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Take a Child Fishing

There is nothing quite like seeing the smile on a young person's face when they catch their first fish or any fish for that matter. There are some simple steps that can be taken to help children and parents, or guardians, enjoy these early fishing experiences.

Make the Fishing Trip About Them

Photo of happy angler with a pumpkinsee sunfish

It's easier to teach young children to fish if your attention is geared towards them and not towards your own fishing. They will get lines tangled, need hooks baited, etc. If you are also trying to fish, this can make that difficult and frustrating for both of you. One way to combat this is for you to use a rod and reel your child can use. When they need your assistance, you can hand them your rod and reel, and they can keep fishing while you straighten out theirs. This also allows you to hook a fish and then give the rod to them to reel in the fish.

Keep Trips Short

Children have short attention spans. An hour, possibly two, will be about all of the fishing they can handle for a day. Take this into consideration when planning a trip. When it stops being fun for them, it's time to call it a day.

Photo of two young girls fishing on pond bank

Bring Plenty of Snacks and Drinks

Even though most of these fishing trips will be short they will get hungry and thirsty. Bringing plenty of snacks and drinks gives them a little break from fishing. The same is true if you bring a few small toys for them to play with. You can use this time while they're eating or playing to do some fishing yourself.


Spin-cast reels (or push button reels) and shorter rods are good outfits for children. The rods can be a little difficult to cast and hook fish with because of their short size and stiffness, but their size makes them easier for children to handle. They come in a variety of styles, colors and some even have popular cartoon characters on them.

Bobbers (or floats) are good to use because children can see the bobber going down when a fish strikes. They also help keep the bait off bottom, resulting in fewer snags.

A simple bait rig consisting of a hook, split shot sinker and a bobber will work for most species of fish.

Worms are usually the bait of choice when fishing with children. They stay on the hook well when casting, they're fairly easy to find, and most fish species will eat them. They will also hold up to being "played" with. Another good bait is one of the many artificial baits that are made of natural ingredients. They are biodegradable and available in a variety of shapes and styles like worms, nuggets, maggots and twister tails. These baits require no special care like live bait, stay on the hook well, and catch fish almost as well as live bait.

Don't forget to bring along such things as hats, sun glasses, extra clothes, sunscreen, bug repellent and toilet paper.

Let Them Help Make Choices

Children love to feel like they are helping out. This can be easily accomplished by asking them simple "either/or" questions. For example, you can pick out two spots that you think would be good spots for fishing and ask them which one of the two they think would be best.

Other Than Fishing

Just because they are on a fishing trip doesn't mean that they have to fish all the time. Let them do things besides fish as long as it isn't interfering with the people fishing around you. One thing that works well is to bring a small net that they can use for catching (or trying to catch) insects, pollywogs or frogs. This can be more exciting to them than the actual fishing; just make sure all of the little critters are released.

A stop on the way home for ice cream or other treat can also be a fun part of the trip and helps top off a fun day of enjoying the outdoors.

Remember it's all about them having fun and hopefully wanting to go fishing with you again and again and again.

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  • Region 7
    Bureau of Fisheries
    1285 Fisher Avenue
    Cortland, NY 13045
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