First and foremost: Always ensure you and your kids are wearing PFDs. All too often we hear of people drowning while fishing, and the most common factor each time is the absence of a PFD. I also recommend beginner kayak classes for children once they are old enough to understand some basic paddling techniques and concepts. Although you may be able to teach them yourself, kids tend to listen much better when others are giving the instruction. You can then reinforce what they have learned with your own experience and knowledge. The classes help in building their confidence and yours in them when out on the water. Start out by taking them to smaller lakes. Be mindful of the weather, especially wind. I prefer visiting bodies of water with non-motorized craft rules when with the kids. It’s one less thing for them to be intimidated by when learning new skills. If your children are a little small to paddle on their own, invest in a tandem kayak. It’s a great way for them to get comfortable with kayaking, and it’s much easier to help them fish when they are close to you. As with most things, use common sense and be aware.
Keep ‘em Comfortable
Of all the things I’ve learned while trying to get my kids into kayak fishing, taking care of their comfort is quite possibly the most important. While I (and most of the kayak anglers I know) will put up with bugs, rain, hot and cold weather, hunger, and even a little snow and ice while looking for the next lunker, I can tell you kids won’t. Until such a time that there enthusiasm for fishing is as great as yours, ensuring their comfort may be the most important thing you can do to ensure they enjoy their time on the water. Food is super important to kids, and making sure you have items with you that they will enjoy definitely helps. Lots of snacks to munch on when the fishing is slow will help to pass the time; getting them involved by letting them pick out the snacks helps even more. Nothing will have them heading back to the launch quicker than being eaten alive, so be sure to hit ‘em with bug spray often. You’ll also want to be sure you have sunscreen and extra clothes if the weather changes.
Where to Go
Keep your trips short. Driving hours to your destination never sits well with kids. I’m sure we all remember long trips in the car when we were little, and the intolerable boredom that seemed to ensue. Try to focus on locations that are easy to fish. Although put-and-take stocked trout lakes aren’t always the most attractive to seasoned anglers, they are perfect for children. Smaller stocked trout seem fairly eager to bite most of the time, and when hooked can put on a pretty good show. I’m not a fan of using bait due to the higher mortality rates it can cause, but these bodies of water typically allow for its use. Bait can increase the odds of success and after all that is the prime objective when introducing children to fishing. Pike and goldeye can also be more than willing participants when your kids are fishing. Whatever location you choose, try to keep it relatively close and keep in mind kids aren’t looking for trophy fish - they’re just looking for fish, period. Any fish will do.
Stay away from the cutesy rods for kids. They’re cheap for a reason, and typically have poor quality reels with even poorer quality line. I suggest starting them out with a 5’6’’ to 6’ lightweight rod. It will for most situations, and is a reasonable length for smaller children to use. While it seems to be the norm to purchase closed-face reels for kids, I disagree. Closed-face reels can still tangle, and when they do they may just be the hardest to deal with. I find (probably because I’ve had enough of them) that tangles on open-face spinning reels are easier to deal with. With a small amount of instruction, children seem able use open-face reels just fine, and they’re usually a little happier that they haven’t been relegated to the kiddy equipment.
Overall, keep it simple! I’m sure we’ve all been outfished at some point by a kid floating a bobber and some bait. Until your kids have spent a bit of time getting comfortable with both basic kayaking and simple fishing, don’t overload them with information on specific fishing techniques. Make sure to keep it fun. Let them guide the pace at which they take in the information. If they are enjoying themselves it won’t be long before they start asking you “How…?” and “Why…?” and “When can I go again?”
About the Author: I'm addicted to fishing the waters of Alberta from a kayak. I started fishing from a kayak years ago and like most who have entered the sport of kayak angling was hooked instantly. As a member of the Jackson Kayak Fishing Team and a Kokatat Ambassador most of my free time is spent exploring the numerous fishing spots around Alberta with friends and fellow members of Canada’s top kayak fishing community, Canadian Kayak Anglers.com . I am the tournament director for Alberta’s top kayak fishing event,The Eastslope Kayak Fishing Classic.The tournament is held annually in June at Gleniffer Lake in the Red Deer area of Alberta and ,as with the sport of kayak fishing, is growing every year. Currently I am affiliated with Jackson Kayaks,Werner Paddles,Kokatat Paddling Gear and Settles Bridge Supply House. All are premier companies in the paddling industry who I am very gratified to be involved with.