The How, When & Where of Fishing with Kids

Family Adventures - Fishing with Kids

I grew up on the west coast, and my memories of fishing involve a boat in the middle of the ocean. Now that we live in Alberta, our kids are being introduced to fishing in a very different way, (lakes are a different kettle of fish than the ocean…) but this way is more get-your-hands-(literally)-dirty and so far they love it. While our six-year-old is just the right age for fishing, his two year old little brother has definitely been paying attention. Fishing is also my husband’s initiative, and here’s his three-step process introducing children to fishing.

1. Get a fishing kit

He started by heading out to Bass Pro to find a kids’ fishing kit and came home with this perfectly kids’-sized kit that has all the things you need to fish for different types of fish – all the reel, tackle, etc. They picked the one for trout fishing, which is what’s most plentiful in Alberta lakes and rivers, and were set. No mega giant outdoor sports store in your neck of the woods? You can get kids fishing gear at many other stores including Canadian Tire and Walmart.

2. Get a fishing license and learn your province’s rules

Always be aware of your province’s fishing rules, and get a proper license. Many of the aforementioned stores sell them, but you can also get them online, which is also easier and faster. Kids under 16 can fish without a licence (at least in Alberta – check the rules for your province) but adults need one. When they purchased their licence it came with an Alberta fishing guide that outlines some of the rules and etiquette about fishing in Alberta, like a list of lakes and streams open to fishing, start and end dates for fishing those areas, what fish you can catch there, how big, and how many you can keep.

fishing with kids - Kananaskis, Alberta

3. Teach a kid to fish

This is probably a no-brainer, but let your kid practice with the rod before putting any actual hooks on it. My husband took our son to a field with his new rod and tied a float and weight to the line. Connor got the hang of casting with the rod fairly quickly and started to be a bit more aware of not swinging his “hook” near people. (As someone who got my cheek nicked with a fishing hook when I was a kid, I have a sincere appreciation for how important this is.) Once you get into using hooks and lures, a great skill to learn is how to tie a proper fisherman’s knot to keep the hooks and lures attached to the line.

All this fishing practice was prep for a camping trip in the summer, so their first foray into actual fishing was at Lower Kananaskis Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta. They had a great time and aside from losing a hook or two it was quite successful. They even caught a fish!

Fishing with kids - caught a fish

Catch and release the gentle way

If you’re going to catch and release, here are some tips for being gentle on the fish:

  • Relieve your catch and release it as quickly as possible
  • Keep the fish in water as much as possible
  • Don’t squeeze the fish and keep your fingers out of the gills
  • Rolling the fish onto their backs while in the water can help reduce their struggling, which can minimize stress
  • Remove the hook carefully and let the fish go

If the hook is deep in the fish, you’re better to leave it there. The fish will have a better chance of survival than if you try to wrestle the hook out.

If you do plan to keep a fish for a meal (and catching your own food is a good lesson for kids too) research humane ways to kill fish. Respect for living things is always a good lesson.

Practice!

With those basics, you (and your kids) are good to go. While lake fishing has that real-thing feeling to it, lots of places have catch-and-release ponds as well, which are great places for kids to learn. Or look up lakes in your area that are stocked with fish each year. Going somewhere your kids are more likely to catch something will keep them interested and ready to head back out again the next time.

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