Taking kids fishing
Keep it fun, short, and simple and the kids will be hooked
Do you want to be a rock star to your kids this summer? Consider grabbing some fishing gear and taking them on a family adventure.
From the fresh air to the excitement of feeling a tug on your line, fishing provides the perfect excuse to spend together-time outdoors. Plus, introducing young children to the sport, which may seem daunting for some, is actually easy with a little planning.
“Fishing is a great sport even for little kids, if you introduce it in a positive way,” says Greg Schoby, Fish and Game Fisheries Manager in Salmon. “And remember: Keep it fun, short and simple, and the kids will be hooked.”
If you have never been fishing before, Idaho's Free Fishing Day, set for June 11, 2022, may be the perfect day to start. No fishing license is required, but all other rules apply. Fish and Game personnel and volunteers will host several free events at local fishing waters throughout the state to help first-timers discover the joys of fishing.
No matter when you go, Fish and Game recommends keeping these 10 simple tips in mind to ensure your kid’s first fishing experience isn’t their last.
1. Catching is key: Getting kids hooked on fishing is about getting a fish on the line...fast. And for kids, it’s about numbers caught, not how big. Taking them on a trip that produces the most fish possible should be your goal. Finding a well-stocked pond or lake is essential, and Fish and Game makes locating one easy. Visit Fish and Game’s Learn to Fish webpage for close to home places to go, basic tips, fishing events and more.
2. Keep it simple: If you and the kids have never fished before, don’t worry about all the different types of fishing equipment. Push button reels and casting rods exist for a reason — they’re easy to use. A few small hooks, a few 1-inch bobbers and sinkers is all you need to get started. And don’t be afraid to ask others or visit your local sporting goods store. If you lack equipment, 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 – all for free. These trailers make appearances at well-stocked fishing holes throughout the state, so be sure to check the schedule for when and where.
3. Keep it short: The younger the child, the shorter the attention span. If the fish aren't biting, don't keep kids held hostage watching their fishing poles. Allow some breaks for rock skipping, enjoying some beach time, whatever keeps them happy and lets them enjoy the outdoors. And don’t be surprised if catching fish isn’t their first priority. Just remember, as your child’s attention span gets longer, so will your fishing trips.
4. Fun times ahead: If you want your kids to go fishing again, the "fun" part is most important. Choose a sunny day, take photographs and just have a good time watching them have a good time. Keep this in mind and each outing will be a success, regardless of the number of fish caught.
5. Be patient: Remember that it’s not just your fishing trip, it’s their fishing trip too. Accept that you will be unsnagging lines, baiting hooks and probably not fishing much yourself. They will probably get dirty or even a little wet. But the quickest way to turn children off to fishing is to get frustrated with them. Keeping patient and the outing short (under an hour for beginners) will set you on course for cultivating a lifelong fishing buddy.
6. Snack breaks: Pack a cooler with drinks, sandwiches and lots of snacks like granola bars, crackers, peanuts and a treat or two. Fish for 30 minutes or so and then take a break. Fish for 30 minutes and then take another break. Snacks with breaks can help with moments of frustration and will keep the kids interested longer.
7. 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 sure to pick up a copy of the fishing seasons and rules, without charge, at your local license vendor or Fish and Game office.
8. Never waste teaching moments: Fishing is not only about just catching fish – creating memories and learning are what’s important. Capitalize on moments to teach them, tell them about bugs, birds, plants and fish. The outdoors is the best kind of classroom, and kids will soak it up like a sponge.
9. Keep a few: Catch and release is an important aspect of angling, but there's nothing wrong with keeping a few for the pan if the fishing rules allow. It can also open their minds on where the food they eat comes from. Just like agriculture, it is important to open your kid’s mind on where people get their food.
10. Leave it better than you found it: Remember to pack out your garbage and encourage kids to pick up too. These lessons mold responsible and conscientious anglers helping to ensure the future of our sport.