When the weather warms up, options for outdoor entertainment abound. A family fishing trip can be a fantastic way to cultivate a passion for outdoor adventure in the lives of our children. The challenge of reeling in a living creature and the mystery of interacting with this creature are enough to develop a lasting curiosity for exploring the natural world.

In an era of endless technological options for entertainment, a family fishing trip offers an opportunity to connect with deep roots of our culture and our humanity. However, anyone who has actually undertaken a fishing trip with kids can attest to the importance of careful planning. Here are four keys to make your next kids’ fishing trip a success:

Plan for the basics

Fishing can be as simple or as complicated as we choose. When taking kids to the water, simplicity tends to be better. You will need at least one functional fishing pole. Be sure it works by casting it in the backyard before your outing. Also make sure the line on the reel isn’t rotted.  If the line is yellowed or breaks easily, consider replacing it with fresh line. Four pound test is a good weight of line for most small fish.  

Next, consider whether you would like to use artificial or live bait. For squeamish kids, artificial lures can be purchased in the angling section of most sporting goods stores. Lures that look like small fish are often a good choice. A small hook can also dangle appetizing bait that isn’t alive. Most sporting goods stores also sell jars of manufactured eggs that look and smell like a delicious lunch for hungry fish.  

Finally, check state regulations on license requirements. Most states require adults to purchase a fishing license, while children fish for free.  

 

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Go prepared

By the time the reels are filled with fresh fishing line, the bait is packed, the hooks are ready, and the net is strapped onto the vest, it’s easy to forget some additional kid-friendly items. Remember to pack bug spray, sunblock, and plenty of snacks and drinks. These will most likely be needed if you find yourself on the water for more than ten minutes.

Watch the weather forecast and remember that large lakes tend to be cooler than the surrounding area, so bring extra layers. Prepare to remove or add clothing, as needed. A bag with a change of clothes is a final preparation that can be left in the vehicle and might save the day.

Pick your spot carefully

Among the most important aspects of planning a fishing trip is finding a location that will work. While skilled anglers might be content to cast their lines for hours without a bite, children tend to have shorter attention spans and less appreciation for the finer aspects of the sport. Lake and pond fishing can be an action-packed option. Small panfish, like bluegills and crappies, tend to abound in these waters, and they can be easy for little ones to hook. If creek fishing is the preferred experience, it’s wise to find a local stream that has been stocked with trout. It can be difficult to find and hook wild fish

Additionally, wide open spaces are preferable spots for safe casting and the wielding of potentially dangerous hooks. Look for a spot without too many overhanging tree branches, weeds, or bushes nearby. When young children plan to join the crew, it’s ideal to scan for a nearby spot where the kids can play along the shoreline without disturbing those who wish to catch fish. Splashing in the water, throwing sticks, and making mud pies are supplemental activities that can be enjoyed if the spot has enough room not to disturb fish while the little ones play.

Carefully consider all technical aspects

The technical aspects of the sport can cause frustration. Anyone who has experienced a tangled web of knotted fishing line can attest to this reality. These complications threaten to frustrate our kids as well. To overcome these challenges, maximize the adult-to-child ratio. Ideally, every child who cannot yet bait, cast, and reel a line independently should be paired with an adult. This is a great activity for inviting grandparents, friends, and second cousins! The more adult help, the better!

For children who are old enough to fish semi-independently, it’s helpful to practice casting the line in the yard for awhile before undertaking the trip. This can promote confidence and drastically improve the skill of casting.  

Ultimately, your fishing trip with the kids is intended to cultivate their passion for nature. Don’t worry too much if the fish aren’t biting. Fantastic snacks and a big play in the mud can easily make up for that. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself…  and bring the camera!