Taking a kid fishing is great family fun and a rite of passage for many. Avid anglers may feel eager to experience this family milestone early, and families that have little to no experience fishing may be wondering where to start.

Let me walk you through some of the time-tested methods for introducing a kid to fishing, regardless of age. By following these directions, the experience won’t result in horrible memories that will send them to a therapist later in life. Let’s go have some fun!

Ages Six and Up

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. All kids are old enough to go fishing, but by age six, they are old enough to be anglers. They finally have the dexterity and muscles needed to cast a rod on their own, along with the other skills you’re dying to show them.

Good-quality gear for your junior angler is easy to find and affordable. The last thing you want is for them to have equipment problems on this first real trip, as it just might sour them on fishing completely.

Stay away from the kids’ packages that have their favorite superhero or princess on them. These are basically disposable fishing setups that you will never use again and can cause you grief. Most of these packages come with stiff rods that are around 2’6” long and a plastic push-button spincasting reel. The short, stiff rods make casting a bit harder because of kids’ weaker casts, and the reels are notorious for jamming and birdnesting. Even if the rod package comes with a small set of lures and a case to keep them in, you’re not saving that much. These packages are in the $15-$30 price range at most retailers, and for a few bucks more, you can get something more reliable that is just as easy to use and that you can use should your children decide that fishing isn’t for them.

Here’s the better option: get an ultra-light rod and reel. Ultra-light poles and reels are popular amongst anglers who target smaller game fish, and they are perfect for kids age six and up. Fishing gear has become so mass-marketed over the past few decades that it’s easy to pick up a good ultra-light rod/reel combo in the $20-$30 price range. Look for one with a rod length between five and six feet, find the most flexible one you can, and make sure that the reel looks as simple to use as possible.

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Lures

For your child’s first trip out, don’t plan on targeting hard-to-catch fish like bass, walleye, trout, or salmon. They will have just as much fun catching a small fish as you would a trophy marlin. Get small lures designed to target panfish. Don’t spend a ton of money on lures; panfish will strike at garbage if you toss it in the water. The common panfish lure sizes are 1/32 oz. and 1/16 oz. Feel free to ask the store clerk for help if you need it. Plan on losing five or more lures to weeds, trees, and other environmental elements.

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Live Bait

Using live bait requires using a barbed hook. Barbed hooks can be very dangerous, painful, and difficult to remove should someone get hooked. Bait hooks are designed with extra barbs to keep live bait on the hook. Using small lures with debarbed hooks is a much safer method for kids.

Should you choose to expose kids to the “oh, gross!” factor of putting a worm on a hook, make sure that you buy the worms that day and check them at the store. If you plan on buying them the day before, you can store them in your home fridge for the night (they won’t escape, and the cold puts them into natural hibernation).

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Children’s first fishing trip should be fun and memorable. But let’s be honest – they want to catch a fish, and you want that picture of them for the scrapbook. While there are no guarantees in fishing, there are a few fun and easy steps you can take to increase their success rate. Check out more fishing tips for children of even younger ages in the full article on Fix.com.

Fishing requires patience, which is something most kids aren’t born with. By using these short fun activities, it will help peak their interest in fishing, and help develop a sense of patience in the future. Most importantly, don’t forget you’re building memories to last a lifetime (yours and theirs!)

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