Fishing is one of the best activities to enjoy with your children, but sometimes it can be a challenge keeping it enjoyable for them. In this guide, I’ll share some of the methods I use that really help to make fishing fun for kids.
See that beautiful smile in the featured image above? That’s Emma. She’s my right hand girl, my partner in crime, and my fishing partner extraordinaire.
When I started fishing again after more than a decade away from the water, I wanted to share my adventures with her. I wanted her to experience and enjoy nature that same way that I had all those years before.
Surprisingly, and to my great pleasure, she was completely on board with that idea. Every time I go fishing, she’s eager and ready to tag along. We’re a fishing team, and we can’t be stopped.
But as we spent time out at the water, it didn’t take long for me to realize that she would sometimes get quite bored. Was she going because she loved fishing or just because she wanted to spend some time with dad? Probably a little bit of both. But if she doesn’t enjoy the time fishing, eventually she’ll want to stop going.
And to be completely honest, I would do just about anything to see a smile on her face. If you’re a parent which I assume you are since you’re reading this article, then you know the feeling.
So I set out to find ways to make our excursions into the wilderness as enjoyable for her as possible. I made an intentional effort to ensure that she has a good time every time we go out. And, let me tell you, I could see the difference in her excitement levels. It was worth the effort.
Listed below are some of the things I do in order to keep things exciting for her. Most of them are extremely easy to accomplish, and they can make all the difference in the world for the young ones. If you’re ready to make fishing fun for kids, then read on.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Choose an easy to access location with amenities nearby.
Not all fishing holes are created equal…equally enjoyable for children, that is.
There are a few things that I look for in a fishing spot that I know will make things more enjoyable for my kids.
First, I try to find places to fish where we don’t have to hike too far from where we park. In the past, I’d noticed how she could be fatigued after a bit of hiking especially if you have a lot of stuff to carry (we’ll cover that more below). So find fishing holes that are relatively close to your parking area.
Second, if you fish in parks or campgrounds, you’ll often have access to outhouses, playgrounds, water fountains, shelters, picnic tables and other nice amenities.
One of our most convenient fishing spots is the Green River City Park here in Amboy, IL. It takes us about two minutes to drive there from our home. The parking area is less than 100 feet from the river. There is a shelter with picnic tables, a swing set, and an outhouse.
This allows us to zip out and take short, fun fishing trips whenever we want. We can hop over and fish for a half hour to an hour and then head back home.
While we’re there, we’ll cast the lines into the water, and then she’ll often swing for a bit or play at a picnic table while we wait for a bite.
Pack light or make it easy to haul your gear to the water.
We were at Shabonna Lake State Park. We had heard a few folks talking about the crappie and bluegill that were biting like crazy down at the dam so we decided to head over and give it a try.
Unfortunately, the parking area is about a quarter mile or so from the water on this side of the lake, and we didn’t realize that. We parked and loaded ourselves up with the gear. I had both hands full and she had both hands full.
Given how much we were carrying and how hot it was outside, she was tired and ready to quit as soon as we arrived on site. My heart sank just looking at her.
As a result of that experience, I learned an important lesson: If you want your child to enjoy the adventure then either pack light or make it easy to haul your gear to the water.
When we got home, I got online and started looking into fishing backpacks. After browsing dozens of brands and models, I settled on the KastKing Day Tripper Fishing Backpack (You can read my review of it here). It has been an absolute life saver.
We fit all of our tackle into that bag, pack cold drinks into it, and strap two camping chairs to one side of it and our rods to the other. We now carry absolutely nothing. Everything goes into or straps onto the side of the backpack.
Fully loaded the pack only weighs maybe twenty pounds which I can easily haul for miles on end without getting fatigued. And this allows her to just walk, skip and play as we head out to fish.
We’ve since returned to the dam there in Shabbona on many occasions, had great times, and have caught many fish.
Play games and music to make the time spent fishing more enjoyable.
With the advent of smart phones, we now have a plethora of entertainment at our fingertips no matter how lost in the wilderness we might find ourselves.
Now I don’t let the kids play games or watch videos on the phone when we are fishing, because that kind of defeats the point. But I do use it to play music quietly. It’s also fun to take turns picking what song you want to listen to next.
For games, since we don’t use the phone for that, we do two things.
First, we play simple games like 20 questions. When we play 20 questions, we often pick a theme. For example, we might pick items or characters from Marvel superhero movies or we might pick things that we can can see.
Second, we always bring a deck of playing cards with us. As I mentioned above, many of the parks where we fish have picnic tables right near the water. This allows us to cast our bait out into the lake and then play Rummy for a bit while we wait for a bite.
Teach them how to use baits and fishing techniques that are easy.
Emma loves getting her hands dirty and is always so excited and proud to do things on her own. I thought she would be too squirmish to put a minnow on a hook. But no. She asked me to show her how with my rod. Then she went ahead and put her own on.
She wanted to learn how to do herself everything that daddy was doing.
In fishing, like with most things in life, there is the easy way and then there is the best way. I taught Emma the easy methods of baiting and fishing first. As she got more proficient, I then taught her other methods.
In the Army, we call this learning process the “crawl – walk – run” method. You have to crawl before you can walk. You have to walk before you can run.
Now when we first started fishing, I always chose fishing methods that were very easy and low maintenance. Bottom fishing with a sinker and a nightcrawler or bobber fishing are the best for this. Once your line is set up, you just cast your bait into the water and play cards while you wait for a bite. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
For a kid this is ideal. They set up their line, practice their cast, and then relax for a bit before checking the bait and recasting.
As they mature in their fishing skills, you can then teach them other, more advanced, methods of fishing.
Make a meal out of the fish that you and your child caught together.
My daughter loves the idea of catching fish that are keepers. Every time we catch a fish, she wants to know if we can put it on the chain to take home with us. And we we get one, she gets so excited.
She and I do the entire process together, and I can tell that it makes her feel so incredibly proud.
When we started, I really, really thought that the cleaning of a fish would be too much for her to handle. I thought it would be too gross. And while there were certain parts that she didn’t like, she did really well and had a lot of fun anyways.
And when we pull it out of the frying pan and dig in, she’s in heaven.
15 Super-Duper Bonus Tips for making fishing fun for kids.
- Use the opportunity to talk.
- Take breaks to play, talk, hike or picnic.
- Create some fun or silly fishing traditions.
- Brag about your kids about how great they are at fishing.
- Make fishing a team effort.
- Let your child choose a fishing spot.
- Focus on your kid, not the fishing.
- Let the kid choose the fishing method.
- Get your child their own tackle.
- Go exploring in the surrounding area.
- Practice casting at home in the backyard.
- Make casting a game or competition.
- Takes tons of pictures.
- Ask them for help landing a fish.
- Take short fishing trips during nice weather.
Conclusion and final thoughts on making fishing fun for kids.
Fishing is a terrific activity to do with your children. For that matter, any outdoor activity is great. Get them away from the video games, get them into nature, allow them to learn some skills.
Do you take your children fishing with you? If so, which of these tips do you use? Do you have any tried and true methods for making fishing fun for kids? Join me in the comments below and share your thoughts and experiences with us.