Getting youngsters out on the bank is the single most important task we face as anglers. But what’s the secret to getting them to love it? We asked a panel of star angling parents and fishing coaches for their top tips and words of wisdom.
It’s always worth checking the Get Fishing website too, for listings of free and low cost family events across the country. Don’t forget to read right to the end of this post for further brilliant free resources too and links to other blog posts, telling you all you need to know about basic tackle and which fishing licence you’ll need.
Fishing Family UK
Megan and her family set up Fishing Family UK about two years ago to share pictures and videos from their fishing adventures and to inspire other families to fish. They really enjoy sharing their enthusiasm and providing help and advice to others. Fishing Family UK are active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Wild Society and Fishbrain so whichever social media people prefer it’s easy to follow their adventures. Here are their top tips…
1.Dress as though it’s a lot colder than you expect. My Scottish upbringing (and sailing in the middle of winter) taught me there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. The weather doesn’t have to be great but cold kids will lose interest quickly. Do also be prepared to get wet. You’d hope not to get soggy, but certainly with our own Milo it’s happened a few times so a spare set of clothes or a parents jumper to go home in comes in handy!
2.Take a decent stash of food. Packed lunch, drinks, sweets etc. It’s worth having a packet of baby wipes with you as sandwiches which taste of bait aren’t nice.
3. Tailor the fishing to the kids. Cosmo, our eldest child, loves carp fishing and is quite happy sitting patiently waiting for a bite but Milo doesn’t have the attention span. He loves to catch quick and often. We started off catching common fish like tench, perch and rudd. We sometimes do little challenges, like the 30 minute challenge to see who can catch the most fish.
4. Get kids doing things for themselves. Teaching kids to put their own rod together is great, as well as putting bait on hooks, especially maggots and bread. Keep a disgorger or two handy as well as if they are anything like me you’ll need it.
5. Don’t stress if they lose interest. So long as they are enjoying the outdoors, watching nature and their environment, the fishing will come. A few chairs and a blanket are always a good idea too.
6. Be patient and don’t expect to get hours by the bank. A positive experience of a couple of hours max is far more likely to make them want to go back for more.
As far as finding time for both fishing and parenting goes, Zenia has managed to squeeze both into her busy life with great success! A great role model for any angling parent, you can catch her on Instagram and Facebook. She also presents the “Angling Heroes” section of Matt Hayes’ recent online TV series and is a brand ambassador for Shakespeare, helping them to develop a colourful and affordable new range of kids’ tackle.
“Being a Mum of two boys meant that I had to take a 6 year break fromfishing as I was not only a full time Mum but had my work duties at Anglers Paradise. I knew it wouldn’t be forever, though, and that I could take them when we were ready. I’m happy to say that now I get to enjoy my Fishing with them both.
I won’t lie, fishing with kids has its challenges, from tantrums to tangles. But it’s so, so worth it and I’m completely passionate about getting more kids fishing. They’re the future of our sport and if every angler took a kid fishing, just imagine the progress we could achieve! Here are a few big lessons I’ve learned:
1. Start with short sessions and break these up with other activities.
This depends on their age, but remember an hour is quite a long time for a small person, so initially an hour or two is enough. When you go for longer sessions, try to take breaks in between, whether it be for a walk or a mini adventure doing a bit of wildlife spotting!
2. Try simple float fishing. Don’t over complicate things early on, otherwise you’ll lose their patience. Kids don’t have as much as we do! A short pole set up is perfect, as you get fewer tangles and kids love watching a float.
3. Size doesn’t matter in the early days. Don’t target the bigger fish right away, but just concentrate on getting bites and catching the smaller stuff. Remember, size doesn’t matter – it’s about showing kids how much fun fishing can be!
4. Fish care is so important! As any kid starts their journey, it’s down to us to show them how important it is to look after their catch. Always use a net and unhooking mat, and show them how you un-hook the fish and release them safely. Repeat lessons like using wet hands and lowering the fish back rather than throwing them, and they will soon become good habits.
5. Take lots of snacks. Trust me, this is another biggie! The last thing you want is for them to be hungry and for your session to be cut short because of this. Plus, if the bites slow down, food comes in handy to keep them happy and not ‘bored’ while they wait.
6. Make it fun, play games and take in the beauty around you. Whether you play I-Spy, or count birds or dragonflies, there’s always something fun to try. Younger kids might even like to bring a toy or mascot- it sounds silly, but little ones might like some comfort or a lucky mascot. Above all, mix your day up with other stuff. The saying that fishing is not just about catching is so true!
7. Don’t force it. Every kid is different and not all take to fishing like ducks to water. My eldest Son, Zaine (8) was a natural born angler from only 2 ½ years old. My other Son Zeejay (5), however, hasn’t the same patience is quite a live wire! Some days he’ll want to go and others he won’t, so I’ve realised it’s best not to push kids as you want them to enjoy going fishing and not make it a battle.
8. Enjoy and celebrate every single catch! Fishing is really good for kids. It gets them outside in the fresh air and away from digital screens. It’s a mindful sport that’s good for the soul and keeps them and us out of trouble! Let’s appreciate this and treasure every moment. Enjoy fishing with your kids and take in the beauty of nature and the fact that every trip is different and unique.
Tight lines and happy fishing everyone!
With a big social media following, FishingMum’s adventures on the bank have been an inspiration to parents all over the UK. We just knew she would have some priceless tips for getting kids out on the bank! You can follow her adventures on Instagram, just look for @FishingMum !
1. Be patient and don’t go too big too soon. Remember, they are still kids at the end of the day so don’t expect a full day’s fishing. My son Logan was on the bank at just 2 years old. I used to take him to see his Grandad fish at first and just spend an hour or so. This was ideal because although he was fascinated, like any other 2 year old he didn’t have a huge attention span!
2. Start with the basics, one step at a time. It’s important not to throw too much at them right away. Start off just holding the rod, then reeling the fish in, then holding the fish, then putting the fish back. If this is taught in stages… they will learn properly! It breaks my heart seeing children on the bank, often with parents, mishandling the fish. I think that because me and logan did everything at a slow pace, he really learnt how to fish and care for his catch properly.
3. It doesn’t have to be all about the fish. There are so many other animals and insects that you come across by the lake, which I showed to Logan from a young age. There’s so much nature to take in and talk about. Even things like just taking a picnic and skilfully packing the car add to the overall fun that you have together.
4. It’s so worthwhile, so stick with it! Logan is 10 now and I still can’t believe how much he’s come on. From just watching to setting his own rigs up and watching fishing on YouTube for hours. The moral of the story is that patience is rewarded. It takes time, but it’s more than worth the effort!
As a fishing mad dad who works in angling development, Dean knows a thing or three about successfully getting kids and families fishing. He’s also written a great blog post with his own take on mixing fishing with fatherhood! Here are his dos and don’ts for a great day on the bank.
DO be sure to:
- Go to a well-stocked venue, so there is a very good chance they will catch.
- Go to a venue with a toilet!
- Keep the costs down (you’ve probably already got bait like bread and sweetcorn in the kitchen).
- Make sure you have the appropriate tackle – size 18 or 16 barbless hooks are ideal for maggots, not shark hooks and 20lb sea fishing line!
- Take a pint of mixed colour maggots (virtually all fish love them!).
- But have some other types of bait in case your learners are really put off by wriggling worms or maggots (i.e. bread or sweetcorn).
- Check the forecast in good weather that’s comfortable for the participant, not necessarily the best for fishing!
- Be organised and sort your tickets, licences out the day before, to help maximise your time on the bank.
- Take anti-bacterial hand wipes (you weren’t going to tuck straight into lunch after handling maggots, were you?).
- Take plenty of water and snacks.
- Let the participant actually take control of the fishing equipment at times its easier to do it all for them but where is the enjoyment in that for them?
- Simple whip fishing tactics are best for someone’s first crack at fishing.
- Have the appropriate fish handling and unhooking gear. There’s nothing worse than seeing a deep hooked fish and nothing to unhook it with, or catching a fish of a couple of pounds and not having an appropriate unhooking mat. You’ll need an appropriate sized unhooking mat for anything over about 1lb (500g) in weight – that’s about 30cm long. As well as the unhooking mat, a disgorger makes unhooking fish easier sometimes. Ask in your tackle shop or watch YouTube to find out how to use one if you’re not sure.Remember what they are shown at the start is how they will continue!
- Dress appropriately for the weather with good dry footwear, hat and sun glasses.
- Make the sessions too long. One to two hours is perfect for the first time.
- Go when it’s excessively cold, hot, wet or windy. These are not fanatical anglers (yet!) and that first experience should be enjoyable.
- Don’t throw too much bait in the water when you first get there. Just throw in a few maggots, bits of bread or sweetcorn at a time to attract and build the interest of the fish.
- Make the session too technical. It’s just about catching a fish at first, no matter how big or what species.
- Don’t take them on a marathon hike along the river or canal before starting to fish.
- Don’t be noisy.
- Don’t leave litter! Get kids to care for their environment from the start and they’ll be responsible for life.
- Don’t be too proud to ask for help from other anglers or the fishery managers. Angling is a very friendly sport!
Will has been taking his children Mol and Moss fishing since they were both 3 and they have grown to love angling. His daughter loves painting and drawing nature and fishing has been part of her recent success in Art GCSE. Although his son loves racing around on his bike, running, football, basketball and all the other things 11-year olds are into, he looks forward to spending time by the water too. Will works in the Angling Trust’s Participation Team and understands the important role that friends and family members play in creating a lifetime’s angling habit…
1. Don’t forget your fishing licences, they are an essential part of every newcomer’s fishing kit and you need to take them whenever you go. For children age 13 to 16 they’re free, and under 13s don’t need a licence. It’s quick and easy to get junior licences and buy adult licences online from the Environment Agency.
2. Ask for help at the venue or your local tackle shop and see if they can recommend a club which has a junior section or runs junior fishing days. These can be a good way to get additional help from experienced anglers or angling coaches
3. Invest in the basics. A small tackle box of their own containing a few packets of hooks, some floats, a disgorger and some weights is a good way for children to learn what each item is used for and can encourage them to make progress as they start to need additional items for new or different types of fishing methods or species.
4. Take something to sit on – they’ll enjoy it more (…and fidget less!) if they are comfortable.
James Roche and Dominic Garnett
Last but not least, here are some final tips from two Angling Trust coaches, who are still smiling and fishing having survived countless coaching sessions and events!
1. Always leave them wanting more. Sometimes an hour is long enough to get them ‘hooked’ and leave them wanting to go again. Far better this way than to only pack away when they’re fed up.
2. Start with a whip or short pole. Kids often want to cast out miles, but so often the best fishing on smaller lakes is close to the bank! A short 3 or 4m whip is all you need; with no reel to mess up, it will mean you spend less time sorting out tangles and more time fishing!
3. Give them little tasks to keep them busy early on. Smaller kids hate inactivity, so give them a job to do early. One really good habit to get them into is “loose feeding”. Encourage them to throw in a little pinch of bait every minute or two.
4. Get them to think for themselves and make their own choices. This is especially true with slightly older kids. Why not let them decide which swim to fish or which bait to try next? Always encourage questions and discussion.
5. Always take at least two disgorgers! One will always get lost, so pack a spare.
6. Try not to do too much for them. Kids learn by trying things out and making their own trials and mistakes. By all means show them the basic skills at first, but the earlier you can get them trying these things for themselves, the quicker they will hook their own baits, cast out, land fish and learn all those other skills (and allow mum or dad to do their own fishing without needing to tie a hook or untangle a rig every 5 minutes!).
7. Country parks are an excellent place to start. These are great places to visit as well as offering some fantastic cheap fishing, they also often have toilets facilities, cafes and playgrounds to keep everyone occupied.
Last but not least… check out these brilliant resources!
- For anyone looking to start fishing, it’s always worth checking out the Get Fishing Website for listings of free and low cost family events all over the country!
- Wondering what you need to go fishing? Check out our previous blog posts and you’ll also find handy checklists of things you need to go coarse fishing and fly fishing basics!
- Don’t forget, you will also need to make sure you have permission to fish and the right licence. The great news is that kids of 16 and under can get one for free these days, so it’s just mum or dad who’ll need to buy one! Check out our handy guide to which licences you need for different age groups and types of fishing.
- For youngsters and parents alike, we also have a brilliant, easy to follow Get Fishing Book released very recently. This offers stacks of friendly knowhow on coarse, sea and game fishing for just a tenner. Read about it here or buy it on Amazon for under £10!