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Kayak Fishing with the Kids

You know all the reasons why you love kayak fishing: the great outdoors, escape from the daily grind, unplugging from constant electronic distractions, exercise, bringing home your catch, or honing your skill at angling. Whatever benefits you receive from kayak fishing can be shared with your kids as well! Why wouldn’t you want to give them the gift of this pastime?

If you are excited about getting your family enthused about this activity, here are a few tips and tricks to make it a successful introduction.

Preparing Your Kids for Kayak Fishing

  • Pique their interest

Whether you are looking to entice your toddler or your teenager, laying some groundwork can go a long way to increasing their buy-in and enjoyment. One way to get them involved is to give them some ownership and include them in the process. Let them help research the route/location, pick the snacks, and create a playlist (that won’t scare the fish). You can even throw in a bribe or two – maybe let them pick out their own kayak if that is in the plan, or splurge on some water gear or fishing equipment, or even include a favorite playground/ice cream shop/restaurant on the plan for the day. Keep your expectations age appropriate and remember that kayak fishing might not be for everyone.

  • Hone their water skills

It is vitally important that whoever takes to the water with you has some basic water safety skills. While everyone on board should wear a personal floatation device (PFD), don’t trust in that alone. If your child is comfortable in and on the water, they will be much happier and less panicked in case of the unexpected. Be aware of your child’s limits: physical strength, stamina, and maturity. It will help you to adjust your expectations and lead them to success.

  • Practice

It would be a good idea to familiarize your kid(s) with kayak fishing before heading out, especially if they are brand new to it. A lesson or two would be really helpful before setting out to fish. Watch some video guides to learn some tips and advice. And practice getting in and out of the kayak on dry land (particularly with really young children).

Planning Your Kayak Fishing Trip with the Kids

Make sure you plan your kayak fishing trip intentionally. Bonus points if you can include your kid in the decision-making process. 

  • Who you are taking

Consider the age and number of people you are including in your trip. If you have younger kids, make sure they is a one-to-one adult-to-child ratio

  • When & how long you are going

Again, the age/experience/maturity of your kids will play a huge role in answering this question. The younger they are the shorter the kayak fishing trip should be. Also, consider the weather. You don’t want to get caught out in a storm and have a miserable experience for everyone involved.

  • What equipment/provisions will you need

Will your kids be using their own kayaks? Or are they small/inexperienced enough to prefer a tandem? What snacks, water, rods, bait do you need to lug along to make the day a success. Choose foods like fruit, nuts, and energy bars. Make drinking water a priority as well. Also, consider clothing - make sure everyone is comfortable in water resistant or quick-drying clothing (and pack a spare). A day in the great outdoors (and especially on the water) means care must be taken with young sensitive skin (and older skin as well). Sun protection is paramount. Apply (and reapply) sunscreen and use hats/full coverage clothing. If you want to try and stay out fishing for awhile, consider cushions or padding that will make the seats as comfortable as possible.

  • Where you will launch

Have a detailed plan with in & out points, water conditions/depth/hazards, and boat traffic. This probably isn’t the right time to explore a new route. Keep to what is familiar so you can anticipate and mitigate problems.  Make sure you consider little legs when you choose where to get in and out of the kayak. And if you can pick a place that allows you to come to shore for breaks, that can go a long way toward making everyone happy.

Play… It’s More Than Kayak Fishing

Make sure your focus is on your kids, not on the catch. Whether you come home with a whopper of a fish tale or just the memories of floating together, consider it a win.

  • Easy does it

Try to set a schedule with plenty of flexibility. If you are stressed, your child will sense it. Take things slowly as you figure it all out. It is better to ease into things than forcing something that becomes a negative experience.

  • Variety is the spice of life

Find space in the day to take breaks and change things up. Fish for a while. Then float and enjoy the scenery or practice some paddling. Frequent returns to shore/land can also be beneficial to break things up, take potty breaks, and even reinforce getting into and out of the kayak.  And make a game out of things. Play “I Spy” or bring some water guns or bubbles.

  • School is in session

Take every opportunity to educate. Learning is reinforced when the senses are activated. Let them touch, smell, see, feel, and hear the world around them. Talk about conservation and water safety. Show them various kayak fishing techniques and let them try. If you have a fish finder, show them the world beneath them and explain how the technology works.

  • Safety first, follow the rules

While you want to create a fun, flexible schedule, you don’t want to be flexible with the rules. Lay out some simple kayak and water safety rules and make sure the kids know they are to be obeyed quickly. Agree on a word that lets them know that the “serious” hat is on and they need to be alert and responsive to your direction.

  • It’s more than fishing

Fishing takes patience and practice and not getting a bite might be frustrating for younger fishers. Help them to develop a positive view of the whole experience and not get “caught up” in the catch.


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