience. You may be spending your day baiting hooks, freeing snags, and untangling lines. Also, have a spare rod and reel on hand just in case there's a big problem.

6. Last but not least: take an abundance of favorite foods. Forget the "we'll catch our lunch" theory of fishing. Count the catch as a bonus to your already full cooler and box of varied munchies.


Catching a fish, any fish, is the kids' name of the game. Competition bass can come later. Panfish are great for the first trip: crappie, sunfish, perch, rock bass. Even if kids don't catch one of these, which is unlikely, the thrills of a thousand nibbles will keep them busy.

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