It was 40 years ago, but I can still remember catching my first fish.
The image of the sun reflecting off that little silver-flanked Gippsland bream as I clumsily wound it in is still seared into my memory.
From that moment on, I was hooked!
My love of fishing has since grown from a hobby into an obsession. A big reason for this is the positive angling experiences I had as kid.
When I was taken fishing by my dad or my grandfather, I had fun. Make fishing fun and you’ll reel in a junior angler for life. Make fishing tedious, stressful or both, and kids will often turn their back on the sport for good.
With summer holidays upon us, plenty of families are set to hit the water with rods, reels and tackle in tow.
Summer is the ideal time to introduce kids to the joys of fishing. The weather and the water are warm, the fish are plentiful and work and school are, for the most part, on hold.
To get the most out of your family fishing time these holidays, here are a few tips and tricks that will ensure everyone involved has fun and the youngsters come back for more.
The best way to make fishing with kids a positive experience is to catch fish–any fish!
Kids getting started in the world of fishing don’t care if it’s a tuna or a toadfish – as long as they catch something.
On the south coast, bread-and-butter species that are easy to find, easy to hook and entertaining on the end of a line are in abundance. Whiting, mullet, small bream, yellowtail and slimy mackerel spring to mind, but there are plenty more.
Closer to home, Canberra’s lakes are full of redfin and carp, and they’re relatively easy to hook and great fun to catch.
Bait fishing is probably the best option for young anglers as it tends to result in more action, even if it is in the form of undersized fish.
Why not involve kids in the bait-gathering process. If you’re holidaying on the coast, get them pumping nippers, netting prawns or trapping poddy mullet. Often they’ll enjoy it as much – if not more – than the fishing itself.
If you’re fishing in the freshwater, nothing beats a bunch of earthworms or a small yabby. These can be fun for the kids to find, too.
Tackle choice is critical if you want kids to enjoy their fishing. The biggest mistake I see people make when wetting a line with young anglers is using sinkers and lines that are too heavy, and hooks that are too big.
Fish–even tiddlers–aren’t completely stupid. If they pick up a bait that’s weighed down with a heavy lump of lead or connected to a thick strand of nylon line, they’ll quickly wise up.
When you’re fishing with kids, light is right. Use the smallest sinker and lightest line you can get away with. If you can, use no sinker at all! You’ll get more bites and catch more fish.
Under most circumstances, less is also more when it comes to hook selection. After all, as the old adage suggests, you can catch a big fish on small hook, but you can’t catch a small fish on a big hook.
The exception is when toothy critters like flathead or chopper tailor are around. If you’re targeting fish with a decent set of dentures, use larger hooks.
If you want young fishers to get the most out of their angling experience, equip them with the best gear you can. While you certainly don’t need to go out and spend hundreds on rods and reels, avoid buying cheap ‘toys’ that simply won’t do the job.
I’ve seen kids hook their first ever fish on a ‘toy’ rod and watched helplessly as the cheap imitation breaks or fails, absolutely ruining what was supposed to be a memorable and enjoyable moment.
Shop around and it’s possible to get what I’d regard as a good quality rod and reel ‘combo’, which would be right at home on a south coast estuary or a local freshwater lake, for under $50.
Safety is paramount when taking kids fishing, so choose your location carefully.
If you ask me, the ideal place to a take a kid fishing is a gently sloping sandy beach on a typical south coast estuary.
An area like this is safe, easy to fish and often productive, especially for kid-friendly species like whiting, bream, mullet and flathead. A small piece of bait–a peeled prawn, whitebait or even a bit of bread–-fished over the sand on a light rig will soon elicit some bites and the young ones will have a ball.
For older children or more experienced young anglers, any jetty or rock wall on a saltwater river or lake will produce fish over summer. Areas like this that feature structure will often harbour bigger fish, but they’ll be a challenge to land.
As kids progress, you can always improve their skills and enhance their experience by taking them on a guided fishing trip or charter boat.
There are plenty of reputable guides and charter operators on the south coast who’d be happy to introduce a young angler to new species and different forms of fishing.
There’s even a local guide right here in Canberra that can take the kids out on Lake Burley Griffin and help them catch a nice redfin or golden perch–right in the shadows of Parliament House!
I hope you all get the opportunity to relax and wet a line over the holidays. If you’ve got kids, take them with you and remember a few of the tips and tricks mentioned here.
Above all, regardless of where you go and what you fish for this summer, make it enjoyable. Take plenty of snacks and drinks, keep sessions short to alleviate boredom, and let the kids do things other than fishing if they lose interest.
By creating an overwhelmingly positive experience, you’ll have them begging to come with you again!
Kids and fishing – top locations
Close to Canberra and blessed with plenty of land-based options, the Clyde River is a first-rate place to introduce kids to fishing. Try the strip of sand on the northern side of the river, adjacent to the bridge. The wharves in Batemans Bay and Nelligen are also worth a cast.
The tiny estuary at Tomakin is one of the best spots on the south coast to take youngsters fishing. The little beach near the main boat ramp is safe and easy to fish for a range of species, including whiting, mullet, bream and flathead.
Narooma’s Wagonga Inlet can be a hard estuary to fish, but the boardwalk that snakes its way around a portion of the inlet is a pretty handy land-based spot for kids. It even boasts some purpose built fishing platforms complete with seats and rod holders. Species include bream, blackfish, garfish, mullet and flathead.
Lake Burley Griffin
It comes as surprise to many, but Burley Griffin is full of fish. Carp and redfin abound, and while they’re undesired feral species, they’re great fun for kids to catch. Virtually any area of the lake is worth a cast, but favourite spots include Molonglo Reach, the shoreline near Kingston/Telopea Park and the area around the Yacht Club at Yarralumla.
Lake Ginninderra is very popular with carp fishers. The western shoreline in particular is good for land-based fishing and is a terrific place to connect to a big carp on light gear. Drown a worm and you may also catch a redfin or golden perch.