Fishing is a great activity that is enjoyed by people of many different skill levels. However, you may be wondering at what age you should be letting your kids start fishing.
So, at what age can kids start fishing? Kids can begin fishing at almost any age, although they usually learn best if they are at least 4 years old. In many states there are no fees or licenses required for children of young ages, so starting your child early won’t come at much cost. Starting them before any fees apply will help them know if fishing is an activity they want to continue with as they get older.
Deciding when to allow your child to begin fishing can depend on a few different factors, such as how well they understand the possibility of danger and risks that come with being near the water, as well as your ability to watch over them if they do not understand the risk associated. Continue reading to see my tips for how young you should start your child’s fishing journey!
Teaching Kids About Water Safety
Children aren’t usually ready to begin swimming lessons until after the age of 4, so it is important that both you and your children know how to be safe when you’re playing in or near any body of water- whether it be a kiddie pool or a river.
Teaching your children how to be safe when around water can seem overwhelming, but hopefully, I can give you a few tips that make this task seem less daunting.
My first tip for teaching your children about water safety is to NOT try to scare them into listening.
Oftentimes we think that if kids are as worried as their parents, then they will listen to your instructions and there will not be a problem. However, as parents, you never want your children to be scared of the water (or anything for that matter). Instead of fear, you should focus on making sure that they are cautious and aware of their surroundings.
Explain to your child that you care for them and that they need to listen to you because you just want to make sure that they can stay safe. Make sure that they are listening and taking your instructions seriously. Try having them repeat the lessons back to you.
Water can be dangerous for people of all ages and everyone needs to understand how to be safe.
Moving right along with that thought, my second tip is to include everyone in the water safety discussion.
Do not just pull the kids to the side and explain how they need to be careful while around the water. Gather everyone together and discuss the rules and guidelines for being around the water- babies, toddlers, smaller children, teenagers, and yes, even the adults.
Children learn best from example, so make sure that everyone is aware of the example they are setting for the more impressionable children.
My third tip for teaching children water safety is to enforce a buddy system. The purpose of the buddy system is simply to ensure that if a problem occurs, there is always someone else nearby who can call others for help.
For older kids, this may seem a little annoying (believe me, teenagers will complain) but explain to them that the younger children need an example to follow and that it is their responsibility to set that example. Make sure that everyone knows that they are helping to keep their buddy safe.
My final tip is to just always be cautious of your children.
Never let small children out of your sight when they’re playing in or near the water. It is extremely important for your children to understand how to be safe around water.
However, it is your job as their parent to ensure that in the event that they do not follow instructions or if an unforeseen circumstance arises, you are keeping a close eye and can help quickly in an emergency.
Remember that water is not perfectly predictable wherever you go and that the ultimate prevention for any unwanted emergencies is to simply wear a life jacket.
Any time that you’re in a boat, all passengers should be wearing life jackets. Pool floaties or water wings are fine for the local pool, but they aren’t built to hold up well in nature. Life jackets are the best and safest option for everyone in your group. Make sure you and your children all have a Coast Guard approved life jacket that fits properly.
Watching Kids While Fishing
When watching your kids while swimming, fishing, or just playing near water the rules all tend to be pretty similar. Follow our list of Do’s and Don’ts from Parents Magazine to make sure your children are safe while enjoying their water activities.
Do keep your toddler within arm’s reach whenever in or near water. Never let an older child out of your sight.
Don’t get distracted when your child is in or near or has access to any water.
Do learn CPR and keep a cell phone handy in case of an emergency.
Don’t rely on arm floats or air-filled tubes to keep your child safe. Have her wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life preserver if she’s on a boat or near water.
While fishing, keep your children close and never become so focused on your own casts that they fade from your mind (it can happen when you start to reel in a big fish).
Involve your children in your own fishing as well. They are less likely to run off if they feel as though they are “helping” you. Try handing them the rod when you hook and fish and reel it in together! This will help them feel involved in the exciting moments and give them an achievement to be proud of.
If your child has a habit of running off easily and they aren’t interested in “helping” you fish, choose to put your rod down and watch them fish themselves. That way if they begin to get distracted and run off, you are right there to guide them back.
How to Teach Your Child to Fish
My parents began teaching me to fish at such a young age that I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t fishing.
Each summer we would travel to our cabins up in the mountains together. Nearby was a fair sized creek that my uncles, grandfather, dad, brother, and cousins were all keen to start fishing.
My parents had been educating me on the dangers of the creek for the longest time and I was aware of how to be safe when playing nearby.
However, I always wanted to jump in and follow the “adults” (I use quotations because I could hardly call my brother an adult at that age) into the creek to fish.
My father gave me a small bait caster to begin learning on while fishing next to him. We would sit on the bridge or next to each other on the shore and I would attempt to reel in a fish with my Mickey Mouse fishing pole.
Eventually I graduated to using my brothers old spin fishing rods and was able to reel in my catch all on my own.
How did my parents teach me to do this?
The first few casts I would receive a little help. But then I was left to learn it myself. I would watch what each of the others was doing and mimic their actions. As I said above, children learn best by example.
To sum it all up, they kept it simple. While they knew there were more effective ways of fishing, they set me up with a hook, line, bobber, and role. I didn’t need much more than that to get the basics down.
They also started me off using the simplest method of fishing, which is baitcasting. My father would show me how to fill the spool with
Keep it simple with your kids! Don’t try to teach them it all at once and be willing to help them as they go.
If your kids first fishing trips go anything like mine, you will need to help them untangle their line from submerged rocks, the bush behind them, and sometimes their finger (yes I caught myself a few times).
Be sure to keep it fun with your kids. Children can be easily discouraged if the fishing seems too complicated and you want to make sure that they have a good experience!
Be encouraging to those who are struggling to catch a fish, since it can be discouraging if they’ve been casting for a long time and still haven’t caught anything. All fishermen know how this feels, but kids have less patience and shorter tempers!
If the real deal still seems like too much for your kids, try giving them practice rods or fishing toys. These will help them continue to feel involved, but will also be entertaining for them. This can also help them develop some of the necessary skills from a safer and easier angle.
After I had learned to fish, I also received the opportunity to watch and help my smaller cousins learn to fish as well.
At 4 or 5 years old, my cousin was given a rod to cast into the water along with us bigger kids. The difference between her rod and ours, was that at the end of her line she did not have a hook.
Where a hook and bait would normally be placed, a small rubber fish was instead. This simple toy taught her the basics of casting without the stress of baiting a hook and reeling in a real fish.
If you don’t think your child is old enough to start truly fishing, consider giving them a rod with a “training fish.” Once they can handle that rod and have a fair amount of knowledge on casting, then you can move them up to using a real hook.
Overall, teaching a child to fish requires encouragement, patience, simplicity, and a fun environment.
The Best Fishing Poles for Kids
A six-foot long pole might be a little too tall for your small child to learn how to fish with.
Luckily, many companies make smaller rods (like my Mickey Mouse pole) to help children learn the basics of fishing. Below I have gathered some of the best fishing poles you can give your children to start learning how to fish with.
For children not quite ready for the task of reeling in an actual fish, check out the Kid Casters Fishing Kit.
This is truly the perfect starter fishing kit. It comes with a tackle kit, 3 training lures, and a training fish. This training rod and kit come at a nice $21.99.
Once your child is ready to start using a real hook, you can continue to use this rod later! This makes this the perfect rod to start even the youngest of kids with.
Once your child is old enough or has spent enough time on the training rod, check out some more beginner rods. Below I have 3 great rods that your child is sure to love!
- If you are looking for a nice simple looking with some basic easy to use gear for your child, check out this Kids Fishing Pole by PLUSINNO. For only $22.99 you can get a 4-5 foot rod for your kid and the basic gear they will need to get started.
- Smaller kids may have an easier time enjoying the time they spend fishing if they can feel like they relate to their gear. Check out this children’s rod which comes in 5 different styles with your child’s favorite tv shows on them. Shakespeare Youth Fishing Tackle Box Kits ($19.24).
- If your child as yet to master the art of NOT tangling their line with each cast, check out Kid Casters Deluxe Tangle Free Rod ($21.99). This rod runs the line through the inside of the rod rather than through the guiding loops, helping your child avoid those bothersome snags! (I put this a little lower on the list simply because it makes it a little harder for your child to learn what NOT to do to avoid tangles in their line).
More Advanced Child Rods
If your child has outgrown their beginner and training rods, check out some of these more advanced rods that will work well for your children.
- The Zebco Fishing Dock Demon introduces a new style of reel to your child. This rod is in the advanced section because it is made to hold up against some larger fish but it requires someone to be more aware of their cast to avoid tangles. Coming in at $14.77 your child can learn how to real in bigger fish while perfecting their casts.
- This rod is a little bigger and therefore makes for a better rod for bigger children. The Shakespeare Youth Ugly Stik is $39.95 and allows your child to ease into the more “normal” size of fishing rods. Made by the popular brand of Ugly Stik, your child is sure to have a great time fishing with this rod!
Be sure whatever fishing pole you choose for your child that they are having fun and learning a valuable skill that they can keep with them for the rest of their lives!
Do I need a fishing license to take my children fishing? In many states, children under a certain age do not require a fishing license. However, some states do require the adult accompanying them to hold a valid license. Check your state’s laws and regulations regarding the matter!
How old is too old to be fishing? Enjoying fishing is a timeless experience that everyone should be able to participate in. When someone is unable to safely take care of themselves while fishing, they may need some assistance while out fishing. However, as long as they can be safe, there is no age limit.
What is the quote about teaching a man to fish? The common quote goes like this: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.