Getting kids interested in fishing is a lot easier when they actually catch fish. Nothing puts a smile on their faces faster than reeling one in. Every parent wants to be the hero that makes that happen. Yet too many outings end without a single catch, a long ride home and a sheepish, “No” when asked if you caught anything. We’ve all been there. It’s the way it goes with fishing.
Over the years I’ve tried everything to make fishing trips with my kids a success. Some of my ideas have worked, while others have not. Usually the simplest of changes I have made to our gear, our bait, the timing of our trips and the snacks we pack (very important when the fishing is slow) have meant the difference between a great day on the water and one that everyone would rather forget.
Helping my kids catch fish has brought me more joy than I could have imagined. I hope my Five Tips To Catch More Fish With Your Kids gives you something you can use to do the same.
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Fishing with kids can be chaotic and having too much gear and other unnecessary ‘stuff’ can make it worse. Keeping it simple is key.
No need to bring more than one rod per person or tackle boxes loaded with lures you probably wont use, don’t want to lose, and definitely don’t want anyone to step on.
I hand each of my kids a rod that is rigged with nothing more than a bobber, a split shot and a hook on the line… in that order.
Attention spans can be an issue so set everything up before you get to the lake so the kids can be fishing quickly (I will get into the type of hooks and bobbers I use later which does actually make a big difference).
Keeping it simple with the bait you choose will also serve you well. Minnows, earthworms or wax worms work just fine in most situations. My advice is the smaller the bait the better. With kids you will likely be targeting smaller fish which have smaller mouths. The smaller your bait the more likely they will eat it and hook themselves instead of picking at it which will twitch your bobber and drive you crazy.
I typically stick with earthworms we can buy at the gas station or dig up in the yard. They work as well as anything else I’ve tried and are easy to come by. It might sound gross but I cut them in half or thirds and use small pieces which fit better on small hooks. Cutting the worms will release some scent into the water which is a big trigger for fish. If it smells right you increase the odds of them eating it.
Thread the worm through the hook several times so most of the worm is as close to the hook as possible so if a bluegill, perch or small bass bites it, they cant avoid being hooked.
Rig Your Worms Like This…
2. TIMING CAN BE EVERYTHING
It’s no secret that mornings and evenings are prime time for fishing in most lakes. The fish get active and start looking for food.
There are two main reasons… the water temperature is cooler which makes the fish more active and low light darkens the water making it harder to see the fish from above so they feel bold and move out of their hiding spots.
Being on the water from 7 to 10am and 5 to 8pm will improve your odds significantly and it’s also one of the prettiest times to be outside. This is especially true in the dog days of summer when it can be a real waste of time to be out fishing in the heat of the day as the fish are less active. If that is your only option, try to focus on shady areas and inlets/outlets with moving water as it will be a little cooler and fish will congregate there.
There are certain months that pay to be on the water. In our home state of New York, May and early June are two of the best months to fish any time of day. The water starts to warm from the winter chill and fish eat anything and everything trying to gain back the weight they lost surviving winter.
Many species of fish start spawning in late May and get very aggressive during this time of year as they protect their eggs and will attack anything that comes close. My kids and I have had more 20 plus fish days in late May and early June than at any other time of year.
The fall months can also be a great time to get in some fishing as well. Water temperatures cool and the fish seem to sense that winter is coming and it’s time to fatten up for the long winter ahead. They tend to be more active throughout the day so morning and evening are less of a focus.
3. THINK LIKE A FISH TO FIND FISH
Fish have a pretty basic mindset: eat… grow… don’t die.
They avoid being eaten by bigger fish and birds by hanging out around ‘structure’, which is a fancy anglers word for anything they can hide behind like submerged logs, trees, rocks, weeds and lilipads.
Survey the water for these features and focus your fishing around them. That’s where the fish will be.
- Submerged Trees
- Weed beds
- Overhanging Trees
This is a little easier if you are fishing from a boat and are mobile but there are generally plenty of lili pads and weed beds in reach of the shore if you don’t have access to a boat.
Try to get your bait as close to structure as possible without snagging it. Fish will dart out to eat before retreating to safety and the shorter you make that trip the more likely you are to get a hook up.
I love to fish around lily pads. They provide cover and protection for all kinds of fish and are like villages of activity. Drifting a worm or small minnow under a bobber along the edge of some lilypads is likely to catch any number of species of fish like bass, bluegill, perch and sunfish. A perfect assortment for small kids.
As the sun goes down and the water gets darker, the fish will get more brave and venture further from cover which is something to keep in mind if you are fishing late (or early).
4. ONLY HOOK THE FISH
Now that you’ve armed each of your kids with a fishing pole with an ultra sharp hook dangling from the end, it’s time to turn them loose to whip them around with reckless abandon.
No, not really. Believe me nothing will end your day faster if your children, or you, are impaled by a hook. Use the right gear and some common sense and you won’t have to worry about it. My first rule: say no to treble hooks.
Treble hooks are very popular because they’re very effective at hooking anything and everything with their triple hook design, including people. It’s not just kids and amateurs that get snagged, plenty of professional fisherman have felt that pain too. If you want a laugh, check out the Bill Dance Outdoors blooper reels on Youtube. Even he has gotten hooked in the foot and the nose… Ouch!
It’s best to avoid them when kids are involved and to keep it simple with single hooks like the one pictured.
You will catch more small fish with small hooks as I mentioned before. The only issue is they can swallow them making it tough to remove the hook without hurting the fish. Using a small hook, with a long shank will help.
No Treble Hooks
As you can see in the picture below, this big ole’ bluegill hit our worm on a small hook, but the hook shank is so long it didn’t get in too far. We were able to grab it, remove it, and let him go without any damage.
Now, picture an excited kid holding a fishing rod while the hook on the other end is between mom or dads thumb and forefinger as they thread on a worm. There’s no slack in the line, the rod swings this way or that and bang… a hook in the finger. This is how most ‘incidents’ happen.
The Shakespeare fishing company came up with a uniquely designed bobber called the ‘Hide A Hook’, which keeps that from happening. It pulls the hook into the bobber when it’s reeled up making it very difficult to get hooked. It also makes it easier and safer for kids to cast with the weight of the bobber and the hook at the end of the line. It’s my secret weapon and this video explains how it works…
This simple rig with nothing more than a single hook, a bobber and a small weight has caught more fish for us with no injuries to date. It costs about $5 and comes pre rigged and ready to fish. I can’t say enough good things about it.
5. KEEP IT FUN, END ON A HIGH NOTE
The whole point of taking kids fishing is to have fun together and teach them about the outdoors. Keep it fun and they will want to go again.
If you are like me, you hope your kids reel in fish after fish while you listen to their laughter as they inspect every catch with wide eyed wonder. You dream they will love fishing as mush as you do and it becomes something you share as they get older.
The reality can be something very different. Fishing is fishing. It can be slow and staring at a bobber waiting for something to happen can be very boring sometimes. Short attention spans can be your worst enemy. Be prepared for the inevitable, “I’m Bored”, “Why aren’t we catching anything?”, or even worse, “I wanna go home”.
Having their favorite drinks and snacks on hand is always a good idea. It’s amazing how Oreo’s and a solid juice box can keep spirits high even when the action is slow.
There’s also something to be said for leaving them wanting more. If we’ve hit a hot streak and everyone has caught a few fish and the action starts to slow, I have no problem heading for the dock or the car. Leave them excited and talking about their catches rather than how bored they were.
It will help the next time you want to head for the lake. They will remember the fish and the fun and hop in the car excited to do it again.
The memory of the first pull of a fish on the end of their line is something every kid will remember. I know I do. Turning that into a love of fishing that lasts a lifetime is up to us.
Before each trip I remind myself that:
- Patience will be required.
- I am the fishing guide for the day. My purpose is to help them catch fish.
- These days are an opportunity to teach them to love the outdoors
- Take plenty of pictures. The days go by fast and you will look back on them and smile.
I hope my Five Tips To Catch More Fish With Your Kids has given you some ideas for your next trip. These days can be the most rewarding, and frustrating of times but if you keep things simple, think like a fish and keep it fun, your kids will learn to love fishing as much as you do.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate you taking the time to visit Gear Cloud. Happy Fishing!