In Vermont, fishing with kids is both a pastime and a tradition.
At one point, it seemed like every family did it. These days, teaching kids to fish isn’t as standard as it once was. For that reason, I want to share my family’s tips for fishing with kids.
Before I get started, I’ll address the elephant in the room. What if you don’t care about fishing with your kids? And, surely any outdoor activity can substitute for fishing, right?
Here’s the thing about fishing. It’s boring.
But, when my husband and I are fishing with our kids, we find that time moves slower and we are able to have those wholesome conversations where we get to know each other all over again. I can’t think of any other activity where sitting (or standing) still is the main skill you need.
When you do prepare to go fishing with kids, I have a few pointers to make the experience fun, rewarding, and smooth for everyone.
- Buy the appropriate gear.
Fishing with kids is not one of those times to just wing it. I know that sounds trivial but the truth is, you need the appropriate gear to fish. You don’t have to go crazy and outfit yourself with everything on the market, but you do need to get a few things. When it comes to kids, all you need are the basics:
*live bait or artificial lures
When it comes to the fishing pole, make sure you have a kid’s pole for your child. A kid’s pole will be accurately sized and will work much better than having them try to use your fishing pole.
Please note: if you plan on helping your child, you need to have a fishing license. Anyone over the age of 15 needs a fishing license if they intend to handle the fishing pole.
- Practice casting at home.
Take the time to practice casting with the kids at home before you take them fishing. Maybe you are new to fishing as well, so join them and don’t worry about looking silly in your front yard. I’ve watched my neighbor who is an avid fisherman casting in his yard each season, so it’s a normal thing to do. Rather than describing how to cast, I suggest you check out some casting videos on YouTube.
I also strongly suggest before you go fishing with kids that you have them practice on both closed reel and open reel poles.
Our kids prefer fishing with open reels, but they are harder to master and a closed reel is a great place to start. The best way to compare the two would be if you were looking to drive a car that is automatic vs one that is standard. Both are driveable, but most drivers prefer one over the other. An open reel is an automatic while a closed reel is a standard.
- Practice even more with weight.
Once the kids (and you) have casting down, try adding some sort of a weight to your hook. It will make a difference in how you cast and will be more comparable to live bait.
- Bring them with you to get bait.
It may seem like an odd tip when fishing with kids but I promise this one pays off. By taking your kids to buy bait, you are making them part of the process. They feel proud and excited during this part, and I found our kids learned so much when purchasing bait. The shop owners usually have great stories to share, and they love watching the younger generations begin their fishing adventures.
- Don’t forget hats, sunblock, bug spray, and water shoes.
When fishing with kids, you want to make them comfortable. There is nothing worse than a kid ready to leave the fishing hole 10 minutes after arriving because their shoes got wet. Ensuring they have their sunscreen and a hat to keep them cool and protected and the water shoes to allow them to really get into the water and fish will pay off. And bug spray. You won’t be able to enjoy yourself at all if your kids can’t sit still because of a few mosquitoes.
And if all else fails, bring an activity. And snacks. Lot’s of snacks.
Don’t be surprised if your kids just aren’t into fishing the first few times. Fishing isn’t that compelling til you catch a fish! So don’t be surprised when they tell you they are bored. That’s why we always have a stockpile of enticing snacks and a book or even a tablet (gasp) to lure them (fishing pun totally intended) to stay a bit longer. Even seasoned kids who fish get bored.
- Don’t forget ice fishing!
I’ll be honest, our family does a lot more ice fishing than we do open water fishing. We don’t have a boat, so when we ice fish, we can get to those spots we can’t reach in the summer. Ice fishing has become a family event for us because the kids can skate while my husband fishes. And when they do happen to get me to tag along, I can read a book in our pop up shanty. It’s cozy, I forget I’m on the ice in the middle of the lake, and there is usually bacon cooking.
This is also the time where fishing with kids gets more involved for us. Our kids love watching the fish finder to see if we found the best spot to try our luck, or not.
- Buy the Lifetime License in their first year.
Fishing licenses aren’t required in Vermont for anyone under the age of 15. But one thing I wish we had done, that I’m hoping I can help you with, is to buy a Lifetime License. When this is done in the child’s first year, you’ll see the greatest savings.
Our kids are now 7 and 9, and we can still purchase a Lifetime License but it is double the price it would have been had we purchased before they turned one.
Our favorite time to go fishing is early in the morning, and let me tell you if it’s raining a little bit, those fish seem to really bite! Hot, hazy, and humid days are the ones I when would suggest staying home.