Few memories last as long as those of your first succesful fishing trip. You may still remember that day the sights, sounds and smiles of the occasion vividly, and the parent or guardian will probably have fond memories of the occasion too. Now, many years later is it time to introduce your children or grandchildren to angling? Most often it is grandfathers job, is it yours?
Children often ask to be taken fishing, but it helps everyone if you understand what you have to do, or know where you can get help?
After all, hopefully you will be introducing them to a lifelong and fulfilling hobby, and you want to get them started on the right foot.
Good Gear for Kids
On your first, and subsequent outing, it is important that the children are warm and dry. So a good waterproof, warm clothing if it's cold and boots or wellies. In the cold wellies may keep your feet dry but they suck out the heat. If you get cold, especially your feet, you can forget all about fishing. So, keeping warm and dry is important.
To have a successful session it is paramount that they catch something. It doesn't have to be big but it must be caught and landed!
So, we've set out our plan; #1 keep warm and dry; #2 got to catch something. Next, how do we go about catching our fish?
What we need is a fishing pole, whip or rod. But what sort is best?
If we want to catch, on our earliest outings keeping it simple is important. The last thing we want is tangles, knots and getting stuck in the trees or bushes - agreed?
There are many forms of fishing, float, ledger, spinning, freelining, on a boat or on the beach and the list goes on, and on and ....
For the purpose of this exercise we're going to concentrate on float fishing. That is we have something that we can see and watch that will enable us to see when a fish is mooching around our bait, or better still has swallowed it! We call this "Float Fishing"; as the indicator we will be watching "floats" in the water and is usually brightly coloured for us to see its movements easily.
So, part #3 of our plan is Float Fishing, ok?
What's it to be a Rod, a Pole or a whip?
The pro's and cons of each. A whip is nice and easy but is almost impossible to control a decent fish with one. Also, a collapsible whip can make it difficult to land a fish too as the handles slide inside one another.
A pole, can handle decent or small fish but requires practice to use one successfully. For the inexperienced it is easy to "bounce" a fish off the hook.
Most anglers especially juniors all want to break the world casting record once they hold a rod. But a nice, light soft match rod can handle small fish with ease and surprisingly decent ones too. They are even easier to use if the angler keeps their hands away from the reel. This is important.
The way we recommend you to use a rod is "no casting", and always have one rod length of line from the rod tip to the float. 12ft rod= 10ft of line from the rod tip. Use a nice light weight barbless hook (between sizes 12 to 18 would be nice). With the hook baited (more on this later) hold the rod in your right hand and the float in the left. Swing the rod out and at the same time release the float.
If you're doing it properly, the swing of the rod should flick the line out. Remember, the flick of the tip does the trick! Let the rod do the work and not your brute strength.
Throw some bait around your float to entice a fish or two to have a look. With luck you should soon see the float bobbing as they taste your offerings.
We hope that you've gathered that provided the reel is left alone, the rod is our preferred fishing tool. If you catch a fish - don't use the reel!
Provided the equipment is set up properly, when the float goes under - strike quickly, don't hesitate. A quick flick of the wrist is all that's needed. With a fish on, keep it in the water and raise the rod, as you do this the fish should come in close enough to make netting it easy. That's where one rod-length of line makes it easy to use and fish with.
Fishing with less line makes it difficult to easily net the fish. Provided, you fish with one-rod length of line you should nearly always be fishing around the same spot all the time. Remember to throw some bait in around your float every few minutes. Not handfuls, just enough to give them a taster.
Think about it, when you've had a good sunday lunch what do you want to do afterwards - sleep it off!
We don't want to stuff our fish, we want them to be searching for our bait, their food. So, feed little and often and not with big handfuls.
Kids will appreciate being able to see their float bounce and bob around in the water, rather than trying to use underwater lures. Fishing underwater, or ledgering we call it, requires them to interpret the location of their bait, which requires practice and is not an easy thing to do. Plus the difficulties of knowing when a nibble is a proper bite.
What line to use?
Next, we want to catch fish and not scare them away by fishing with "anchor rope". By that we mean overly strong and unnecessarily thick. We need enough line-strength to beat the fish but thin enough not to spook them. Remember, big fish become big fish by being careful and getting fed without being caught. Which means that they're canny, so we have to out-smart a smart animal.
We have a rule of thumb, which we think is about right for the right line to use. \from the catch results that we witness simple our rule is about just right. It is this; for each 2lb increase in breaking strain (or poundage) over 6lb we will half our expected number of fish caught.
So, if we caught 12 fish on 6lb line, how many would we likely catch on 8lb line? Answer: 6 (½ of 12). Fishing with 10lb line how many would we likely catch; 3 (½ of 6) and using 12lb line (½ of 3) and over 12 hardly any at all.
Another question; when does a 10lb fish weigh 10lb?............
Right, when it is out of the water, because that's when we weigh it!, So, do we need 10lb line to catch a 10lb fish? No! Strong enough to beat the power of his tail and fins. However, if you're in a snaggy swim accepting a reduced catch rate you may need to use stronger line.
If we catch 12 fish on 6lb line, how many when fishing with 4lb line? 24 fish! (12 x 2 or twice as many). So we would recommend fishing with line with a breaking strain between 4lb and 8lb.
So, part #4 of our plan is to use light line. Not stiff, springy cheap line. The sort that comes pre-loaded on to a reel. Fine, soft and supple line is best - but costs a bit more and is worth it.
Next, Where To Go?
So, we have some idea of the basic gear or equipment that you need. You could go anywhere to fish, bearing in mind at all times - the safety of your charges. So, being safe would be best.
Ideally, somewhere easily accessible by car too. Nine Oaks would be a good starter place.
Remember that children have short attention spans and fishing is an activity that requires patience and concentration. The best way to keep them focused on the task at hand is to catch fish; kids won’t enjoy staring at a float for very long unless they are getting nibbles.
Accordingly, you should target easy-to-catch species and try to fish in locations that are full of them. This is where our Novices Pool is perfect, try it and see?
Also, don’t forget that children will need easy access to a bathroom, and they’ll probably want drinks and snacks during the outing too. Another good reason for considering Nine Oaks.
Refreshments are easy to bring from home, but you may have to do a little homework to find a suitable fishing location with a convenient toilet. Small local ponds are often a good option, and these locations often provide easy fishing opportunities for the kids and are relatively close, but almost no guarantees of catching and no on-site help either. For a proper job read - Nine Oaks!
What can we catch?
The Novices has plenty of fish and some surprisingly nice sized ones too, but they are mainly small/medium sized to give you good sport. The main species are:-
A Typical day in the Novices Pool and More youngsters catching nice fish. You haven't got to be big to catch big fish and it doesn't have to be youngsters who have their first taste of fishing. Retired school teacher Simone (below) spent two years on her own trying to catch fish. Here she is after a few lessons and advice from Bill (owner) with her first ever Carp. Proving that she's still young at heart!
Some fish species make better targets for young kids than others do. For example, largemouth bass are often sage inspectors of lures, and it can take all of the finesse an experienced adult can muster to entice them to bite.
Accordingly, they aren’t usually a good species to target with first-timers. The same could be said of many other species, such as trout and walleye.
More Fish caught by beginners
The Trout Pools
Trout living in rivers or lakes are not easy for children to catch.
However, many places provide stocked trout ponds, specifically designed for young anglers. These ponds tend to have a no-catch, no-pay policy, so the owners do their best to keep the trout hungry and accustomed to the presence of people, which makes them pretty easy for youngsters to catch.
As a bonus, many such places have tackle the kids can use for a small fee, which alleviates the need to purchase your own gear. At Nine Oaks we do hire equipment for a small fee.
However, the Trout Pools at Nine Oaks, although well stocked they are not geared towards youngsters learning to fish as the Novices pool is. They're set-up for the Fly angler. However, with parental guidance and sharing your ticket you're welcome to teach them.
The Best Baits for Young Anglers
It's not just boys that go Fishing. Here we have a mixed group of Young Farmers who had never fisher previously and everyone had a great time.
When I told them we were going to fish with maggots - all the girls screamed. Within 10 minutes they were all eager to catch and put on the hook their maggots. So, bait selection can be a controversial topic among adult anglers, but when fishing with children, it’s best to keep things simple.
Your basic choices include worms, maggots, bread, sweetcorn and luncheon meat.
Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, but any of them can help you achieve success with your kids:
Worms – Worms and maggots are the quintessential fish baits, and they work very well for most species you’re likely to target with your kids.
Worms are not always available but you can go digging for them yourself. In fact, your kids may find this part of the outing more fun than actually fishing.
Maggots can be bought at specialist angling stores, but you will need a plastic box with tiny holes in the lid or buy a maggot-box from the shop.
Many people make the mistake of using the biggest worms that they can find; however, the small red wrigglers are best. Think of worms as spaghetti - its best sucked up from one end, not from the middle. So that's where you hook them - at one end so they hang spaghetti like for the fish to suck up. Perfect!
Luncheon Meat – a very effective bait, that often elicits more strikes than worms do (particularly in heavily fished places, in which the local fish become wary of worms). They also work better with small hooks than worms do, and are often less vulnerable to “bait thief” fish.
Maggots should be easy to obtain from most tackle shops, who sell them at very affordable prices.
Sweet Corn – Sweet Corn is a very effective bait, and they often elicit more strikes than worms do, and they also work better with smaller hooks than worms.
Bread – In many places, Roach or Carp love bread. Either fishing on the surface, on the bottom using a float and in the summer months just let it sink slowly - the fish love it.
Squish the bread up into a small ball and just stick it on the hook as though it were a worm. Or fold it over the hook and squish it near the hook's eye. Bread doesn’t last very long in the water, but because it isn’t “gross,” many kids will enjoy learning to bait their own hook with bread when necessary. Slowly sinking bread can be a deadly bait, hang on to your rod!
more exotic baits – Dog food, Campbells Meat Balls, Cat biscuits, Boilies etc. In some places, particularly those with dense populations of catfish or carp, you can often catch fish with nothing more than a bit of bread.
Bread can be fish many ways. You could squish the bread up into a small ball and just stick it on the hook as though it were a maggot or worm. Bread doesn’t last very long in the water, but because it isn’t “gross,” many kids will enjoy learning to bait their own hook with bread when necessary.
Another way could be to tear off a piece and hook it through the crust, initially it should float and as it softens and absorbs water it will sink slowly; which the fish find irresistible. Especially when it is fished about 12" deep beneath a short float.
Finally, fish a whole slice or a whole bap wrapped with line and a big'ish hook stuck through it. But, make sure the bottom 3ft of line is smeared with vaseline to float. The bigger fish love bread fished like this on the surface.
Rules and Regulations
Always be sure to investigate the rules and regulations in effect before heading out to the fishing pool, lake, river or Canal.
In the UK Children under 12 can fish without a license. However, they should always be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Children over 12 intending to go fishing including adults, will require a rod licence. These are obtained from your Local Post office or the Environment Agency's web site.
Many municipalities, youth groups and Angling Organisations host “free fishing” days for kids or families, which can give you a chance to gauge your youngster’s enthusiasm for the activity before outlaying significant funds for equipment.
However, in our opinion it would be prudent to buy second hand gear first. That way you should acquire a lot of equipment for not a lot of cash, and as they get more enthused then start buying them new equipment. Local shops, newspapers and various web sites all sell second hand fishing tackle.
Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with all of the other pertinent rules too. Be sure that you know the legal seasons for fishing, any species-specific regulations that are appropriate and tackle limitations.
Teaching the Importance of Conservation
When you introduce your children to fishing, it is important to consider the totality of the event. This not only means catching fish, staying safe and having fun, but it also means understanding the importance of conservation and empathy.
For example, learning the importance of "net dipping". while it is perfectly acceptable to catch some fish for the dinner table every once in a while, recreational anglers should practice catch-and-release fishing.
Explain the basic principle of the practice to your child as well as the reasons for doing so. Most kids will be only too happy to help protect the fish, and you’ll have started your young angler’s fishing career on the right foot.
Teach Them Good Habits Early On
Additionally, as most experienced anglers are already aware, litter is a big problem around many lakes and rivers. Many popular fishing locations an be littered with old fishing tackle, bait cups and bundles of line, all of which threaten wildlife and ruin the aesthetics of these otherwise-gorgeous locations. Remember - if there are no waste bins Take your litter home!
Point out examples of litter to your youngsters and discuss its impact on the local environment. Impress upon them the importance of proper waste disposal and consider bringing along a small plastic bag to collect some of the debris strewn on the ground (keep safety in mind: don’t allow them to pick up broken glass or sharp hooks etc.).
Have a Blast - enjoy yourself!
Above all else, make sure that your child’s first fishing experience is fun.
You’ll need to remain patient and flexible to do so, but the rewards will justify your efforts.
After all, fishing is fun – you just need to show them that it is. Don’t worry if your 6-year-old is more interested in feeding the ducks than catching fish. She’s still hanging out with mom or dad by the lake, which is still a valuable experience.
Make It Easy
Similarly, be ready to give up the best casting angles and fishing spots to your kids to ensure they have the best chance of catching fish. This is especially important for older children, who may become frustrated if they aren’t successful.
You can even consider casting and setting the hook yourself, and then passing the rod off to your young one, who can then reel in the giant fish – this is, after all, the fun part.
Don’t be afraid to allow your youngsters a bit of a break every so often. They may have an hour of fishing in them, but they may not be able to harness this whole hour at one time.
You may be surprised how a 15-minute-break spent chasing their siblings or looking at birds through binoculars will recharge their interest in fishing.
Also, remember that comfort goes a long way with children.
Make sure to dress them appropriately for the weather, and bring along all the necessary sun screen and bug spray you need to keep them happy.
Just like you, they’ll remember the sights and sounds of their first fishing trip, as long as you help provide the smiles.