By Dominic Garnett, fishing author & Digital Content Creator for the Angling Trust
With basic tackle being cheap to buy and Environment Agency fishing licences for kids now FREE, angling must be one of the best activities for families who want to get into the great outdoors and enjoy the countryside. But what’s the best way to get into fishing? Here’s my quick guide to getting started…
As the sun comes out and families all over the UK start to enjoy being outdoors, now’s the perfect time for families and kids to go fishing. It’s fun and relaxing, not to mention a great way to get children outdoors and away from computer screens.
In this blog, I’ll take a look at coarse fishing – that means freshwater angling with bait for fish like roach, perch and carp. It’s probably the easiest type of fishing to get started with. Older kids might also enjoy fly fishing, which is also a lot of fun, but we’ll cover this in another blog soon. We also now have a fantastic blog with over 50 tips to get your family fishing sessions off to a flying start!
With free licences for those aged 16 and under, and basic kit highly affordable, fishing is among the best low-cost family activities to try this summer! So what do you need to get started? Let’s take a look at the basics…
How to buy a fishing licence, or get a free licence for kids and teens
The great news for parents, carers and guardians is that thanks to recent changes in the rules, youngsters of 16 and under can now get a fishing licence completely FREE! You’ll still need to register children aged 13-16 online for their Environment Agency licence, but this is easily done HERE. Children aged 12 or under don’t need to carry a licence when they go fishing.
Parents and older siblings will still need to get a licence (above) which you can buy online, by phone at 0344 800 5386 or at your local Post Office. It’s still only £12 a week or £30 for a whole year – what a bargain! I should also point out that the licence is for freshwater coarse and trout fishing. There’s a different licence for salmon and sea trout (fish best left to the experts for now!) and you don’t need a licence to go fishing in the sea.
If in doubt, there are some neat video clips on our Get Fishing site which explain things like seasons and licences: http://www.getfishing.org.uk/get-fishing-tv/how-to/
Where can I go fishing? Where is the best place to start near me?
Of course, once you have a fishing licence, you can’t just fish anywhere. You’ll also need to have permission from whoever owns the water. Sometimes, you might find free fishing in public places like parks and urban areas. Other spots you’ll need a day ticket (kids sometimes get a big reduction). Always check first!
The best way of all to find out where to fish near you is to chat to your local fishing club or tackle shop. Don’t be shy to ask, because they are always keen to find new anglers and will know exactly which spots are best for those starting out. I’ll also come on to free fishing events in a bit, which are an ideal way to get started.
Often the best places for kids and beginners to go fishing are smaller lakes (sometimes called “day ticket” or “commercial” fisheries). These are usually safe, friendly and have good facilities (including shelter and toilets). They also tend to have lots of fish, to give eager learners plenty of bites. To help you decide where to go you can find fisheries that our “Get Fishing” Team recommend on their map at http://www.getfishing.org.uk/location.
Fish don’t need to be huge when you start fishing- it’s all about getting bites and having fun!
When is the coarse fishing season? Can I fish all year round?
This depends on the water you want to fish. On coarse fishing rivers and streams, there’s no fishing allowed at certain times of year (you must only fish from June 16th to March 14th). This gives fish and wildlife a break in natural settings. On many (but not all) other manmade lakes, canals and ponds you can fish all year; but do always check the rules before you start!
Are there any free fishing lessons or family events near me?
Perhaps the best way of all to start coarse fishing is with a friendly expert. You’ll get a big head start this way and many family fishing events won’t cost you a penny! A great place to find free fishing sessions near you is our Get Fishing website: http://www.getfishing.org.uk. This is full of useful info, including free family events and coaching sessions all over the country. All the events are fun, safe and friendly and include use of tackle, bait and a fishing licence on the day – that means all you need to give fishing a go is turn up and get fishing!
Do also follow the Angling Trust Facebook page and check the weekly fishing magazines. Both the Angling Times and Angler’s Mail feature regular discounted fishing tickets and events across different venues.
Pay particular attention during the summer holidays and National Fishing Month (27th July to 2nd September in 2018), which is one of the best times to find free fishing lessons and events right across the country, whether you live in the South East or the North West (see: http://www.nationalfishingmonth.com)
What do I need to start coarse fishing? A simple checklist:
The answer is less than you might think! Here’s a simple list of things you’ll need to start fishing. Perhaps the best tip I can give you is to avoid cheap, plastic rods and “toy” reels at all costs! Instead, speak to your local tackle shop, who can provide much better gear at a fair price, or ask a friend or family member. After all, anglers are notorious hoarders who might have spare kit they can lend you to get started, and most will want to encourage you to get into fishing. Spend wisely and I reckon it’s possible to get started for under £50. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A fishing licence: (see above) and a day ticket or permission to fish.
- A rod & reel or pole: More on this below or watch at https://youtu.be/NISw-QznKIg)
- Fishing line: Buy a spool or two of around 5lbs breaking strain.
- Floats: Simple “waggler” floats, are easy to use. We’ve produced a short guide at https://youtu.be/4IssuJLC4qU
- Split shot weights: Go for a pot with different sizes.
- Hooks: Barbless hooks are easiest to start off, get some in sizes 12-14.
- Disgorger: This is vital because it helps you to unhook fish.
- Plummet: This small weight really helps you catch more by getting your bait where the fish are feeding – watch how at https://youtu.be/VWOh186nc5c)
- Bait: Maggots are perhaps the best all round bait for beginners. Not all kids like things that wriggle though, so you could try sweetcorn or bread!
- Landing net & handle: This helps you get bigger fish in that would snap the line if you tried to lift them out! Buy one with nice, soft mesh and get a basic, sturdy metal handle that won’t break if someone steps on it)
- Soft unhooking mat: This is a soft mat to put fish on, to stop them getting damaged on the ground. Inexpensive, a great idea and many fisheries insist on them.
- Seat or tackle box: If you can afford one, a cheap seat box is handy for storing all your bits and pieces.
If you’re not sure what to buy, an excellent idea is to try and attend a free fishing event where you can borrow the kit and get a free fishing licence at first (see above) or ask at your local tackle shop.
A few handy coarse fishing tips for beginners
- Don’t be shy to ask for help. Everyone was a beginner once! Again, your local fishing club and any free events are the ideal place to have a go and ask questions.
- Be kind to the fish. Coarse fishing is 100% catch and release these days. With a little care, every fish can go back unharmed. If you handle fish with wet hands, you’ll find they struggle less and you won’t remove their protective slime. Better for you and the fish! Use a net or lower them into the water to gently let them go, rather than dropping or throwing them back. Watch our video at https://youtu.be/v1C8GWYxxL8
- Fish close to the bank. So often you’ll find fish near to the bank, so don’t think you need to cast miles! Very often in the summer months, the best fishing is right under the rod tip in the edge of the water. Try here first.
- Feed the fish to get more bites. If there is one sure way to catch more fish, it’s to give them some free food. You don’t need to feed them a banquet, but just keep throwing small amounts of bait around your float every few minutes to attract them.
- Use online resources to get a handle on the basics. For a whole host of basic fishing skills and handy hints, our Get Fishing site has stacks of brilliant video clips that make everything really easy to understand. Take a look for yourself: https://www.getfishing.org.uk/get-fishing-tv/