Tips for teaching kids to fish: Family fun at any destination

Written by special contributor, Jon Sutton

It is occasionally challenging to come up with things to do during family vacations, particularly if you are visiting a place far from big-city civilization. But you can find fishable waters within a short distance of just about any location in the continental US, and most kids love to fish – even if they’ve never had the chance to do so before.

But there is a difference between actually fishing and just standing around the water all day, watching a bobber sit on the surface of the water. The former will produce plenty of smiles, excitement and memories, while the latter will result in cranky, bored kids, who may never again show an interest in fishing.

As any professional angler will explain, you can never guarantee you’ll catch fish on a given day; but you can certainly improve your chances by embracing the tips below when teaching kids to fish.

teaching kids to fish

Use Kid-Friendly Equipment

Equipment malfunctions can quickly ruin a day of fishing, and even minor problems are often a pain to fix. Accordingly, you’ll want to use very simple rod-and-reel combos while your kids are learning the basics. Spincasting combos are excellent, but most kids can also learn to use spinning combos without much difficulty. You may even want to set your kids up with cane poles, which offer the ultimate in fishing simplicity.

Target Aggressively Feeding Species

Advanced anglers often target wary species, such as largemouth bass and wild trout, but your kids will have more success targeting bold, aggressively feeding species. Bluegill and catfish, for example, are among the most reliably biting fish in most warm waters, and they don’t get spooked by humans as quickly as some of the more celebrated gamefish do. Unfortunately, the cold mountain streams in the northern and western reaches of the country rarely harbor large populations of bluegill or catfish, so you’ll need to turn your attention to mountain whitefish, sucker fish and farmed trout (often bolder than their wild-bred counterparts).

teaching kids to fish

Use Good Baits

Fancy lures are often quite effective for advanced anglers and they alleviate the need to purchase fresh bait, but your kids will usually have much more success by using real baits. Different baits excel in different geographic locations, and some species prefer some baits to others, but nightcrawlers, red wigglers, leeches and crickets are always a good bet. If your kids are squeamish about creepy crawlies, you can instead use kernels of corn to catch trout or bluegill, or hotdog slices to catch catfish.

Fish in the Morning or Evening

While it can be a bit challenging to get kids up early in the morning or work your fishing plans around the perpetual chaos of dinner time, you’ll likely have enough success to justify this additional effort. Most fish become less active during the heat of the day (especially during the summer, when family vacations are most commonly scheduled), so you’ll want to get out on the water while the sun’s rays are softer.

teaching kids to fish

Dress Your Kids for the Weather

Many vacation activities take place in climate-controlled settings, but fishing is obviously a pursuit that will have you spending time in the great outdoors. To avoid the commotion, conflict and complaining that often accompanies uncomfortable kids, dress your children in lightweight layers and comfortable shoes. Don’t forget to spray them down with some sunscreen to protect their skin, and use a little bug repellant to keep the biting bugs at bay.


If you are interested in learning more tips and tricks for making your kids’ first fishing trip a success, head on over to Outdoor Empire and check out their comprehensive review of the topic. There, you’ll learn more about the best equipment, bait and target species for your day on the water.

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5 Responses to Tips for teaching kids to fish: Family fun at any destination

  1. Jim Watson October 18, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

    Fishing with kids is an awesome idea.
    Kids love to go for fishing with their parents.
    the tips you share is something which need to keep in mind while taking kids to fishing.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome idea.

  2. Paula@Parentinn October 27, 2017 at 4:37 am #

    These are awesome tips to keep in mind for the first fishing trip with my kids.Thanks for sharing.

  3. Robert November 1, 2017 at 9:04 am #

    Hi Francesca,

    Jon has truly written a great article. The tips and ideas are remarkably helpful.

    I agree with all the tips. Yes, Spincast combo is best for the kids. I personally think
    Shakespeare Amphibian spincast combo is a combo every parent should consider for their kid’s first combo.

  4. Matt May 17, 2018 at 7:14 pm #

    Great article as always!
    I’m just starting to teach my nephew to fish…he loves it but he’s scared of the maggots!…any advice?
    Keep those great blogs coming….

    • Francesca May 19, 2018 at 1:37 pm #

      My advice is, don’t use maggots. I’m with your nephew on this one.

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