Fishing can be an ideal sport for families to do together outdoors. Besides spending quality time together, getting away from hectic schedules, electronics and enjoying a sun-filled day of fresh air can do wonders.
“Fishing can be a great sport even for little kids, if you introduce it in a positive way,” said Jordan Messner, Idaho Fish and Game fishery biologist based in Salmon. “Be patient, make it fun, and appreciate spending quality time together outdoors.”
When fishing with young children, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your kid’s first fishing experience isn’t their last.
Catching is key: Finding a well-stocked pond or lake is essential to hooking youngsters to fishing. It’s about the number of fish you can catch – not the size. Your kids will have a lot more fun reeling in several easy-to-catch stocked trout rather than waiting all day for a 5-pound lunker to bite.
And finding a local fishing hole has never been easier. Family Fishing Waters are choice fishing spots geared toward families and the likelihood of catching fish. Most are easy to reach, stocked with trout, and accessible by anglers of all ages. Here's a webpage devoted to Family Fishing Waters.
If you lack equipment or have never fished before, Idaho Fish and Game’s Take Me Fishing trailers are loaded with loaner fishing rods, tackle, bait and are staffed by experienced anglers that can help. These trailers make appearances at well-stocked fishing holes close to home. For a list of trailer events in your area, use the link above.
Keep it simple: Short poles and closed-face reels are good choices. A small tackle box with some small hooks, a few 1-inch bobbers and sinkers is all you need to get started. If bait is used, encourage, but don’t force them, to bait their own hooks. Let them practice with plastic worms. Eventually, they'll get used to the idea of doing it themselves.
Keep it short: The younger the child, the shorter the attention span. If the fish aren't biting, don't keep kids chained to their fishing poles, or held hostage in a boat. Allow some breaks for rock skipping, enjoying some beach time - whatever keeps them happy and lets them enjoy the outdoors. As your child’s attention span gets longer, so will your fishing trips, and you’ll be making memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Keep them happy: Pack a cooler with sandwiches and lots of snacks, including a special treat or two. Snacks can help break up moments of frustration and will keep the kids interested.
Remember the essentials: Besides hook, line and sinkers, be sure to take sunscreen, bug repellant, a few Band-Aids and a fishing license if required. Resident youth 13 years old or younger do not need a fishing license, but those 14 years and older are required to have a license in their possession while fishing.
Be patient: Accept that they may not keep quiet, and they probably will get a few tangles. The quickest way to turn children off to fishing is to get frustrated with them. Keeping the outing short - under an hour for beginners - and ending on a cheerful note will set you on course for cultivating a lifelong fishing buddy.
It’s not all about catching: Never judge your success by the number or size of fish you catch - making memories is what’s important. Capitalize on moments to teach them what you know - tell them about birds, plants, bugs, and fish. Kids remember these things and find them interesting.
Leave it better than you found it: Remember to pack out your garbage and encourage the kids to pick up too. These lessons mold responsible and conscientious anglers helping to ensure the future of our sport.