If children have fun during their first few fishing experiences, there's a good chance they'll be “hooked” for life.
Here are a few tips to help make those early fishing events a success:
Be safe. Young children should wear life jackets anytime they're near the water. By law, children 12 and younger mustwear a USCG–approved life jacket when under way in a boat less than 19 feet in length. The Washington Parks and Recreation Commission advises everyone fishing in a boat to wear a life jacket. See the Washington State Park's boating safety website for more information.
Let the kids help plan and prepare for the trip. They'll feel more involved if they can help out, so give them a few chores and let them make some decisions.
Bring dependable tackle and give some advance instructions on how it's used. Early morning on a lake full of hungry fish isn't the time or place for a child to discover that his reel doesn't work or her fishing line is rotten. The tackle needn't be new, but it must be in good working order.
Dress warmly. Mornings and evenings are often chilly and sometimes wet, and enthusiasm can wane quickly when feet and hands get cold. Layers of clothing are good to have, and dry clothing for the trip home is good also.
Try to ensure that the kids catch fish. For instance, don't stick to trout fishing just because that's what you like to catch. Young beginners don't care if they catch a 5-inch sunfish or a 15-inch rainbow, as long as they catch something.
Be prepared to keep kids entertained in case the fish aren't biting. Take along plenty of food and have each child bring a small bag of books, games and toys for those times when the angling action starts to wane.
Don't demand perfection. It's fine to teach kids how to do things right, but give them a chance to learn from their mistakes. Let them experiment with different gear methods and angling techniques.
Teach good fishing manners and tell them about the importance of fishing rules.
Start planning the second fishing trip immediately after you return from the first, and take the kids fishing again as often as possible.