Fishing is a fantastic family activity that will get your kids away from the digital screens and indoor lighting that normally surround them, and giving them the opportunity to engage with the natural world and enjoy some fresh air.
North Dakota’s Fargo Park District offers an ideal place to start, so you should start planning your kid’s first fishing trip now. But you’ll need to prepare properly to have the best chance of catching fish and having a good time, so be sure to embrace the following suggestions.
Get Your Gear Together
Fishing isn’t terribly expensive when compared to many other vacation activities, but you will need some basic equipment to get started. You’ll need a size-appropriate spinning rod for each child (something in the 4- to 6-foot range is ideal) and a spin-casting or spinning reel. Most sporting goods stores carry rod-and-reel combos designed specifically for kids; most also come with a handful of tackle and some fishing line too.
Get Your Paperwork in Order
It is also important to instill the importance of following all local fishing regulations, so be sure to visit the North Dakota Game and Fish licensing page first and obtain the appropriate licenses and tags. Don’t worry: Even the non-resident fees are very reasonable, and children under 16 do not need a license to fish with a licensed adult, unless they are fishing for paddlefish. North Dakota’s Fish and Game Department offer a number of fishing license packages to suit just about any family’s needs.
Pick a Good Location
Fish don’t distribute themselves uniformly throughout a river or pond. Instead, they tend to congregate in a few small portions of any given body of water. Serious anglers are fond of saying that 20 percent of the water holds 80 percent of the fish. And while this is an oversimplification, it does make the point well. This means you don’t want to just pull up to the local fishing hole and chuck a few baited hooks into the wide-open water. Instead, you’ll want to concentrate your areas around sunken trees, rock piles or current breaks, as fish tend to hang out in these types of areas. You can also fish stocked ponds, such as the Woodhaven Fishing Ponds, which are usually packed to the gills with aggressively feeding fish.
Target Appropriate Species
Your youngsters may want to target gigantic pike or largemouth bass after seeing one mounted on the bait shop wall, but they’ll have much more fun targeting fish that are more abundant and easy to catch. That typically means targeting bluegill, perch or channel catfish. These species are bolder than wary bass or pike, and they are also less finicky when it comes to lures and baits. Bluegill and perch are also abundant and outnumber bass and pike by a 10:1 ratio or better, which increases your odds of getting bites. Besides, bluegill, perch and catfish are very tasty and make great table fare.
Use Effective Baits
Advanced anglers often prefer to use artificial lures when fishing, but your youngsters will achieve far more success by using live baits. Worms and leeches are the most common and effective baits for catching panfish and catfish, and they’ll even produce perch, although not as reliably (perch often prefer small minnows). But you can also use a few items from your kitchen as bait. Tiny, formed doughballs are very effective for catching bluegill, as are single kernels of corn (which may even tempt the odd trout). If you are after catfish, try using hotdog slices, grapes or chicken livers.
If you’d like to learn more about catching fish with your kids, check out Outdoor Empire’s comprehensive review of the subject. It includes information about everything from techniques and tackle, to strategies for combating boredom and fostering a healthy appreciation for the outdoors.
This article is credited to Outdoor Empire