Are you planning to take a kid fishing? These tips will help make your fishing adventure fun, enjoyable, and most importantly, something that your child and you will want to do again and again as you create lifelong memories.

kid fishing for perch on the chesapeake bay
Double header! Double header! Perch fishing is downright fun.

Hi, I’m EJ. I run the nonprofit organization Combos for Kids and I work at Anglers Sport Center in Annapolis. Combos for Kids was created by the Anglers team with the purpose of leveraging the sport of fishing to enrich the lives of underserved kids and families. Over the past few years, The Combos for Kids team has taken hundreds of kids and families fishing. I am also the father of two adult sons who were introduced to the sport of fishing before they could actually say the word “fish.” Here are a few ideas and philosophies that have helped me and the kids I have taken fishing over the years. Of course, one size does not fit all, so feel free to tweak these suggestions to fit your personal situation.

Fishing with Kids: The What

It seems obvious but the number-one priority is to have fun. Success is not necessarily all about catching fish, it’s more about the whole adventure. The bait, the wildlife you will encounter, the water, the excitement of it all, and more. Enjoy every minute — these are the good days!

Pre-Trip Prep for Fishing with Kids

Have a plan and make a list:

  • Where are you going? What are you going to do? How are you going to do it?
  • Don’t forget a fishing license; kids under 16 do not need a fishing license in Maryland but YOU DO; different states have different regulations.
  • Bait, well, there are so many cool options. I highly recommend live bait for kids. Ask your local fishing shop for bait advice based on where you plan to fish and what you hope to catch.
  • Food and drinks are must-haves to keep those kids happy.
  • Check the weather, and remember that it’s better to postpone a trip with kids as opposed to forcing the issue because rain, cold, or rough seas can make kids miserable.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats.
  • If there is one thing that is certain, you will need to have a restroom option at your fishing location. Pro Tip: Bring TP and hand sanitizer!
  • Keep a small first aid kit on hand. Hopefully, you’ll never need it.

Before the Fishing Trip with Kids

Build the excitement of your upcoming fishing adventure. Watch videos with the kids before the trip and include the kids in the trip preparations. From shopping for equipment and bait to picking out snacks, let them help however they can. It’s also a good idea to practice casting in the yard before the trip. This will help immensely on the day of fishing.

While Fishing

Be super patient and take time to explain everything. Talk about safety, sharp hooks, careful casting, sharp spikes on fish fins, and whatever else comes to mind. Tangles, broken equipment, and things falling into the water will all happen — and that’s okay!

FYI, to many kids the bait is just as exciting and interesting as the fish. Call out the cool things you see while you’re fishing. “Look at the ducks! Check out that Osprey! Look at that jellyfish!” Enjoy it all. But… you also need to know when to call it a day. Let the kids make the call if you can. There is nothing wrong with 10 more “last casts,” but when they are done they are done. And they will let you know, if you’re listening.

kids fishing in the bay
Does she want to take just one more cast? You bet!

After Fishing

If you do catch fish the joy and excitement will take care of itself with smiles, pics, and high-fives. If you don’t catch fish, focus on the positive things from your adventure like the bait, the wildlife, and the water. Plant the seed for the next trip. “We’ll outsmart those fish next time, I know an even better place to try…”

Start a Tradition

Fun traditions will have a huge impact on building excitement for the next trip. Every time you take your kid fishing add something fun. Stop and get a milkshake, an ice cream, or whatever you choose on the way home. For my kids, we always stopped for McDonalds fries. Some days, they would talk about those fries more than the fish.

Fishing with Kids: The How

Target easy to catch fish like white perch, bluegill, spot, and catfish. There are tons of these types of fish at most Maryland fishing locations and kids love catching them.

Fishing Equipment

Equipment selection for kids is very important. I place kids fishing equipment into two categories: actual fishing equipment, and toys. All will catch fish but landing the fish or even having the chance to see the fish before something breaks will be based on the equipment you choose. There is nothing wrong with kids wanting Minecraft or Spiderman Spincast combos to play with at home. That being said, I highly recommend not using these types of toys to actually fish with. Not only are you at risk of losing a fish-catching memory, but the toy combo will probably break in the process, creating a double sad situation for the kid.

There are tons of cheap and functional premade combos that will get the job done. Talk with the folks at your local fishing store for advice on types and sizes of combos to fit your kid’s needs. Whatever you choose, I highly recommend replacing the factory line with new fishing line. Have you ever seen a fishing line that looks like a Slinky when it’s been casted out? Factory fishing line on premade combos has been wrapped around the reel for who knows how long. This creates line memory and causes all kinds of issues including difficulty casting and lots of tangles. Replacing the line is inexpensive and is something you can do yourself or have your local fishing store do for you.

I also recommend using simple tackle at first. You can build on your collection as you get more into the sport. A simple hook or shad dart under a bobber, a top and bottom rig, and circle hooks with a fish finder rig are all tried and true choices for fishing with live or cut baits. Keep your hook size relatively small to increase the kid’s catch rate. If you plan to fish at a location on or close to the main stem of the Bay, try Chesapeake Sabiki rigs, they work extremely well for catching panfish like perch and spot.

young children fishing
Having good fishing gear is a must; leave the toys at home.

Fishing with Kids: The Where

“Where are the fish biting?” This question can be the single most challenging aspect of this entire endeavor. Check the local fishing reports from Anglers Sport Center, the Maryland DNR, and of course from FishTalk.

If you live in Maryland, a great tool to have at your disposal is the MD DNR app. This app gives you fishing locations across the state. Download the app and click on the fish at the bottom. Select Fishing Locations, County, and Search. A list of all public fishing locations will be displayed. Click on the location you are interested in, and you will see an abundance of information about that location including species of fish, pier or shoreline, boat rentals, state requirements, and more. If you live in Virginia, the Department of Wildlife Resources has a great Where to Fish Webpage on their website. And in Delaware, the Delaware State Parks website has a similar page.

I’ll leave you with a quote I found on fishing with kids at @castingcarter. “Fishing requires patience. Fishing with a child requires the patience of a saint. But the rewards are heavenly.” Good luck with your fishing adventures, and I hope you and your kids create fishing memories that will be shared and cherished for years.

For more information visit Combos for Kids and follow on Facebook and Instagram.

-By EJ Harman