Keep it simple
Most of us have enough gear (some of us take it all with us) to outfit a whole fishing village. With kids, you want to limit what you bring along. One rod will do it for them, and cut down what you bring for yourself. With older kids that are in their own kayaks, I will keep a spare rod with me so I can rig it with something different and swap it out when the bite changes or if their first rod becomes tangled.
Be a Guide
Remember you are the kids’ guide, and the best guides are teachers. Explain to them why you are having them do things, and what you see. Have patience and try not to get frustrated. They might not get it right the first time, or the tenth, but when they do it will be well worth your effort. Don’t let younger kids get frustrated by having them do too much. They don’t all bait their own hooks at first. Give them a break - soon enough they won’t want your help.
Keep things interesting
Live or cut bait is usually the best bet to get kids on fish but if the action is slow switch it up - tie on a plug that they can pop across the surface for a few minutes. It might not catch a fish, but it will break up a slow day. Kids like catching big fish as much as we do, but a day full of catching smaller fish can be a lot more fun for them. With older kids, let them explore the area you are fishing, or take a break and let them jump in and swim.
Choose the Right Kayak
For younger kids, I like kayaks with a rear-facing front seat. This keeps backcasts away from your face and lets you help them a lot easier. There are several kayaks available that have these options, and on the plus side a lot of them work just as well as a solo kayak. When kids start to get into their own kayaks, pay close attention to the width of the kayak. A narrower kayak will keep them from beating up their knuckles, and take less effort to paddle. Stability is less of an issue for them due to their lower weights and, well, just being kids.
Keep Them Safe
Get the kids comfortable PFDs. They need to wear them the whole time, and if they aren’t comfortable it can ruin the trip. Don’t get in over your head. Remember: It’s not just you that you need to save if your kayak tips and adding extra weight will make your kayak react and handle differently. Kids get tired quickly, so be prepared to tow them when you run into current or wind. A short bungee cord tied into your tow rope will make this easier on you. [What an awesome idea! Ed.]
The Little Things
Pay attention to the small details, like sunscreen and sunglasses. Kids will remember getting a bad sunburn on a fishing trip. Don’t plan on staying out on an epic all-day adventure. Keep it short at first, and steadily increase the durations – soon the kids will outlast you! Bring along some special snacks. I like to pick up a few things that they don’t normally get at home. Start or continue traditions! I remember going to get breakfast after early-morning striper surfcasting trip with my grandfather. Now my son wants to stop at the diner, and sit at the breakfast bar to talk fishing with the old-timers after our striper trips.
Most importantly, make the fishing trip about the kids, and they will remember it. Maybe one day they will pay you back and take you out!