A successful family fishing trip entails a little more than tossing a few more rods into the boat and heading out for a full day on the fishing grounds. What makes for a banner day afloat for you and your hard-core fishing buddies may not cut it when you factor in family members who may – or may not – hold angling in the same esteem as more seasoned fishermen. I’ve had to learn that for some family members, especially kids, the time together often means more than how many fish are on the stringer at the end of the day.
And be prepared for the so-called day to be a shorter one than those angling marathons to which you might be accustomed. Pay attention to the mood of your family, so you’ll notice when the fishing has lost its allure. Then, it’s time to head in so they can do something different. The idea is to keep fishing fun so they’ll want to fish another day. On the other hand, be open to related activities on the boat. To non-anglers, a fun fishing trip encompasses more than mere casting and catching, and may include everything from packing the lunch to gathering or buying the bait, seeing new sights, exploring the shore, taking pictures and getting some sun. And don’t forget jumping out of the boat for a refreshing swim. That said, it’s important to realize that everyone embarking on a fishing trip hopes to catch a fish. That’s why it’s called a fishing trip.
Match the tackle
The first ingredient for a successful fishing trip is tackle that’s suitable for everyone. That may mean having a couple simple cane poles available for kids who aren’t experienced with casting conventional rods and reels. Little more than a simple flexible pole of bamboo or fiberglass 10 to 15 feet long to which a like length of line is attached, a cane pole requires only a swing of the arm to get the bait out into the water. A small hook tied to the end and a bobber snapped a couple feet above it makes for one of the most basic yet productive fishing rigs around. Bait the hook with a minnow, worm or chunk of hot dog,drop it around a dock or near shore, and any panfish in the area will keep that bobber twitching. Slightly more experienced anglers will prefer spin-casting rigs, featuring the closed face, push-button style reels that are simple to use and allow casting to distant fishing holes. Of course, family members are free to use more sophisticated tackle – or to try yours. What you want to avoid is matching an angler with tackle beyond his or her ability to use it; the resulting frustration will end the fishing sooner rather than later. Ditto old or cheap tackle; make sure the gear you offer is of good quality and functioning properly before you place it in a family member’s hand.
Angle the odds
You also want to target fish species that will cooperate. As thrilling as it might be to have a family member catch a muskie, pike or largemouth bass, the effort, skill and time required to hook such gamefish are probably beyond a newbie’s patience. A better choice for family angling is a fishing hole where there are plenty of sunfish, catfish, trout or even chubs that make up for their lack of size or sophistication with their eagerness to bite – and please inexperienced fishermen at the other end of the line! Make sure you have a livewell, bucket or stringer to hold the catch (at least temporarily, unless the fish is destined for the table). Kids especially will want to see and watch the fruit of their efforts.
See also Six Lucky Lures
It’s all about the food
Make sure you pack more than enough food and drink for everyone, and that the fodder includes items that each angler likes. You and your angling buddies may get by on Vienna sausage and crackers for the day, but don’t expect fledgling fishermen to put up with that meager fare. And don’t forget the cold drinks, especially on hot days.
See also Classic Potato Salad
In addition to a livewell, bucket or stringer to keep the catch, you’ll want to have a pair of needle-nosed pliers on hand to help remove hooks from fish and fishermen. A few other essentials for the outing include: a small towel (to wipe fish and bait slime from hands), sunscreen, insect repellent – and a camera to capture the angling action and family fun!
Dan Armitage has honed his family fishing guide skills with his wife and son. Dan also conducts fishing and outdoor photography seminars around the U.S., and works as an outdoors writer and radio show host in Ohio.