Some of my favorite memories are fishing with kids and the best, most memorable times are fishing with my son Tanner. It’s easy to see how kids are interacting less and less with nature now days; it’s can be intimating and formidable task that seems daunting to simply take the kids fishing. Where to go, what to bring and how to do it all ring in your head with the expectations of failure brimming over. For me it was the pressure of- “Will he like fishing, will this be the experience that starts a lifelong passion for fishing that we could share and bond with? Or, will it be a miserable failure and he won’t want to do this ever again? Here are some tips and tricks I’ve found that help make fishing with kids a win no matter what.
First, start with a short trip. Expect to go for just a couple hours. Younger kids especially lose interest fast. Don’t drag it out hoping the fishing will improve. Leave while their interest is still in it not after it’s long gone and they just want to go…
Second, be prepared. Have all the gear, riggings and everything you need ready to go. It’s ideal to have a couple rods for each kid. That way when one is a massive tangle you can hand them a new one and they keep fishing. Plan on spending most of your time undoing tangles and fixing messes. Having some favorite snacks and drinks is ideal. This provides some good breaks and having a favorite treat along adds to the memories!
Third, focus on the kid. Sounds simple but it is sometimes easy to forget this is for the kids and us adults get focused on fishing for ourselves. This is an easy trap to fall into. Get your thinking straight about this special time before you get there- make this time all about the kid.
Fourth, don’t focus so much on fishing you forget to have fun with just being there. Teach your kid to skip rocks, try to catch a crawfish, build a sand castle, hike and explore. Turning over rocks in the river bed can be an enlightening experience seeing insects crawling around and will often amaze. This is a learning opportunity connecting river life to the fish and then the surrounding spider webs in the trees.
Fifth, pick fishing that has the highest likelihood of being fast and furious. Some of the best fishing options are smallmouth bass, panfish, American shad or some trout fishing opportunities. Trying for winter steelhead can be a bust-it’s cold and fishing can often be slow. Focus your first endeavors on finding great fishing during a good weather time of year. This will get kids started with good memories and hopefully a desire to go again!
Finally, if your overwhelmed with how to do it or you just want it to be fun and easy – hire a fishing guide. Often there are half day trips or unique fisheries that are perfect for fishing with kids. I highly recommend fly fishing for Shad on Oregon’s Willamette River. Don’t worry if you’ve never fly casted before, all the gear is supplied and this is the perfect fishery for kids-everyone catches fish! Another consideration for kids 12-18 is the special Father son trip that Water Time Outfitters provides on the legendary Deschutes River in Oregon. This is a two day trip with all the gear supplied, guided jet boat fishing, camping, swimming and loads of fun in nature.
Wishing you all the very best with your kids on the water!
Father and fly fishing guide in Oregon City, OR and owner of www.watertimeoutfitters.com