I bet you have a lot of questions about your first family fishing trip. No worries. The next time you go fishing with the kids, you’ll be well prepared. Read on to learn how to choose the right trip, how to prep your kids for their first time fishing, what fish to catch, and what to look for in a boat.
Before You Go Fishing with Kids…
The first thing you should understand about your first family trip is that no matter how well you prepare, its success depends on a lot of things.
What do I mean by this?
Well, no kid is the same. Some kids like the outdoors, some kids don’t.
Some kids spend the whole trip side by side with the captain, observing all the colors, sounds, and smells. Some kids stay in the cabin, playing with their phone, rarely noticing the fish. Some kids catch and release the fish like professionals.
So, if you want to avoid tantrums and enjoy the trip, start with the kids. Family fishing trips are about them first, and only then about you. More so if you’re fishing with up-to-ten-year-olds.
This seems obvious, so you might wonder why I’m bringing this up.
Because you never know how your kid might react to the whole experience.
So, just be patient and make sure they understand what’s going on.
Remember, the first fishing trip can shape how your youngsters feel about fishing for many years to come.
…Go Fishing on Your Own
Kids will feel safer if they see that you’re comfortable with fishing.
Depending on what trip you want, I suggest you either check out the fishing spot you plan to fish with them, or go fishing with the captain, once you choose a charter you like.
That will let you not only feel more comfortable when your kids are around, but you will:
- Be familiar with the spot/boat/type of fish/water/boat stability.
- Get ideas about what you might need to pack.
- Have an idea of what your kids may want to ask.
- Get to know the captain and talk to them about your next trip.
Remember, captains spend most of their time on the water. If anyone knows how fishing functions, it’s them. So feel free to ask them if they take kids onboard, explain how outdoorsy your kids are, what fish it might be best to target first, what technique to use, what to bring. Most captains love fishing with kids because they are curious and will listen, once you explain to them how things work.
The same goes if you want to fish from dry land – meet other anglers who fish in the area and talk to them. They can help you out with choosing the best bait and spot.
Have the “Talk”
Before your next family fishing trip, you should talk to your kids about fishing.
Either watch some TV shows on fishing or google fishing videos together. Educate them on what types of fish you can catch in the place where you plan to go. Just don’t start with Billfish or Sharks!
Take the time to tell your kids what’s going on. Explain the basic concepts, such as ‘bait’, ‘lure’, and ‘rod’, but keep it simple and interesting. Tell them how fishing works and that it’s fine if they lose the fish, some bait, or lures. You can either draw something on a piece of paper (and unleash your inner artist!), or get them some toys to play with. I spent hours as a kid with a set of “Let’s Go Fishin” – so you might want to use something similar, too.
One important thing here: if you’ve found the right captain, tell your kids about them: what’s their name, what kind of boat do they have, what’s their favorite fish. The idea is to make your kids familiar with the captain so that they feel free to ask questions, learn, and have fun.
Best Family Fishing Boat
It’s important that you choose a boat that has enough space, is clean, and stable. Of course, the type of boat you choose largely depends on the kind of water you’re fishing. Even more, it depends on what you expect from a boat.
You know your kids the best. So, think about what they might want on their fishing trip.
Consider these questions:
Is there a toilet onboard?
Some kids don’t mind using a bucket, and might even find it funny, but some do. You should talk to your kid about this before the trip. Paying some extra money for a better-equipped boat can help your kids relax and give you a more enjoyable experience.
Does the boat have a T-top or an enclosed cabin?
Sometimes you’ll be fishing on a hot day, some days will be rainy or windy. This depends on where you’re fishing. However, I’d suggest fishing from a boat that has some kind of weather protection. A T-top can give your kids enough shade to stay cool, while an enclosed cabin will let you fish even when it’s drizzling outside.
Is there a bed?
In case someone gets seasick, it would be nice to have a place to lie down and take a nap. This isn’t mandatory and most likely you’ll be fishing with your kids near the shore where the sea is calm, or on a stream/lake.
Is there a kitchen or a freezer?
If you want to have a family lunch on the boat, it’d be nice to have a galley where you can prep some sandwiches. This isn’t crucial of course. You can always bring along some food and snacks. Most captains have coolers where you can store your food and drinks, but be sure to check with them.
Is the boat clean?
This should be your top priority as a parent. When you’re deciding on your fishing charter, have a good look at the boat. If you go fishing on your own first, check how clean and child-friendly the vessel is. If you’re browsing online, read the reviews. It’s important to find a boat that is safe. An unattended hook or a knife can cause serious harm.
Just remember that the boat cleanliness doesn’t have a lot to do with the boat/trip price. More money won’t always get you a safe boat, so rely on your common sense and make sure you’re taking your kid on a reliable vessel.
You might find some of these things absolutely necessary, you might not. It really comes down to how you and your kids want to spend the day. You can have an excellent fishing trip without some of these facilities, just as you can have a poor trip with all the amenities. That’s why you should first go fishing on your own with the captain you think will do the job.
How long should your trip last?
There are some kids who grew up with their angler moms and dads. Other kids haven’t had the chance to spend that much time on the water. In many cases, the first fishing trip is actually the first time kids are on the water.
That’s why you should start with shorter trips first. Keep it to a half day trip, especially if your kids are under 10-12. You can do a lot of solid fishing in four hours and most kids will get bored by the time the trip is done anyway. No need to push them to the breaking point.
Teenagers, however, can go on longer fishing trips. That it is, if you manage to get them to.
What kind of fishing should you do?
There are dozens of types of fishing worldwide, and the place where you live/fish will determine your choice the most. However, I’d suggest starting with something that’s not so challenging in terms of skills/strength.
Some techniques are just more suitable for kids than others. If you’re fishing in the US, I’d suggest you start with inshore fishing. First of all, there won’t be choppy seas and it will also take less time to get to the fishing grounds. And finally, you can target smaller fish, so that your kids can also practice reeling them in. You can also try backcountry fishing, flats fishing, river or lake fishing. There are a lot of tasty fish there that are fun to catch.
For instance, you can try fishing for Speckled Trout and Redfish on the east coast of Florida, in places such as Daytona Beach. If you like flats fishing, then head down to the Florida Keys, where you can get some Snook. On the other side of the Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island and Galveston have excellent Redfish and Trout fisheries where kids can land their first fish. Up north, on Lake Erie kids can also try fishing for Perch or Smallmouth Bass.
What fishing technique works for kids?
Similarly to the types of fishing, you should choose a fishing technique that’s suitable for kids. The safest way to do it is to talk to the captain and let them advise you. Most probably, you will be fishing with light tackle or bottom fishing. This will let you target smaller fish, which is perfect for kids. Plus, most of these fish are super tasty!
Of course, it depends how involved your kids will be. You and the captain can fix the bait and help the kid reel in the fish, then take some good photos of your kid with their first catch. This depends on how old your child is.
Young kids, between 5 and 12 might not care that much about the proper technique or the right moves. It is your duty to teach them how to do it, with support and understanding. As I’ve said, some kids maybe just want to have a fun afternoon, while others want to be a captain one day! When you understand this, it will be a lot easier to give them an enjoyable fishing trip.
I’d like to hear how you prepare for fishing trips with your kids. What fish do you target with them? What did you find the most difficult and how would you advise other parents preparing for their first fishing trip with kids? Share your experience in the comments below.