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You grab your rod and tackle box and put them into the back of your pickup. You take a short drive to your favorite fishing hole where a red sunrise makes the waters shimmer. You have a peaceful day in nature and fresh fish for dinner tonight.
But then you wake up. You have kids, remember? How are you going to pull this off without ditching them with your significant other and going deep into relationship-debt? There’s no way, right?
Why not bring them along? If you do the fishing trip right, your kids will dig it. After all, it’s a Pokémon-style catch-’em-all pastime with a measurable gauge of success and a tasty meal to boot. Get the kids to turn off their screens, put on their sunscreen, breathe some fresh air and log into a human-versus-nature game as old as human history.
READY FISHER ONE.
A family I know practically raised their kids with a fishing rod in one hand and a tiller in the other, plying the waters of the Teton River in southern Idaho. The kids in the family can’t remember the first time they fished. It became their most vibrant childhood memory and, for many of them, a lifelong passion. Three generations now haunt that river, catching cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout and bonding over mostly true caught-one-this-big stories.
But memories that fond take some effort, some time, some practice and some planning. Hopefully, this helps with the latter.
For the first few fishing trips, just stick to the absolute basics.
- Fishing rods, reels, line: Kids’ rods are usually less than 20 dollars.
- Fishing tackle: This consists of hook; bait, lure or fly; sinkers and floaters. The exact arrangement will depend on your fishing technique.
- Tackle box: Something to keep all your fishing equipment in. Don’t forget pliers to dehook fish and, if you’re keeping them, something to put them out of their terrestrial misery.
- Fishing license: This one’s just for you. In Utah, kids 12 and under fish free on a grownup’s license. You can buy one online. And, yes, there’s even an app for that.
- Snacks: Depending on how long you’re out. No, no matter how long you’re out, this is the key to making your kids love fishing. Or anything.
- Water: Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Don’t forget to bring your own.
- Something to put the fish in: a cooler with ice for longer trips, or just hang the catch on a line and wrap them.
- Sunscreen: Broil the fish, not your kids.
- Sunglasses: Polarized lenses cut the glare and also serve as emergency eye protection from all those barbed hooks being flung about.
- First aid kit: For when you hook a finger. It’s a good idea to have one in the car.
- Camera/smartphone: Capture that moment! Don’t forget a waterproof case, or plastic bag, in case you need to fish it out of the river.
- Tape measure: Optional, depending on how competitive your kids are.
- Towels: Surprise, surprise, sometimes you get wet.
Where and when to goThe kids’ first fishing trip should be short and close to home. When you get there, do the grim business of baiting their hook for them. And don’t plan on a full day, no matter how fun that may sound. Some kids only want to stay for an hour or so and that’s perfectly fine for a first outing. Make it a fun, short experience and they’ll be ready and willing to try it again later.
If kids can snag at least one fish on their first trip they’re more likely to make it a habit. For that reason, fishing a stocked pond is a sure bet. Try one of Utah Wildlife Resource’s 50 fishing ponds, with nine in Salt Lake County alone.
Once the kids have been out a few times, try a longer trip or a new location. A guided fishing trip, like those provided by Utah Pro Fly Fishing or Rocky Mountain Outfitters, will boost kids’ confidence. For a real expedition, you might fish Strawberry Reservoir for rainbow and cutthroat trout, Flaming Gorge for brown and bass, and Beaver for brook. You can also view updated fishing reports to see hotspots at Utah Wildlife.
Whatever you do, don’t wait until they’re independent-minded teenagers. Start your new family tradition this fishing season. They might forget to thank you now, but they’ll remember in 30 years when they’re taking their own kids to the lake for the first time