One of the best parts about being a parent is teaching your child lessons and skills that they will be able to carry with them for a lifetime. One skill that my parents taught me at an early age was fishing. As a child, some of my best memories were made with a line in the water and surrounded by family.

If you have been thinking about taking your child fishing but don’t know where to start, that’s okay; you’ve come to the right place. By the time you are done reading this, you will have the basic knowledge necessary to take your child fishing. 

Why teach your child to fish?

You’ve probably heard the age-old proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” However, fishing as a child taught me more than just being able to catch my food. Fishing taught me life lessons about being patient, persevering on the slow days, and respecting my environment. It’s those reasons why I knew I wanted to teach my children how to fish.

When is the right age?

You might be asking yourself, “How old should my child be to go fishing?” The answer to that question is simple; there is no such thing as being too young to fish. Your child’s age may dictate how much help they need, but starting at a young age is never wrong. 

For example, I started taking my daughter fishing when she was 3. She couldn’t cast the line or bait her hook, but I would call her over when I got a bite, and she helped me set the hook and reel the fish in. The excitement of catching a fish was enough to hook her for life and create a foundation that I could build upon. 

The 5 P’s. 

Before taking your child fishing, remember the 5 P’s, proper planning prevents poor performance. What should go into your plan? I’m glad you asked. 

Time

When you first take your child fishing, don’t plan on being out all day. Expecting a preschool-aged child to sit and be engaged for hours isn’t realistic. Start by going fishing for an hour or so at a time. Keeping your trips short will make it, so you leave before your child loses interest. 

As your child grows in age and interest, you can slowly start making the fishing trips longer until they become your favorite all-day fishing buddy.

Scout ahead

Your child’s first fishing trip is not the time to try out a new spot that might not have fish. If you don’t know about any great places, talk with the local bait and tackle shops, or you can contact your local Fish and Wildlife Department. Your child doesn’t need to catch 10-pound monsters, but you should do your best to find a spot where they can at least catch a couple of fish.

The Fish and Wildlife Department websites will even have lists of places to go, the species of fish available, and directions on how to get there. For example, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a list of 50 places to go fishing within 60 minutes of Portland. If you live in or near Portland, you can check out that list by clicking here

Weather

Nothing will ruin a fishing trip faster than being cold and wet, so check the weather before you go, and pack proper clothing. Ideally, you would go on a warm sunny day; however, weather changes can sometimes be unexpected, so pack a jacket and keep an extra set of clothes in the car so your child has something warm to change into. 

Gear

Ensuring you have the proper gear will set your child up for success. 

Fishing rods and reels

Your child won’t be able to handle an adult-sized fishing rod on their own. If your child is at an age where they can start casting independently, they need a child-sized rod. Most child-sized rods will come as a rod/reel combo. They are lighter weight and will be easier for your child to manipulate without becoming frustrated quickly. 

Lifejacket

Anytime your child is 10-feet or less from the water, they should have a lifejacket. Find a lifejacket that isn’t too big or too small. Wearing a lifejacket will not hinder your child’s ability to fish, and more importantly, it will keep them safe. 

Snacks and Water

When you go on your next fishing trip, bring lots of your child’s favorite snacks and water. Every 30-minutes or so, you can take a snack or water break. Breaks will keep your child’s energy up while allowing them to relax and soak up the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. 

The teaching process

When you teach your child to fish, the most important thing you can have is patience. You may have to show them a technique repeatedly before they find success. They may ask seemingly endless questions, but that should be encouraged. 

Bait

Whether using live or artificial bait, let your child touch it and see how it feels. Explain why you are using that specific bait, and show them how to put it on the hook. 

Tackle

If you are fishing with a bobber, show them what to look for when they have a bite. If you are using a jig or lure, pull on the end of the rod to show them what it feels like when a fish is on the line. 

Casting

I recommend teaching your child to cast sidearm instead of over the top when first learning. Casting sidearm will create less chance of accidentally hooking their clothes on the backswing. Before they cast, teach your child to look around them to ensure no one is standing where they could accidentally get hit.

Casting can easily be practiced at home by tying a small weight to the end of the line. Practicing at home will limit the frustration of having to clear tangled lines and bird nests out on the water. Even though you aren’t actually fishing, keep the practice sessions short to keep your child engaged. 

Final thoughts

I don’t remember the first time my parents showed me how to fish, but I am glad that they introduced me to the sport. The skills and lessons that I learned as a kid are now the same things I can pass on to my children. While it can be challenging to teach your child to fish, the look on their face when they catch their first fish is worth it.

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