May 18, 2015
By Keith Sutton
Tomorrow will be a good day to take your children fishing. Catch some bait. Sit on a pond, lake or river bank. Try for a big one.
Maybe you'll catch some. Maybe you won't. But one thing's for sure: whether you catch fish or not, if you plan things properly, you'll create some special memories for you and your family.
If you're new to this game, you may not know the best ways to go about that planning part. I have six grown sons, and when I first started taking the oldest boys fishing, I made lots of mistakes. They weren't big mistakes, but our fishing trips might have been more fun had I known then what I do now.
So please allow me to share what I learned so you can avoid the same mistakes and start having fun from the get-go. If you'll follow these simple tips whenever possible, your fishing trips will be full of smiling faces and laughter. That's the best outcome any of us could hope for.
Choose The Right Fishing Hole
For youngsters, a fishing trip without fish can be terribly disappointing. Certainly, we don't catch fish every time we go. But if we plan ahead, it's likely we can find a fishing hole where sunfish, catfish, rainbow trout and other easy-to-catch fish are plentiful. For younger kids, it's not the size of the fish that matters, but the quantity caught. Do your best to visit a lake, pond or stream there's likely to be fast action for plentiful varieties.
Tackle of Their Own
If it's not beyond your means, give each of your children a fishing outfit they can call their own. Rod and reel combos made especially for youths usually are inexpensive, but even a cane pole will be cherished. It also costs very little to prepare a small tackle box with their own hooks, bobbers, sinkers and lures.
Catch Your Own Bait
You can buy fishing bait at a bait shop, but letting kids catch their own is much more fun. In fact, bait catching can be as memorable as fishing! Dig worms. Catch grasshoppers and crickets. Seine some minnows. Grab some crawdads. All are common, easily caught, easily kept and irresistible to a variety of sportfish.
Catch and Keep, or Catch and Release?
In our home, we eat lots of fresh fish we caught ourselves. So when I started taking my young sons fishing, they usually wanted to keep some fish we could prepare for the dinner table back home. For them, eating the fish was as important as catching the fish, thus we always fished where we could keep much of what we caught. The boys also learned at a young age how to pan-dress or fillet their catch so they could participate in the preparation of their food as well. There are places where regulations require releasing all fish unharmed. Should you fish with young anglers in such a place, be sure they understand beforehand they'll have to release what they catch, and use the opportunity to teach them the importance of conservation
Swimming, Frogs and Skipping Stones
One of the most important lessons I had to learn when fishing with my sons was that a fishing trip shouldn't be just about fishing. When you put children in an outdoor environment, they quickly become distracted by the many other fun things available for them to do. Don't discourage their explorations; make them part of the overall experience. Go swimming. Skip stones. Take a hike. Look for shells. Catch some frogs, crawdads or other critters. Plan plenty of time for activities besides fishing, and your trip will be more memorable.
When you're out there fishing and playing with your family, be sure to shoot lots of photos or video. Worry not that the pictures aren't perfect or the video is unsteady. Keep your camera running anyway. Someday, when they're as old as you, your children will sit down and look at them, and as memories of the good times come back, they'll smile.
Should the opportunity present itself, plan a family fishing trip to some special locale everyone is sure to remember. I wasn't financially able to take my wife and kids to exotic destinations, but with the help of fishing friends who shared their homes, camps and boats, we were able to enjoy many special trips we'll never forget, including houseboat adventures on local lakes and the Gulf of Mexico; floating and camping on the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers; a week-long saltwater fishing vacation in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi; and river rafting junkets on whitewater mountain streams. Older kids, especially, will appreciate the opportunity to visit somewhere special where new scenes and new adventures await.
Cook a Shore Lunch
For a real treat, take along a camp stove or campfire grill, a skillet, some cooking oil, some corn meal, some salt and pepper and a few potatoes and cook a shore lunch right by the water. Fish is never more delicious than when served right beside the lake or river where it was caught, and most children love contributing something they caught for a family meal.
One of the best ways to get the family out and about this summer is to hit the road with a RV in tow. Whatever your interests, wherever you want to explore, whomever you want to take along - an RV is the best way to travel. Check out these great destination ideas to Go RVing.
To find the perfect spot for an unforgettable family fishing vacation in your state, pick up the June issue of Game & Fish/Sportsman magazine available now on newsstands, or subscribe to the digital edition here!
About the Author
With a resumé listing more than 3,800 magazine, newspaper and website articles about fishing, hunting, wildlife and conservation, Keith "Catfish" Sutton of Alexander, Ark., has established a reputation as one of the country's best-known outdoor writers. In 2012, he was enshrined in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator. The 13 books he's written are available through his website.