Best Tips to Teach a Child How to Fish

woman and boy sitting on dock holding fishing rod
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on

Is your child interesting in fishing or just an outdoor loving child in general? Encourage them! There are so many wonderful reasons to teach your child how to fish. Outside of just having a good fishing buddy, of course. Fishing gets your kids outside and can give them a lifelong hobby to enjoy. I personally have so many wonderful memories of fishing when I was a child and therefore, we knew we wanted our kids to fish from a young age.

Our oldest son was an outdoorsman from the start. When he was little, he was always outside enjoying nature and exploring. We let him play in the dirt, run in the rain, and soak in all the sun. So, when he was old enough to hold a fishing rod, we got him one. I think he was two, maybe even one. He is now a Tween and LOVES all things outdoors, including fishing. Don’t get me wrong, he also loves his games. It is all about balance, right.

Child trying to catch a fish
Our two year old fishing

We are now teaching our fourth child how to fish, at age two. Yes, he can really cast a rod and reel it in at two! Here are some of our best tips to teach a child how to fish:

Tip: In most states, children do not require a fishing license. In North Carolina, only children over age 16 are required to have one. Check your state laws to be sure.

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Before You Get to the Water

There is a lot that you can do to prepare them before you even get to water. After all you want to make their first experience as memorable as possible.

  1. You can order a child’s fishing rod that has a rubber fish on it. This is for practice. I recommend teaching outside or you will wrap around everything in your house. Trust me, we have been there. But also get a basic and easy to use rod. Nothing fancy yet.
  2. Get them their own tackle box. This is all the fun stuff! They want their own bobbers and stinky rubber worms to carry around. If they are young, obviously don’t put hooks in there.
  3. Get them some gear. We had a lucky fishing shirt made for our son and he still has that thing to this day. But you can also get things like a fishing hat, boots, or SPF shirt.
  4. Buy a book. They make so many wonderful fishing books for kids. This can help them understand what fishing is all about and why fishing was even started. There are also fishing log books that they can write all their adventures in.
  5. Have a plan. Make sure you have a plan of where you are going, know what the weather will be like, and choose the best time for catching fish. There is nothing like catching a fish on your first trip!
  6. Are you releasing? Decide if your first trip is going to be a catch and release trip or if you are going to filet and eat them. Whatever you decide, make sure your child understands and please don’t kill them if you aren’t going to eat them. This is a valuable lesson for kids.

Tip: If you are not going to be on land, like a dock or boat, make sure that you get your child the right size life vest or puddle jumpers.

child fishing in lucky fishing shirt
Our son in his lucky fishing shirt

Time to Hit the Water

Now that you have everything ready it is time to hit the water. I am sure if you are fishing with a child, you probably know the basics. But just to reinforce a few things.

  1. Use live bait. Either worms or minnows. Fish love real bait and that will increase your odds of actually catching something. I mean unless you know they love fried chicken, like our local catfish!
  2. Use a bobber. Bobbers make fishing exciting for kids. I mean, they also keep the bait of the bottom but, kids love to watch them. The moment it starts moving the excitement starts.
  3. Have a camera or phone ready. You will want to take lots of pictures. Our son loves to look back at his pictures from 10 years ago and see all his catches.
  4. Choose a good time. Choose a time that is most likely to have fish biting. You want to do everything possible for them to catch a fish on their first trip.
  5. Cast a few times. You’ll want to cast it a couple times, to start, and let them slowly reel it in. That way they have a visual of what they are doing.
  6. Be patient. Some kids can get bored if they don’t get one right away but encourage them and be patient with their frustrations if that happens. Kids aren’t built to “wait”.

Lastly, enjoy the trip. The first trip is less about the fish and more about the experience. When they get the hang of it, it becomes a sport and it’s about the catch!

-Kristy M., Mommy to Many


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