As we look for ways to get outside with our families, fishing is often one of the first activities that comes to mind. While I enjoy fishing all day, that is not true for kids.
When I take my grandkids fishing, they each have varying interest in fishing. Their attention span drives what we do at the lake or stream, and how much time we spend fishing.
I saw a family with four kids at the lake the other day with the mom and dad set for an afternoon of fishing. They had already walked halfway around the lake to get to their chosen fishing spot. The kids ranged from about 9 to 3, and all family members intended to fish. These parents were much braver than I have been on my fishing excursions.
When I go fishing with kids, I prefer to fish with one kid at a time, or two if one child is reasonably self-sufficient. I have no intention of catching fish myself, but work hard to make the time fun for the young fishers.
The reason I prefer to fish with one child at a time is because kids often have varying attention spans with fishing. My younger grandkids, who are 5 and 2, can handle about 30 minutes if the fish are biting regularly. My oldest grandson, 13, can fish with me all day, while my second grandson, 9, reaches his limit after about two hours.
I try hard to maximize success for my new fishers too. That means I have pre-fished the lake a day or so prior to their visit. I know where we will start, how deep the fish are, or how far they are from the bank, so that when the kids cast out their lines, they are catching fish right away.
I usually will fish too, but with a different purpose. When I fish with my younger grandkids, my rod is the “catching” rod that gets handed to the young angler when a fish is on the line. For slightly older fishers, my rod is also the backup rod when a tangle happens on the kid’s rod. When they are old enough to catch fish consistently on their own, I will bring my fly rod. They quickly see how efficient fly-fishing is for me in bringing in fish, and they want to try it. My older grandsons are now very skilled fly fishers.
We rarely keep our catch unless we have injured a fish and it wouldn’t survive release. When we fish for bluegills using mealworms under a small bobber, that means that I also have quite a few extra hooks with me for a quick line cut by the fish’s mouth and a hook replacement. The kids often cradle the fish with wetted hands, while I cut the line and make sure that the fish isn’t bleeding when we release it and watch it swim away.
For the younger kids, I usually bring a bucket and an aquarium net to the lake. Kids love the opportunity to observe the fish in the bucket, then after a few minutes, release the fish back to the lake with no danger of getting spiked by a bluegill fin.
Other activities at the lake or stream are an important part of my plan for success. Snacks and drinks are a critical component. I treasured sitting by the lake and talking while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and drinking a juice when my kids were young, and now with my grandkids.
Taking a break and playing Frisbee or catch by the lake breaks up the morning of fishing too, if you have a child that wants a diversion from fishing for a while.
On a stream, small sand-play buckets and large aquarium nets are fun for the kids as we wet wade the creeks between fishing segments. We look for crayfish to put in the buckets to observe, or turn over rocks in the riffles looking for aquatic insects.
Successful fishing trips for kids need to take into account their attention spans and interests.
Make it fun, and you could end up with a fishing partner for life.