Getting Kids into Fishing

By Jamie Crawford

It’s seems to be getting harder for kids to get involved and maintain enthusiasm for fishing nowadays than ever before. When you consider restricted access through marine parks, and distractions such as iPads, iPhones, online games and an endless source of virtual entertainment easily accessible on-line, it’s little wonder that some kids and young teenagers are loosing the motivation to pursue fishing as a recreation.

Adding to this the fact that parents are working longer days to make ends meet, and you can see that our younger generation are less exposed to outdoor recreation, and less likely to pursue fishing if they haven’t been introduced to it growing up. We can help to make a change to our own kids, and other younger peers around us by taking them fishing and encouraging them to pursue it.

I grew up fishing with my family when I was a kid. We had a small but functional boat that we used regularly, and we used to go camping and fishing as a family quite regularly. We lived near Adelaide, so we rarely visited exotic locations; instead we used to take advantage of destinations close to home. My parents use to value fishing and the outdoors higher than most other social activities, and that’s something I’ve been keen to emulate with our children.

I don’t reckon there’s a better pastime than fishing for kids to get involved in. It offers an active pastime in the outdoors, it provides a unique challenge, a connection and an understanding of the aquatic environment, and (if your successful) fresh fillets for the table.

We have two boys and a younger girl in our family. I’ve been trying to get our two older boys (6 and 8yo) into fishing; at the same time being mindful not to ‘enforce’ fishing on them – I want them to get involved in fishing because they want to, not because they were told to.

When getting kids involved in fishing, I think it’s important to tailor the session to suit them, and not to suit your own desires. Take them out chasing smaller baitfish, collect live bait before or during the session, and get them casting for themselves. The more active they are, the more content (to generalise) they are going to be.

It doesn’t matter to a small child whether they’re catching small mullet or solid snapper; so long as you’re getting action. A child would generally pick to catch 20 small fish compared to one large fish if they had the choice, especially if targeting one large fish meant sitting around for 2 hours to get one bite. Kids like action.

I reckon it’s a good idea to lower your own expectations on the catch results when taking your kids out. What you might classify as a quiet day, they might think is the best day ever, especially if they have cast, hooked and reeled in fish by themselves. I have been taking my eldest son down to our local wharf lately catching small tommy ruffs and scad, and he’s been having a ball.

I think it’s important to watch the body language of your kids too when you’re out fishing, you can generally pick up their body language when they’re saying they’ve had enough (and they often tell you aloud when they’ve had enough, which is hard to ignore). You don’t want to overstay the session just because “the fish are about to come on the chew”, as your kids may not want to go next time if they feel like they’ll be trapped on a boat for several hours.

Just recently I had our two boys on board for a squid session. We had been on the water for about an hour and had just found a good patch of squid when our youngest decided he’d had enough. Personally I really wanted to stick around and bag a few more, but we stowed the rods and instead we drove the boat around the bay on our kids request – which they love doing.

On land it isn’t so much of an issue as young ones can entertain themselves if they can run safely and freely along a beach. I always pack a sand board when we go beach fishing these days, and even having a spell for a while and doing a non-fishing activity can get the kids energised and ready for a second fishing session.

And pack lots of nibbles, drinks and even some colouring pads and books to offer your kids a break from the fishing for a while. Like I said before, try at all costs to keep your kids entertained and content while out fishing. If they enjoy the experience, they’ll be keen to go next time.

On the equipment side, you needn’t go overboard when buying gear for your kids, but it is important to provide them with the right sized equipment that they can use easily. This means not providing them with an outfit too heavy or cumbersome for them to use. Outfits designed specifically for kids are a great investment in encouraging your kids into fishing. Shorter rods in the 4’6” to 5’6” category are an ideal size for younger kids. Shimano supply a great range of kids rods in the Kidstix range, and when coupled to a small 2000 or 2500 sized IX or FX, they provide an inexpensive and easy to use outfit.