Fishing with Children: The Basics

Fishing: The classic family outing
Fishing: The classic family outing

Fishing has long been viewed as a perfect activity for families. Many of us remember fishing with Grandpa on lazy Saturday mornings.

The truth is, taking a child fishing requires patience above all else. This is a learning experience for your kids and a chance to spend time together, so gear the day to your child's level. Expect that they'll want to get their feet (and everything else) wet. Plan time to hunt for frogs, tadpoles, worms or snails.


Children's needs are simple. Here are the basics you'll need to start your own family fishing tradition.

Clothing and Protective Gear

Make sure your child is outfitted correctly for the weather and the environment. They'll need hats to protect them from the sun, and they should wear layers of clothing they can adjust as temperatures change. If you're near water of any depth, make sure to have life jackets for kids and adults on hand.

The Rod

Leave the antique rods and handmade flies home!

Spiderman and Barbie don't fish. Skip the characters and buy a decent rod that will last a few years. Children of all ages do best with a spinning rod. The closed face reels are easy to use, and easy to fix, should any tangles occur. You want a push-button model for beginners. Most can be purchased for under $20 from local sporting good stores, or tackle shops near where you'll be fishing.



Hooks should be barbless, missing the little point on the back of the hook. Serious fishermen prefer the barb, but it's far too risky for children.

The hook size is dependent on the size of the bait you are using. Bring extras, as you know there might be a few snags along the way. For freshwater spots, you don't need a hook larger than a 10. (Hook sizes descend; a 12 is smaller than a 10.)


Other Tools

Needle-nose pliers are a must-have. It is the safest way to remove a hook from a fish, but also in case of any emergency.

Use basic plastic bobbers, or simple sinkers, if you are fishing the bottom. Depending on the age of your new fishermen, choosing colors and sizes is an entertaining project itself. Large bobbers keep the bait on the top of the water, and will yield more bites than bottom-fishing.



Bait is fun! Use simple live bait, such as worms, shiners/minnows, or crickets. Children will be entertained by the bait, and it's also easier to cast a worm than it is to repeatedly cast a fly. The best part of fishing with bait: smaller is better. Most worms come in three sizes: trout worms, dillies, and nightcrawlers.

Opt for the smallest available, or cut anything that appears too large.


Need to Know

Respect your environment. This is the perfect time to teach your child about nature's beauty. Clean any mess you create, and treat all fish delicately. Release whatever you catch back into their natural habitat.

Knowledge is power. Most states require that adults purchase a fishing license prior to hitting the lakes, check out maps of local areas and your state's guidelines. There are dozens of online sites featuring interactive maps, quotas, and licensing requirements for your area.


Most of all, enjoy. While many see fishing as a peaceful way to spend a day, this is a great chance to engage your child and teach them wonderful lessons about nature and responsibility.