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Fishing with Kids: Top Tips for Little Anglers

Building a relationship with your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. And developing this bond while sharing your love of fishing--well, that’s just icing on the cake!

But to kindle a life-long love of fishing in the next generation involves more than just inviting them along for the trip, and too many advanced anglers make some pretty basic mistakes when introducing kids to the sport.

Today, we’ll take a careful look at some of the best tips for fishing with kids.

Related: Fishing Tips For Beginners

Safety First

Bringing a young angler to the water is a tremendous responsibility, and it's a terrible fact that it only takes a moment’s inattention to result in tragedy.

Especially for younger children, a portable floatation device is an absolute must, even when fishing from shore. 

There are other hazards, too, and from too much sun to bumps and bruises, you need to be vigilant. 

fishing hat, sunscreen pfd for children

A PFD, sunscreen, and a hat would be a great addition here, right?

Obviously, hooks will be near the top of your list for potential injuries, and if you’ve got more than one little angler to manage, make sure to space them out far enough that they can’t reach one another with their rods (and hooks)!

Sunscreen, proper clothing, sunglasses, and a good fishing hat are essentials, as is plenty to drink. Children can dehydrate quickly, and that’s always something to watch for.

And bug repellant is always a good idea to bring along, as is a basic first aid kit.

Focus on the Kids, Not the Fish

If you make this trip a duplicate of your ordinary day on the water, just with the addition of a child, expect disaster.

how to fish with kids

I still remember this monster!

That may sound harsh, but it’s a story I’ve heard a hundred times: a well-meaning angler invites a young relative along for a day of fishing, but the emphasis is placed firmly on the fishing and not the young relative.

If you want a kid to enjoy fishing, if you’d like to kindle in them a love of fishing for life, focus on the kid, not the fish.

Accept that you won’t be the one fishing--you might not even want to bring your own rod along, as hard as that might be to swallow. Instead, your best bet is to teach, support, and assist. 

By focusing your attention on the child, you can better help him or her learn the ropes of casting, for instance, rather than ignoring obvious signs of frustration or responding to a problem only after it’s come to a head.

Your patience will be rewarded with a new fishing buddy in the making and more chances to forge a healthy, strong relationship in the future.

For the Really Little Ones, Keep it Short and Bring Snacks

Children don’t have the attention span of adults, but it’s easy to forget that when you’re used to hitting the water before sun-up and staying all day.

They just don’t have the physical or mental endurance for that!

fishing with a child

He’s really focused--right now...

Instead, plan a short trip of no more than a few hours. Even shorter jaunts are better for first-timers and younger children. Whatever you do, don’t make this an epic, pre-dawn adventure; think instead about a two-hour excursion with more to do than just fishing.

That may sound counterproductive, but hear me out.

Your little fishing buddy may lose interest in fishing, even if they catch a few. If you're watching closely and following our second tip, you’ll see the signs of that. Maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll be engrossed in watching the bobber or rod tip for the signs of a bite, but don’t count on it--at least not for long.

When you see fidgeting or loss of interest, it’s time for a snack, a change of pace, or another activity. Consider exploring the shore for a few minutes, or carefully wading out into the shallows.

Plan for Fun

While your interests may lie firmly with the fish, children are curious about nearly everything. Combine that with their short attention span, and you need to think about “fishing” in an entirely new way.

kids fishing

This totally counts as “fishing” for young anglers once they lose interest in their rod and reel.

When your young angler loses interest in sitting still and quiet with their rod, you need to be ready.

Some stale bread to attract minnows (or ducks), a fine net to scoop tiny fish or frogs out the water, a magnifying glass to inspect insects: think about other activities you can share together near the water.

Kids Tackle

Kids have small hands and short arms, and handing a small angler your favorite ultralight probably isn’t the best way to go.

fishing tackle for kids

Invest in kid-sized tackle to maximize the fun.

Instead, invest in quality tackle that’s sized to fit them--and no, that doesn’t mean the flimsy toy rod and reel combos emblazoned with superheroes or princesses stickers!

There are quality rod and reel combos for kids out there, and we’ve reviewed some of our favorites: Best Fishing Rods for Kids: Excellent Options Reviewed

Set an Example

If there’s one thing we forget more than anything else, it’s that we’re setting the example our kids will imitate.

child catches fish

Emphasize that littering is never OK, and you’ll be setting up the next generation for success.

From picking up trash to responsible release, you want to do everything right--and get your buddy involved!

If there’s litter lying around, enlist them to help you clean it up.

Teach your little angler how to release a fish, and if they’re too young to do it well, still get them involved. Have them gently touch the fish while you hold it, encourage questions, and show them how to resuscitate a tired fish if the occasion arises. 

Encourage safety, and emphasize basics like sunscreen, proper clothing, and personal floatation devices. And of course, if you don’t use these yourself, you’ll never convince them that they should, either!

Final Thoughts

With a little planning and a shift in emphasis, you can introduce young anglers to the sport and hook them for life. You’ll be rewarded with a stronger relationship, a new fishing buddy, and the heartwarming satisfaction of watching a child catch their most memorable fish.

About The Author
Pete Danylewycz
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. Whether he's casting a line in a quiet freshwater stream or battling a monster bass, fishing is his true passion.