Fishing with your kids

By Jon Sutton

It’s rarely hard to find things for your kids to do on a weekend, but there aren’t a lot of activities that you’ll both enjoy. Chances are, you aren’t very interested in seeing the newest child-oriented movie, spending the day at a playground or watching your child play video games all day. And on the flip side, your kids probably aren’t eager to check out a museum or help you organize the garage.

But, there’s at least one activity that you’re both sure to love – heading down to the local pond to see what’s biting. Fishing is a fantastic way to spend the day and allow you to bond with your kids while getting them outside where they can enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. Fishing may even become a lifelong hobby for them. However, if you want to ensure that they have a good time, you’ll need to do everything possible to make sure you catch fish. They won’t have very much fun staring at a bobber all day long without getting any bites.

You can’t ever guarantee that the fish will be biting, but you can employ a few easy tips and tricks to help improve your chances. So, load the kids up in the car, try to embrace these recommendations and get ready to catch some fish.

1. Provide your kids with equipment that suits their size, age and skill level

Most parents would like to avoid any unnecessary expenditures, but your kids will have a much better time if you buy them a rod and reel combo that is appropriate for their size and skill level, rather than simply giving them one of your old rods. Typically, a 5- to 6-foot-long spinning or spincasting combo is ideal and won’t cost you very much money.

2. Fish in places with healthy fish populations

Picking the right fishing location is incredibly important when trying to fish with your kids. You’ll want to select waters that not only provide easy access to the water but those that have healthy fish populations too. There are hundreds of places from which you can choose. See the sidebar for a list of locations in and around the GTA.

3. Target abundant, easy-to-catch species while your kids are learning the basics

Walleye, pike and other celebrated gamefish may be the preferred targets for experienced anglers, but these species are typically rather hard to catch – that’s part of the appeal. Accordingly, you’ll have a better time – and your kids will catch more fish – if you target more abundant species.

Different fish species inhabit different waters, but most Canadian lakes, rivers and ponds will host bluegill, perch or catfish. Any of these species should be easy for your youngster to catch, and they all make great table fare as well.

4. Use real or live baits rather than fancy artificial lures

Advanced anglers often like to use artificial lures when fishing, but your kids will be better served by using live or real baits. Not only are real baits more likely to attract the attention of fish, they aren’t as likely to become snagged on underwater hazards as artificial lures are.

There are a variety of good baits you can use, and it is wise to chat up the staff at the local bait shop when making your choice. However, earthworms, leeches and live minnows are some of the best options in most circumstances. Corn kernels and dough balls can also be effective if you are fishing for bluegill.

5. Fish alongside your kids to improve the chances that you’ll trigger bites

While you’ll be busy baiting hooks and untangling lines, it is important to keep your own line in the water while teaching your kids to fish. You’re more likely to notice nibbles and hook fish, which will give you the chance to pass your rod to one of your kids so that he or she can reel in the monster and claim credit for catching the fish. Just make sure you alternate between your kids so that everyone has a chance to reel in a fish.

Don’t forget to obtain all the necessary licenses and permits before you start fishing – you don’t want to have an unpleasant encounter with local law enforcement while teaching your kids to fish. Children under 18 years of age do not need a license. You’ll have to obtain a license from the province or territory in which you plan to fish.

If you’d like to learn a few more tips and tricks to help make your kids’ first fishing trip a good one, check out Outdoor Empire’s comprehensive review of the subject. There, you’ll learn more about the gear your kids will need, the best species to target and some of the creature comforts your kids will appreciate while on the water.