Last Updated: June 11, 2014
The fishing bug is easy to catch. Kids can do it at any age. A good first step is simply taking them to a local lake and walking along the shore. There's nothing like seeing someone catch a fish to pique curiosity.
Next, teach them about the rod and reel, about bait or lures and casting. The backyard is a perfect spot for teaching skills and safety while creating anticipation for the big day. Make an activity around selecting a tackle box and filling it with your favorite lures and bobbers. Learn about the types of fish you might catch and what to do once you've landed them.
For freshwater fishing, look for a weedy or rocky area where the water is several feet deep. Avoid shallow water that doesn't offer fish a hiding place. Look for areas where the bottom changes in some way, from sand to gravel or from sand to mud. Make the preparation and scouting of location a part of your fishing adventure.
Remind your child to stay quiet and avoid disturbing the water or they may scare fish away. Be patient. They are going to make mistakes as they learn. Encourage and laugh with them during this fun time. If you have no action after 10 or 15 minutes, try another spot. The first time out, don't overdo it. Young children should not be expected to fish all day. Perhaps an hour or two is all you both can take that first time. You may want to have a picnic after you fish.
While you're out, model and reiterate safe fishing practices. Remind your child to always fish with a companion who can offer help in an emergency. Be careful when handling sharp hooks. (You may want to consider using barbless hooks or lures for beginning anglers.)
Find a spot that is comfortable and safe. Avoid slippery or steep banks. Don't cast near other people, and always look carefully around before making a cast. Wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device or life vest when wading or in a boat. It should fit well and be comfortable. A good angler respects natural resources and wants to conserve them for others to enjoy. Always carry out what you brought in. Never leave behind plastic containers or packaging.
It's simple to pick up a basic child's fishing kit on the way to the lake, already loaded with a rod, reel and line and small tackle box. If you like, you could also add a live bait container to hold minnows and worms, a stringer or an ice chest to keep your catch fresh, a landing net and a first-aid kit for minor emergencies. Other handy items for the young angler include a scaler, a hook disgorger and a filet knife.
Fishing is a win-win for your family. The time you take will pay off considerably in the future, strengthening your relationship and introducing them to a lifelong recreational activity.