So you decided to take the kids out for some free fish. But what exactly do you need to pack in the old family truckster? Rod and reel? Tackle box?
Fishing can be dangerous. There’s sunburn, skeeter bites, and a whole host of dangers for the unobservant parent and child. The fishin’ hole is not an outdoor Walmart you can stroll up to and simply purchase your next meal in air conditioned comfort. Bearing that in mind, you need to pack the right stuff if you want your fishin’ trip to be safe and fun.
First, there’s the rod and reel. Technically, all you really need is some kind of line and a hook… but unless you’re Les Stroud, don’t try to turn your trip into the next episode of Survivorman. Go for easier catches. For kids, I recommend a short pole — no sense giving them something they can poke your eye out with when they inattentively turn to look at something or bend down to touch that bug they almost stepped on. Plus, shorter rods will fit in the trunk of most cars.
As for reels, I think the best choice for small kids is a spin cast reel. It’s super-simple. Your little one simply pushes and holds the button, casts, and lets go (of the button, not the reel — wrist straps aren’t just for Wii-motes).
Fishing line is pretty important — or rather, what strength to get. Fishing line is rated by weight, after all. Since I typically go for bluegill and bass, I stick to smaller stuff, 8 lb test for example. No sense trying to get your 50lb kid to try and reel in a monster fish. Let them start small.
Lures or bait? Lures are nice in that they’re reusable and shouldn’t gross your kids out. But unless you’re an experienced angler, if you want to catch anything, use bait. I like bee moths. One or two casts and I get some bites. Go to the right spot, at the right time, and you will catch something with bee moths. Yes, they’re squishy and gross and ooze a translucent liquid when pierced with the hook, but they get the job done. Try to keep the lid on their container, and keep them out of the sun if you want them to last. Bee moths are generally sold at any bait shop and even at some Walmarts.
Tacklebox? Ha! You need every hand you’ve got, plus some spares when you go fishin’! Do you really want to haul a heavy tacklebox along? You might be able to carry rods and box in one hand, but wouldn’t it be easier to wear your gear? That’s where a fishing vest comes in super handy. Slip it on with all its wonderful pockets (mine even has a sandwich-sized pouch) and you can keep everything close and still be able to grab what, or whomever, needs sudden grabbing. Plus, your kids can’t kick over your vest, spilling all your lures, sinkers, etc.
What do you put in you fishing vest? Spare line. Spare hooks. Sinkers, bobbers. Needle nose pliers for pulling out fishhooks. A knife for cutting line. Scissors. A small first aid kit. Those are some pretty good basics to get you started.
Once you’ve packed the stuff to catch the fish, it’s time to think about what to do with those tasty little swimmers once you do catch them. Put them in a cooler? A submersible basket? I like a nice stringer. Simple, but effective. Fits in your pocket. All you need is something to tie it to — a tree, a stick in the ground, etc. Whatever you pick, remember that if you keep your fish alive while fishing, they’ll taste better later, and you won’t have crying children upset that the fishies all died.
Also, I should point out that fish on stringers or even in baskets lowered back into the water can attract predators. I actually had a snake crawl into the basket once and start biting my fish. I don’t know what he was thinking. He lost his head. Literally. My father-in-law whipped out a pocket knife and beheaded him in one swift motion. Thankfully, my daughter thought that was cool.
How does one dress for fishing? Well, you don’t wear your school shoes. Or flip flops, or anything that can get stuck in the mud and sucked off your or the kids’ feet. You wear something comfortable, and be sure the outfit includes long pants, to block those hitchhiking creepy crawlies. Most importantly, whatever you dress your kids in, make it something you don’t mind getting dirty or stained. Nature is messy.
There’s also the safety gear you’ll need, like sunblock and bug repellent. It made sound sissified, but long before they officially made bug repellent, Avon Skin So Soft lotion was my chemical of choice. You could also buy dog collars for your kids ankles. They really do work.
Don’t forget snacks! Kids graze all day long. Take dry stuff like crackers, hard candies, granola bars, or my girls’ favorite: beef jerky. And unless you want them bouncing off the trees, forget the sugary snacks and drinks. Bring water.
A tarp is a nice addition to any fishing trip, because kids often bitch about sitting on the ground. If it’s not windy, that’s when you whip out a tarp and tell them to park it. Bring a small fleece blanket and the really little ones might even take a nap and let you get some fishing in.
But where to put all this stuff? And the books, crayons, small radios, and other crap you can think of to appease the kids? A backpack. Just like the ones your kids take to school daily. You can slip it off and use it as a seat. You might be tempted to load it up like you were going on a picnic, but keep in mind you have to carry all that stuff and your fish back. And you aren’t going to be there all day. Your kids won’t let you.
Finally, one of the most important things you can take on any fishing trip with kids: spare socks and shoes in your car, for when they inevitably decide to step in some water or mud despite your commands not to.
In Part 4, I’ll finish up my Fishin’ guide with some pointers on fishing with kids.
Image by juliancolton2, flickr.com