Fishing is a fantastic family pastime that gets everybody, but kids especially, outside into the real world and away from those dreaded electronic devices. Whether it’s a ‘croc’ flathead or an undersize bream, the unbridled excitement and passion when that first fish slides into the net or up on the bank is incalculable. That same reaction can be garnered from adults too, sometimes moreso!
So how to get the kids into fishing? Well, there are a few issues to consider before hitting the water…
The first is the ability to swim. This applies to adults as much as juniors. Not only might it be a life-saving skill in the event of falling in, but swimming is also a lot of fun in its own right. If the kids are still nervous around water, a lightweight personal flotation device is a good investment and will help to allay the concerns of anxious parents.
The second is the good old “slip, slop slap”. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer and melanomas in the world. Consequently, any exposed skin should be covered with a minimum SPF 30+ rating sunscreen, re-applied every couple of hours, but there is more to it than just that.
This means suitable headwear that covers the neck and ears. Shimano’s Point Plugger and Kids’ Straw Hats are ideal for this and both have a drawstring so they won’t blow off. They look pretty sharp too, so the kids won’t mind wearing them.
Finally, know the regulations. Always check local fishing rules about what you can and can’t use for bait, protected zones, and the bag and size limits of the fish you are likely to encounter. Adults will need a fishing licence in some parts of Australia, while children are usually exempt.
So this brings us to the fun bit: the fishing!
So what sort of reel? Spin reels are the obvious choice, and youngsters can achieve both casting distance and accuracy after just a short amount of tuition. Shimano’s IX, Hyperloop, Sienna, Catana and Nexave models are all good options at differing price points and sizes, depending on the target species and environment.
Gel spun polyethylene (braided) line is all the rage these days, and for good reason too, as its zero stretch means every bite or tap from a fish is felt. However, it does require more complicated knots and so in the initial stages at least, nylon is probably a better bet. Fortunately, Shimano has you covered in that regard as well, with Exage + being a good option in a range of breaking strains from 6-40lb. Additionally, its clear colour is less visible to the fish. Ocea Fluorocarbon Leader, while expensive, is thinner than conventional nylon so the fish won’t suspect anything’s amiss.
As for rods, it depends what you’re chasing. Kidstix rods represent a great starter lineup without too much financial outlay, then as our budding anglers expand their fishing horizons, look to step up to the Aqua Tip or Catana rod lines. They have the full spectrum covered, whether it be baitcaster, estuary, boat or surf.
It’s been said that gathering the bait is half the fun of fishing, and it’s true. Whether pumping yabbies on a mud bank, cast-netting prawns, trapping poddy mullet, doing the pipi twist on the beach, or luring a tricky beach worm out of the sand, it’s a challenging exercise and gives kids (and adults) a fantastic insight into different marine ecosystems and how the residents interact with each other. The fish will certainly show their appreciation for your bait gathering efforts later.
Squid are on the cards if fishing around weed beds and broken reef, and make great bait as well as a tasty meal. Shimano Egixile jigs are just fantastic, come in a range of colours and sizes, and some even have a calamari attracting rattle built in.In freshwater, the humble garden worm appeals to everything from trout to Murray cod, and can easily be dug from most gardens and compost bins.
In freshwater, the humble garden worm appeals to everything from trout to Murray cod, and can easily be dug from most gardens and compost bins. Now while fresh bait is the best bait, not everyone has the time or inclination to gather their own, so frozen or fresh is the alternative.
Everything loves prawns, whether whole, peeled or in segments, but only use designated bait prawns to prevent the possible spread of white spot disease. WA pilchards on a gang hook rig are very good for tailor, snapper, salmon and jewfish, while cubes and fillets on single hooks are excellent for flathead and bream. Even seemingly odd baits like bread, chicken breast and cubes of cheese produce fish, so a quick look in the fridge will reveal that some sort of bait is always on hand.
Berley can help get the fish into a hungry mood. Soaked bread, chicken pellets, prawn shells, cubed pilchards, they all work well, but not too much at a time as we don’t want to overfeed them.
You’ll need hooks to match the size of the target species’ mouths and the bait you are using, swivels, a spool of neutrally coloured leader material (especially important if using brightly coloured main line or braid), and some sinkers. Carry a selection of weights, and the trick is to have that bait wafting around naturally, not anchored to the bottom.
Lure fishing is a more active way of catching fish, and relieves boredom, but casting accuracy is important. Spending some time having a practice throw on the back lawn, trying to put a lure into a bucket from different distances, will pay off when on the water.
The Squidgy Pro Range and Bio Tough soft plastics are a lot of fun to use and deadly effective on a multitude of species from flathead to kingfish.
If getting the soft plastic tail to line up correctly on the jighead proves tricky — and this is the secret to their legendary fish-attracting swimming action — then the pre-rigged Slick Rig range is for you.
Fish that soft plastic at a variety of retrieve speeds with a bit of rod action thrown in, but slower is generally better as it will keep the lure closer to the bottom.
Where to fish then? Jetties and piers are an obvious starting point for everything from bream to snapper, but beaches are flat and pretty safe. And who doesn’t like playing in the sand when the fishing is slow? Just look for gutters and channels (marked by darker coloured water) as these fish highways are where our target species will be found.
Unfortunately, rock fishing has a host of complications and dangers, so it’s an environment best avoided until much later in a fishing career.
In estuaries, rivers and inland, drowned trees and logs are fish magnets, as are rocky outcrops. Basically, anywhere that gives fish a break from the current, a home to hide in, and nearby food sources, are walk up starts.
As always, the local tackle shop is the place for all those must-have bits and pieces, and latest information on where they’re biting and how. And remember — limit your kill, don’t kill your limit. That way, there’ll be fish available for next time.