When my daughter reached the age of two my dear wife thought the time was ripe for me to assume the responsibility of spending some quality time with her for the better part of a Saturday in order to establish a healthy father-daughter relationship.
After a hiatus of about two years from fishing (mainly due to my new role as father) I decided to introduce Rebecca to this wonderful past time even at that tender age.
Fortunately we were living on the coast at the time so fishing opportunities were not in short supply. To be quite honest, however, the first year or so of these “fishing” expeditions were mostly spent visiting rocky pools during low tide with a tiny fishing rod and little scoop net, catching crabs and rockfish, splashing around in the water and kicking a ball on the beach.
Gradually, though, she caught on to the fishing idea and by the age of seven she was quite an accomplished little angler, finding great delight in outperforming the boys of her age when there was any kind of informal fishing competition.
Now, nearly two decades later, I look back at those times with great fondness and a feeling of gratitude for having had the opportunity to spend so much quality time with my daughter and sharing so many wonderful fishing stories.
So let’s take a closer look at the basic equipment needed to teach a child to fish as well as some other aspects to keep in mind when venturing to the water with the little ones.
#1 – The Rod
#2 – The Reel
Best of the Best – Penn Battle II Spinning Reel
Best Bang for your Buck –
#3 – Tackle Bag/Box
Best of the Best – Plano Guide Series 7771
Best Bang for your Buck –
#4 – Multitool Pliers
Best of the Best – Waders
Best Bang for your Buck –
What Does a Kid Need to Fish?
#1 – Rod
Starting with the rod I would suggest nothing more than a 6/7 feet rod for children around the age of 5. Both a fiberglass or graphite rod will do the job just fine. Make sure, though, that the rod handle fits the grip comfortably whether it is made from foam, cork or wood.
Due to the extra flexibility of fibreglass rods it may just pip the graphite rod purely because the risk of breaking is less in the hands of a young, enthusiastic but clumsy protégé.
#2 – Reel
If we get to reels, in my opinion, we have to choose between two types; spinning reels and spin cast reels.
Spin cast reels (which also goes by the name of “closed-faced” reels,) are positioned on top of the fishing rod. With these type of reels you will find the spool being on the inside and a push-button at the back.
For the most part spinning reels, also known as “open-face reels,” are positioned underneath the rod. Due to the fact that they are very easy to use spin cast reels are considered the ideal reel to form part of a beginner’s fishing setup.
Compared to spincast reels they pose more challenges due to the fact that you have to hold the line with a finger before flipping the bail (the metal arm that can prevent the line from coming out of the spool) over by hand prior to every cast.
#3 – Tackle box
The next important item is a tackle box, because you obviously need some sort of container to store all the necessary equipment. Here I will recommend a hard tackle box rather than a tackle bag, because, in my opinion, it is the most practical to carry around when fishing with young kids.
They are made of very durable materials which can withstand pretty heavy knocks, both inflicted by the elements as well as a youthful enthusiast, and will carry the day just fine. Also, because they have different compartments for different stuff, they are easy to navigate and/or to find the exact piece of equipment when needed in a hurry.
#4 – Multitool Pliers
The versatility of a multitool should never be underestimated. Considering the various applications and what they are able to do it is actually inconceivable that anyone participating in an outdoors activity like fishing can leave home without one of these amazing devices.
They are relatively small, compact and just being in possession of it gives one a sense of confidence in being able to confront whatever tricky situation.
#5 – Bits and Bobs
Lures, floats, nets, hooks, sinkers and appropriate bait are all items that should be part of your setup. Make sure you are kitted out with, at least, a few hooks of various sizes and some highly visible floats.
If you are fishing freshwater ponds or rivers where bass, catfish or trout may lurk, make sure to include a few different artificial lures in your tackle box. Spinning is an ideal activity for kids, because it involves constant activity which are good for keeping them focussed on task.
#6 – Protection
Fishing involves sharp hooks and knives as well as jagged rocks and sometimes certain spiny creatures. Having a tube of antiseptic cream and a few band aids (sticky plasters) in your tackle box will be a wise move.
Also remember to include the sunscreen in your medical setup. This, together, with sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are essentials for spending a day outdoors in the sun.
Further Thoughts on the Location
Taking a look at easy, safe and accessible locations to take a one young to go fishing we can first look at freshwater environments. The first obvious choice is a pond or small lake with easy access. Most urban areas have some sort of impoundment be it part of a golf course or some or other recreational area.
Moving over to the coast accessible and safe rocky outcrops, estuaries and jetties or piers can offer excellent places to start ones fishing career. Again, it goes without saying that all fishing adventures should be undertaken with the child’s safety as the primary concern.
Bad weather, rough seas and dangerous fishing locations are definitely not conducive to introducing small children to this sport.
Tips for Fishing with Kids
#1 – Be Patient
If you intend spending some time with kids patience is, probably, the number one virtue to possess. With fishing these patience levels will definitely been challenged on a higher level than usual!
Therefore one has to make a conscious effort to take a deep breath, apply the brakes and be prepared to follow the general flow of proceedings even though it may veer into a complete different direction than originally planned.
Patience furthermore becomes of the utmost importance when your young student becomes frustrated, just plain stubborn or loses interest in the whole affair. Having to explain a certain technique or skill for the umpteenth time can be quite challenging, too.
#2 – Be Enthusiastic
I am a firm believer in enthusiasm to achieve a level of success in any given task and consider it an essential component of the learning process. In my opinion it is near impossible to be able to transfer knowledge or skills to someone else with a total lack of enthusiasm for that specific activity.
Show them there are certain ways in doing things; from planning for the trip, packing the gear, choosing a fishing spot etc. Make sure they understand each step and the importance of it.
Make it a game to do things in a certain way, thereby challenging them to remember it in order to do it correctly the next time. It is important to emphasize leaving your fishing spot as you have found it, cleaning all debris and packing away the gear neatly. This too, can be made into a game to keep their enthusiasm and instil good habits.
Even though the fishing itself may not be as successful as hoped for, create an expectation for the next outing by emphasising the fact that every fishing trip is different from the previous one.
#3 – Always Expect the Unexpected
My daughter first introduction to bait collecting in the intertidal zone was quite memorable. We needed fresh prawn for bait and it just so happened that the spot we were intending to fish were close to a vast colony of these mud prawns that make their burrows in shallow sand under pebbles and rocks.
The standard technique is to follow a burrow with your index finger as quickly as you can and constantly flipping over small rocks in your headlong chase to catch the small crustacean. This “hunting” technique is like cat nip for most young children and Rebecca was no exception.
Rebecca mastered the technique surprisingly quickly and I eventually had to beg her to stop catching prawn in order for us to actually start fishing! For many years to come she enjoyed collecting bait just as much, if not more, than actually fishing at that particular spot.
FAQs for Fishing with Kids
#1 – How Long Should a Fishing Session with Kids Be?
Like most other activities involving kids around a certain age one should be aware of the limitations of their attention span.
If you are lucky the fish may go crazy for your offerings which are a sure way to keep anyone’s attention, but alas, more often than not it turns out to be just the opposite. It is therefore prudent to have a plan B in case the action on the fishing front proves to be rather disappointing and your young student quickly starts losing interest in the whole angling campaign.
#2 – What Should I Do When My Student Loses Interest?
The first important rule is not to expect them to keep on fishing no matter what. In that way you may just create a feeling of resentment which may have a negative impact on any further excursions into the angling domain.
If it becomes obvious their interest are waning, for whatever reason, make a conscious decision to move onto something else. Fortunately, being out in nature generally presents you with various other activities that will hopefully focus their attention.
At the beach this may lead to a treasure hunt for all kinds of shells, flotsam and jetsam or just a beach ball game. Rebecca normally wanted to go for a swim and that’s how we finished most of our fishing days.
#3 – Will I Get a Chance to Do Some Serious Fishing Myself?
If you are really intent to transfer knowledge to your young student, the short answer to this question is: “Probably not!” When I decide to embark on a fishing tutorial I find it best to abandon all ideas of having a successful fishing outing myself.
When you start to introduce your young learner to all the different aspects of fishing you are bound to focus mainly on the endeavours of your protégé. This means that you must constantly be aware of what they are doing, where they need assistance and what exactly their specific needs are.
It is very important to be fully alert to your student’s needs as well as anticipating a range of the things that they probably need to know in order to develop their skills, but are unable to articulate due to a lack of knowledge.
Constantly asking questions like: “Do you think there is still some bait on your hook? Why don’t you reel in so that we can make sure? Can I help you with that knot” and so on will become par for the course.
#4 – How Serious Should the Teaching Sessions Be?
Fishing is of course a serious business, especially if you intend to be mildly successful.
But do keep in mind that young kids learn mostly through asking, observing and playing. They are curious by nature and tend to ask the most bizarre questions not even remotely relevant to the subject at hand.
Be prepared to explain things in a way they can easily understand without going into too much detail. Do not over complicate things; that will definitely result in a loss of interest. Try to make it as interesting as possible and avoid being an authoritarian with very little flexibility. Again, remember to always try and instil a love for fishing, not resentment.
I can think of few pursuits which are as educational in learning new skills and acquiring a respect and awe for our natural environment as fishing.
In my opinion it is also a kind of two way learning process, because times spent with a child doing fun things always give an adult the opportunity to learn things from the kid.