Taking a child fishing is a rite of passage for many, but families with little or no experience fishing may be wondering where do you start? How old should the child be for his/her first fishing trip? What equipment is age appropriate and made for them to handle?
Kids of all ages can go fishing, as long as you match the trip to their age. By age six, kids are ready for the “full experience,” which means casting by themselves and maybe even taking a fish off the hook for the first time.
Encouraging kids to learn to fish entails outfitting them with quality fishing tackle and gear designed for their size and ability. Low quality tackle that performs poorly or is difficult to use will only discourage them. Don't waste your money on the kids’ packages that have their favorite superhero or princess on them. These are typically disposable fishing setups that are likely to cause your child (and you) unnecessary frustration.
Buying kids their own quality gear gives them a sense of ownership in their fishing success. Rather than borrowing someone else’s equipment, being able to care for and use their own personal fishing gear is priceless.
A good rule of thumb when selecting a fishing rod for a child is one that is roughly the length that the child is tall -- typically a rod of 3-5 feet. The rod should have plenty of metal line guides, not wire loop or plastic guides which can bend or break easily. There should be enough guides so that the line follows the arc of the rod when it bends.
Some anglers choose to start their children out with cane poles. These may be suitable for very small children, but may be frustrating for older children when they realize that rods and reels can cast much longer distances.
The spincasting reel is the easiest reel for a child to learn to use. A spincasting reel is a fixed-spool reel covered by a housing. The line is released whenever you push the thumb button on the back of the reel. A spincasting reel goes on top of the rod and is cast roughly the same way as a baitcasting reel, making it easier to transition to the more complex reel when your child is older.
For a first-time fisherman, the reel should be equipped with 8-10 lb. test (4 to 5 kg class) monofilament fishing line.
You may want to let your child share your tackle box, but it can be really exciting for a child to have his/her own tackle box to take along on their first outing. Here are some things you may want to include (or add as time goes on):
- Hooks in sizes 4 and 6; include single hooks for fishing with worms or minnows and treble hooks for fishing with marshmallows or chunks of hotdogs;
- Small artificial lures, such as jigs or grubs;
- A package of split-shot sinkers;
- A package of bell or Dipsey sinkers, in weights from 1/4 to 1/2 ounces;
- 2 to 3 small bobbers;
- Stringer for keeping caught fish;
- Needle-nose pliers for removing hooks from the fish's mouth;
- Fingernail clippers, for clipping the end of the line;
- Rag for cleaning hands and for gripping fish with when removing hooks.
An Easier Way to Introduce Children to Fishing
An even easier way to introduce children to the pleasures of fishing is to take them on a guided charter fishing trip. There are many family-friendly charters with Captains and crew who delight in instructing children on how to cast, reel, and catch their very first fish. What's more, most of them have all the equipment onboard your child will need, eliminating the need for you to purchase fishing equipment in advance of giving your child a chance to test it.
You can fish alongside your child, encourage him/her, take photos and enjoy the extra attention you'll both get! It's a great way to introduce a child to the pleasures of fishing and provide a priceless memory as well.
Browse through our online directory of reputable fishing charter guides and choose one who's just right for you!
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