For many of us, the age-old pastime of fishing evokes memories of summer’s glassy lakes and warm breezes. For others, it may call up pre-dawn wake-ups, soggy worms and even soggier rain boots. Either way, fishing is a childhood rite of passage and — for the most part — an adventure we want to introduce to our own children.
Bellevue dad Chris Brady fondly recalls fishing with his two sons. "Some of our best heartfelt conversations happened in an old rowboat, out in the middle of a lake," he says.
Recently, my husband and I took our young son to Gold Creek Trout Farm in Woodinville, to try out fishing for ourselves. It was our son’s first fishing experience and he had a blast! The pond was stocked with trout, and bamboo fishing poles, bait and nets were available.
How can you get started fishing with your kiddos? It's easy. Read on for tips on gear and first trips.
Tip: Free Fishing Weekend is Saturday–Sunday, June 9–10, 2018! During this weekend, anglers of any age do not need a fishing license to fish in Washington. Read the website carefully as other rules, such as season openings and catch limits, still apply.
Health tip: Also, if you're planning on consuming the fish you catch, be sure to check Washington Department of Health fish advisories for the latest info on contaminant levels.
Kids who are ages 14 and younger do not need a fishing license to fish in the state of Washington, unless fishing for common carp, crawfish, bullfrogs, smelt or unclassified marine invertebrates. Anyone age 15 and older must carry a recreational fishing license.
Note that rules differ for shellfish and that if youth ages 14 and younger are fishing for halibut, salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or Dungeness crab, they need a catch record card to track and report what they catch.
Also keep these tips in mind:
- Most kids do well with an ultra-light spinning or spin-casting rod-and-reel combo. The Avid Angler in Lake Forest Park, Bellevue’s Orvis, or any REI can provide gear options and tips from knowledgeable staff.
- Small floats work well for kids. This way there's no casting and re-casting.
- For younger kids, try a simple pole with no reel.
- When it comes to bait, keep it approximately the size of your hook. And avoid hooks larger than size 10 (hooks run backwards in size). Fish won’t readily take large hooks.
- Kids might have fun digging their own bait. They can dig in the garden to find angle worms. Beyond worms, bait can be anything from salmon eggs to marshmallows.
- Kids should always wear a life jacket when around water. By law, children age 12 and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when in a boat smaller than 19 feet in length. Start things off right by getting your kiddo familiar with a personal flotation device (also called a PFD).
Tips for first fishing trips
- Keep your children's interest levels in mind and aim for an experience that will result in a catch.
- Encourage kids to plan the fishing outing with you. Study a map together, pick the spot, make a list of gear or pack a lunch.
- Give kids things to be responsible for, like carrying the net or making sure everyone has a PFD on.
- Dress in layers, and be sure to pack rain boots, umbrellas and slickers.
- Be flexible. Cut it short if you see that the kids are done, or extend time if they are having fun.
- Be a good example of conservation and preserving our fisheries.
- Teach and practice “catch and release” where appropriate.
- Keep kids busy. Look for wildlife, have a picnic or play games.
With these tips and some enthusiasm, you don’t need to be from a lineage of fishermen to pass on the sport.
Where to go
1. Washington State Trout Fishing Derby lakes, statewide
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2013 and updated in June 2017.