The only thing better than catching a fish yourself is helping your kids do the same! While a family fishing trip can be fun, young anglers may become bored or lose interest quickly. With a little preparation and some patience, your kids will be reeling in their first catch in no time! These tips will help you share your love of fishing with the whole family.
1. Teach them the rules. A fishing trip is a great opportunity to teach kids about conservation and the environment. Teach your children how ethical anglers follow the rules. Pick up a fish ID guide to show them the types of fish they might catch. Share the current fishing regulations and make sure you have your license. In Massachusetts, kids under 15 can fish for free and do not need a license. If you plan to help your kid cast or reel in their catch, you will need a fishing license to assist them. Click here to get your fishing license.
2. Get the right equipment. Start your kids out with a simple push-button spin-casting rod and reel combo that is light-weight. Leave the bait-casting and fly rods at home. With basic equipment, children will spend more time with their line in the water and less time dealing with technical problems. Rig up a basic hook, sinker, and bobber, and watch your kids light up as they see the bobber go under.
3. Practice at home. Get kids excited and ready for a fishing trip by practicing at home first. Let them get the feel for casting by practicing (without hooks) in your yard or in a park. This will help them develop timing and coordination in a low-stress environment. You can even put out targets so they can work on their aim.
4. Pick nearby locations. Go somewhere close to home. To avoid untangling line from trees, look for an open space with room for kids to cast. Find a great place to fish with our Go Fish Ma! interactive map—select the "Featured Sites" filter in the map for staff recommendations with easier access to the water. If you want to make a day of it, state parks often offer amenities like picnic tables, grills, and bathrooms.
5. Use good bait. While fishing isn't all about catching, kids have more fun when they get a few bites. Opt for bait instead of lures. Try using garden worms, mealworms, crickets, or small, dense pieces of food like cheese, chicken, hot dogs, or bread.
6. Target easy fish. Some adults care about catching big fish, but most youngsters are happy with anything at the end of their line. Forget about trophy fishing, and instead target panfish like pumpkinseed, bluegill, and yellow perch, which are plentiful, easier to catch, and require less technique. Panfish usually hang out in shallow, weedy beds next to the shoreline.
7. Make it fun (for them). Be patient, stay positive, and focus on creating an amazing experience. Keep trips short when kids are younger. An hour or two is enough to keep them wanting more. If they get bored, encourage them to explore the shoreline to look for critters or skip rocks. Kids care more about having fun with you than what they catch.
8. Keep them comfortable. Snacks, drinks, sunscreen, and bug spray keep kids happy. Make sure everyone is in appropriate clothing for the weather.
9. Be safe. A fun day fishing can be quickly ruined by injury. Consider using barbless hooks or using needle nose pliers to bend down barbs on your hooks. If kids are going to bait their own hook, teach them to be cautious. Even along shore, children should wear life jackets as they learn to fish. Polarized sunglasses help protect young eyes from the sun and from tree branches or hooks. Remember to pack a small first aid kit.
10. Keep going! As your kids practice and grow more comfortable, fishing trips will become more fun for them (and for you). Keep it interesting by switching up your routine with a new fishing spot or type of bait. As your children get older, they will become more independent and want to try learning new techniques. You can find online resources to learn new fishing skills here.