Fishing With Kids
Hi folks, Whitney Milhoan here, CfR executive director and mother of 3 wild kids! Fishing is a personal passion my husband I both have, and we’ve worked hard to make sure our kids are exposed to as many fishing opportunities as possible. It can be trickier than it sounds! I tend to be a little selfish when it comes to my time on the water. For example, I’m not the best fishing multi-tasker. If my fly is on the water, I’m completely focussed on it – and completely oblivious to sibling squabbles, bloody knees, or who might be falling about of the boat. This can be a problem. Here are my top 5 Rules for Survival when fishing with small children.
Disclaimer: I’m no expert! But, my kids are all alive and typically psyched to go fishing. Winning.
Rule No. 1: PFDs for all! As I mentioned above, I can tend to be distracted when fishing. My kids know they need to wear PFDs (personal floatation devices, or life jackets) at ALL times in a boat or on a dock, and in many cases when wade fishing, based on the conditions and the parent-to-child ratio! The combination of their safely and your peace of mind is irrefutable.
Rule No 2: SNAAAAAACKS. Non-negotiable. Necessary. No further explanation needed. Our go-to’s for the river are grocery store fried chicken, anything wrapped in a tortilla, and pounds upon pounds of grapes. My kids often get ‘special’ snacks for outdoor adventures, which really help on cold days or long hikes.
Rule No. 3: Let them do it! For a kid, there’s nothing worse than “family activities” that they can’t actually participate in. I bought some inexpensive gear just for the kids. That way I’m not stressed about them damaging anything and they can actually practice on their own. Let them cast, let them bring in their own fish, and let them net yours!
The more they can do on their own, the more stoked they’ll be. For my kids, the trick is keeping it simple – no dropper on the hopper, short casts, simple mends, and opportunistic fish! Even if it’s not the most adventurous or epic fishing destination for YOU, find something accessible for your kids that will produce success and lead to joy…and hopefully keep them coming back. Exhibit C: This is a tiny stream that runs through a culvert on the dirt road near our house. It’s nothing particularly special, but it has given my kids the opportunity to learn to cast, mend, set the hook, and properly handle and release trout.
Rule No. 4: If the fishing is slow, make sure it’s still fun! Swimming, crayfish catching, bird watching, and of course a competitive round of mudball shot put (Exhibit D) are all good ways to keep your kids’ spirits high on the water, even if the fish aren’t cooperative.
Rule No. 5: Act like it’s awesome because it IS awesome! Make sure you notice – out loud – every tiny, amazing thing that is happening. The reflection of the mountains in the water, the stonefly shucks, the colors nature boasts, the way the fish feel. The more you notice and celebrate the wonders of the natural world, the more your kids will feel drawn to explore outdoors. The more kids out there who feel drawn to the outdoors, the more stewards we have to protect these precious resources.