This blog was submitted by Jon Sutton of OutdoorEmpire.com.
Taking your kids on their first fishing trip is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a little family bonding time. They’ll likely have a great time and you’ll form memories that will last a lifetime. And your next Indiana vacation is the perfect time to bust out the fishing poles and hit the water. Indiana not only provides a wealth of water to fish, but it also provides a beautiful backdrop to enjoy while fishing.
But – and this is crucial – you’ll have to do everything possible to catch fish when introducing your children to the sport. Kids grow bored quickly, and a frustrating day of fishing will often cause them to lose interest. Fortunately, you can improve your chances of catching fish with the kids by simply embracing the following five tips and tricks.
Tip #1: Outfit your kids with simple gear and tackle.
Don’t overcomplicate things when teaching your kids to fish; doing so will only result in headaches, frustration and tangled lines. Set up your children with a 4- to 6-foot-long spinning rod and spinning or spin-casting reel. Spinning reels are more effective for serious fishing, but spin-casting reels feature an enclosed design, which will reduce the amount of tangles you’ll need to fix.
Don’t forget to obtain the proper licenses before heading out to the water. Children 17 years of age or younger do not need a license to fish Indiana’s public waters (regardless of whether they are residents or non-residents), but you will need one. Resident licenses are only $17, although you’ll also want to get a trout/salmon stamp ($9) if you intend to pursue these species. Non-residents will pay about twice as much for an annual fishing license, and will need a trout/salmon stamp to fish for these species; however, the state also offers a number of short-term licenses that may suit visitors better.
Tip #2: Target easily caught species, rather than skittish gamefish.
Indiana harbors a number of different gamefish you can target, but only a handful of the state’s native species make good targets for children. Your kids won’t, for example, have much luck trying to catch largemouth bass, walleye or pike. However, they may be able to fill up a cooler by targeting bluegill, catfish and, to a lesser extent, perch – all of which are common in most of Indiana’s public waters. These species are more tolerant of splashing and noises, and they don’t often examine baits with the same level of scrutiny that many of the more popular gamefish do.
Tip #3: Use effective baits, whether they come from the bait shop or your kitchen.
Artificial lures may be the rule for advanced anglers, but novices will enjoy much more success by using real baits. Worms, crickets, leeches and wax worms are some of the most popular choices, and they’ll typically tempt the palates of bluegill and catfish. You can also use items from your kitchen, such as doughballs, kernels of corn or hotdog slices (which are particularly effective for catching catfish). Perch often prefer live minnows, although they occasionally take worm- or insect-baited hooks as well.
Tip #4: Pick a location with adequate amenities.
Many of the problems that frustrate youngsters on their first fishing trip arise from a lack of comfort. Accordingly, you’ll want to fish in locations with things like water fountains, bathrooms and picnic tables, to help keep your kids as comfortable as possible. It is also wise to fish in places that allow you to park relatively close to the water, so you can forgo lengthy treks.
If you are planning to visit the Indianapolis metropolitan area, Eagle Creek Reservoir is a great option. Not only does the reservoir contain tons of bluegill and catfish, but there is a local outfitter on site that rents boats and sells bait, refreshments and other necessities. There is a small fee for entering the park, but it is well-worth the expense. On the other hand, if you are staying in the southern reaches of the state, Patoka Lake is a great option. If you plan on visiting the northern portions of Indiana, it is hard to find better fishing opportunities than Lake Michigan.
Tip #5: Be sure to keep your own bait in the water.
In order to give your kids the best chance of catching fish, be sure that you keep a baited hook in the water while fishing with your kids. This way, if you get a nibble, you can hand off the rod to your child to reel in. Reeling in the fish is the most fun aspect of fishing, and most children will love this almost as much as they would if they’d hooked it themselves.
If you’d like to learn more about the strategies, gear and techniques that will help you catch fish with your kids, check out Outdoor Empire’s comprehensive article about the subject.