Fishing With Your Kids

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By Justin Pickett

If you’re like me, and planning to hit the water with your kid, here’s a few things to take into consideration before strapping them in the car seat.

Hot and sticky days are beginning to give way to the hints of fall that are felt amongst the fog laden mornings and it gets me all worked up. Fall has got to be my favorite time of year here in the Southeast. Leaves are beginning to change color, water temps are dropping, and the fall spawners will be on the move in the coming weeks. But there’s one other thing that gets me excited about fall, and that’s getting my little girl back out on my local rivers and streams with me. Georgia summers are hot and heavy, so many of my fishing outings with my little one are limited to very short, bank hopping sessions in the evening. Far from the fishing I enjoy the most, especially with my little fishing buddy. For me, the upcoming days will no doubt have me preparing for long, streamside days with my kiddo. If you’re like me, and planning to hit the water with your kid, here’s a few things to take into consideration before strapping them in the car seat and screeching out of the driveway!

Be Realistic: Before you go running out the door thinking that you’re going to have some crazy, epic day of fishing, let’s be realistic about the situation at hand. You’re not going to be doing near the amount of fishing as when you go with your buddies. Though it is very rewarding and some of the most fun a parent can have, it is going to be more work than you’re probably thinking. While your kid may be excited about going fishing with mommy, or daddy, or both, they’re still kids. They have short attention spans and limited physical abilities. When planning to fish with your kid(s), your destination needs to be greatly considered and chosen accordingly to fit your child. Climbing Barrier Falls in search of Appalachian Brook Trout with a toddler probably isn’t going to be the best idea. Keep safety in mind. Choose a creek, stream, or pond that is easy to navigate and doesn’t require a ton of hiking.

Food: Don’t get caught with your pants down! Make sure to take the time to pack away the essentials for a successful day in the outdoors with the little ones. Water, juices, snacks, and sandwiches should be no-brainers. You won’t last very long if you forget food and drinks for the kids. You also don’t get half credit for leaving the apple juice and goldfish in the truck either! Remember to transfer all of your foodie items from your vehicle to your pack! Once a youngster gets hungry, that’s all that matters to them. Once it reaches the “starving” stage, there will be no reasoning with them and your fishing will be naught until they have fed their face.

Gear Up: All those extra snacks and juice boxes have to go somewhere, so make sure to adjust your gear accordingly! A backpack is essential! If you’re going to be away from your vehicle for most of the day, you want to ensure that you can take everything with you that you’ll need for you and your sidekick. You don’t want to have to trek back and forth for stuff throughout the day. Aside from the pack(s) you’ll need to carry all of this child-friendly gear, for your sake, you should remember to pack things like towels, an extra change of clothes (for the kid, nobody cares if you get wet), diapers and wipes (no one wants to hang out with the smelly kid), a changing pad, hat, sunglasses, and rain gear. Sunscreen. Sunscreen! SUNSCREEN!!!! The earlier days of fall can still provide plenty of sun for a decent burn if there’s not much overhead cover. Don’t you dare come home with a sunburnt child! You’ll never hear the end of it! Are you going to be on a boat? Then you had better not forgotten your kid’s life jacket!

If you’re planning on fishing with your infant or toddler, I strongly suggest looking into one of the many infant/toddler carriers on the market. After some research, I went with Osprey, however just about any carrier would be well worth considering if you plan on hiking/fishing with your youngster.

Dress For The Weather: Make sure to check the weather before you leave the house and dress your kid accordingly! This seems pretty obvious and silly to mention, but I have neglected to do so before and had it pour down rain on me and my girl, leaving me with nothing but a 45-minute ride home with a water-logged kid. Fall mornings are often chilly, warming up to comfortable temps by lunch time. Dress your little one(s) in layers so you can remove them as needed throughout the day. Keeping them comfortable will keep them from losing interest in the day’s adventure. Also, flip flops are a bad idea. Shoes or boots with good traction are a must. This will become evident the first time your kid slips off the bank and into the water. Stupid flip flops…

Let Them Fish:  If the idea is to go fishing with your kid(s), then make sure to bring along some of their own fishing equipment. Kid’s get super excited about having their own stuff! Especially when they have the same things that mommy and daddy do. It gives them a sense of pride and keeps the excitement level at the eardrum-shattering-shriek-level. And though I like to expose my daughter to fly fishing as much as possible, fly fishing gear for the kids isn’t your only option. The hallmark Snoopy pole (or Disney princess pole) is plenty sufficient to keep the aspiring angler busy and entertained. Even as an adult, few things suck worse than being left out of something fun, and for kids, those feelings are undoubtedly amplified. Leaving your kid’s pole at home can spell certain doom for any chances of enjoyment on the water.

Take Breaks:  In order to combat boredom, fatigue, and the dreadful “I wanna go home”, I make sure to take a couple of planned breaks throughout the day. A lot of us fishermen, myself especially, will tend to skip lunch and seldom take breaks while out on the water. God forbid we not fish the entire time! As I mentioned before, kids have a shorter attention span. That attention span will get immensely shorter if you’re having a fishless day on the water. On top of that, they aren’t used to trekking around all day long and will tire quickly without a break. Make time to stop and eat lunch. If it’s not too cold, get in the water and turn over some rocks together and show them the bugs that trout eat. Heck, take a nap if you need to! My kid loves looking at flowers and butterflies, so we always stop to accommodate her curiosities. Doing this fills the gaps between fish, keeps their interest piqued, and provides you both with fond memories which will, no doubt, get you both out on the water together more often in the future.

DSC_0634Have A Backup Plan   Always have a backup plan! Think of something else fun for you and your kiddo(s) to do in case fishing just isn’t in the cards that day. Things will definitely not go your way every day. There are no guarantees. You are going to make plans for you and your kid to do “A”, “B”, “C”, & “D” in that order and have a great day on the water together. That’s great, but you’re going to need to be flexible with those plans and not get frustrated when plans change. Inevitably, you will be pulled from a run filled with feeding fish by the ever convenient potty break. Then they’re hungry, bored, sleepy, angry, dramatic….all at the same time. Catch her on the wrong day and my beautiful little 3-year old girl can be an emotional train wreck. All because she suddenly determined that she needs a band-aid for a boo-boo that is supposedly somewhere on her knee…  You just have to roll with it and find the humor in the situation at hand. Don’t be surprised if your day’s plans turned out to look more like “B”, “A”, “X”, & “Q”. And if things go totally awry and explode in your face, resort to that backup plan. After all, the original goal of the day should be to have fun, no matter what you and your kid(s) are doing together.

As a parent, I believe there aren’t too many other things more fun than taking your kid fishing. Yes, it can be challenging, but the rewards far outweigh all of the backpacks filled with gear, goldfish, sippy cups, and sunscreen. The key is making sure that they, too, are having fun so that they will want to go fishing with mommy or daddy again, and again. Taking the time to properly plan while having the ability to remain flexible throughout the day will set you up for future successful days on the water with your little one. It’s definitely been a learning experience for both my little girl and me, but I wouldn’t trade any of those days for the biggest fish in any stream, river, or lake.

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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9 thoughts on “Fishing With Your Kids

  1. And, be ready if the kids don’t take to fishing. I took my daughter to the Oregon cascades, she caught a number of 2-3 lb trout every time out, we cooked the fish over a camp fire, and we had great trips motoring around in a boat. Yet she never really wanted to go fishing. On the other hand, 40 some years later, she still remembers having fun collecting mussels off ocean rocks and mushrooms in the woods. Just go with the flow, it’ll all work out.

  2. Good Tips….

    I just did an overnight with my son up on the Tallulah River, the Sandy Bottom camp ground to be specific. It was his first tent camping trip, Car camping for sure, but it was a blast. I read an article about fishing with your kids in Trout magazine… Coulda been last year or the year before. Anyway it’s written by a friend of afather who’s always taking his kids fishing. Sometimes there’s screaming , pouting and what not to the point where the author starts questing his involvement in the trip because the whole day is ruined…. The thing that I always remember about the article is the is the last line, where the author realizes that fathers day of fishing isn’t being ruined at all. It’s a realization the day belongs to the kids, not the father.

    So be prepared. have plans A-Z as backup… I probably slung the fly rod 4 times on my own over two days and miles of hiking, climbing and fishing… And at the end, that was enough, because it wasn’t my day..

  3. Justin, great post brother! I have three girls, ages 8, 6,and 3 and I try to take them out whenever I can. I like the pic of you with your kid pack. I have done many hikes to high alpine lakes and to gold medal waters like in Cheeseman. I do the same thing for sure and set my expectations low for number of hookups. I try to make the day all about them because ultimately it is all about the fun and memories. I’m also hoping that the saying is true that, “Daughters marry men like their fathers.” because in the future I’ll have some son-in-law fishing buddies. Or who knows, I could be bringing up a “April Vokey”. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

  4. I have three boys 6, 8 and 10. In many ways I have found that fishing with my kids has gotten harder as they grow older, They are not yet at the age where they can really do it on there own, so I have to help each of them with every step of the process. Most of the time we end up going trolling in the boat because it is more controlled. I love to take them stream fishing but at this age I have to do that as one on one trips. I’m not sure that my kids will love flyfishing as much as I do but its ok either way. All my boys have caught trout on the fly so I feel like that is a good start.

  5. Great post! My 2 daughters are now 21 and 17, and have taken many trips with dad over the years and are obligated to fish with me every Father’s Day for the rest of our lives. They are competent gear anglers but never into it enough for fly fishing.

    My advice is to keep your expectations low and just enjoy the time with your kids. They grow up really fast! Chances are that you’re not going to have an epic day of fishing – the two trips my kids talk about the most are the one where we lost the transmission on the way to the stream and they got to eat their favorite junk food at the convenience store I coaxed the minivan into and ride in a tow truck to the Ford dealership, and another one where they managed to break two poles getting out of the car and we ended up “creeking” all day long, turning over rocks to look for salamanders and crawfish and playing in the sand and mud.

  6. Lots of great points here. I have to remind myself that when I take my boys fishing, it’s for them. Not for me. I usually end up being a “guide” for the whole day. But I consider it an investment in the future. If I teach them how to fish now, later down the road when they can do everything themselves it will be well worth it. Plus, it’s great to be able to just have time with my kids with no electronics or TV.

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