Fishing With Toddlers
If I was totally on top of my editorial calendar game, I would’ve done this article in late May or June when school was letting out. I’ll justify my recycling of classic So Cal Salty content by saying I know all you parents out there are busy people. Perhaps some well intentioned, “This is the year I take (insert name) to do some ocean fishing” got lost in the hustle and bustle of summer vacation. I get that. Well, there is one more big weekend, Labor Day, coming up, so seize the opportunity to be a cool parent and make a family memory.
So what constitutes Kid Friendly Fishing? Start with patience. Kids will get tangled. Kids will get bored. Kids will get hungry, thirsty, need to go to the bathroom etc. etc. And inevitably, it will happen when you’ve got a bite on.
Just remember that the kid is your first priority.
Their safety and enjoyment = your long term happiness of developing a fishing buddy for life! And if you can get a kid on a bite, they’ll get “it” and want to replicate that experience, so be patient.
What should a parent look for on a boat to ensure it’s kid friendly?
Number one, is the boat safe? Does it have all the proper safety equipment? Does the captain do a safety orientation at the beginning of each trip? Does it have clean restroom and eating facilities? Is there a good high rail around the entire perimeter of the boat? Is the crew friendly and patient? Is there a place for a kid to hang out to get out of the elements or just get out of the way of the other anglers if they’re not into fishing? Ideally, you want to scope these things out BEFORE you take out your kid. At the least, look for these things before you leave the dock and bail if it doesn’t pass muster. It’s also a good idea (if possible) to take your kid out fishing off the dock before you commit to a boat trip. Let them practice some of the essential skills in a low pressure scenario before they get out on a boat…the proper way to cast (look behind you before you let it rip), baiting a hook, using your thumb on the reel (conventional) to prevent a birdnest etc. Diligence to these things upfront, help ensure a fun trip for the both of you later.
What should I bring on the boat? Here are some essential items that every angler should have, but more so if you’re with a kid.
- Hats with a brim – the sun is more intense on the water and you’re spending more time exposed to it
- Sunscreen & lip balm- make sure you get your neck and ears and use lip balm that has SPF protection
- Sunglasses – the sun reflects off the water and you need to protect your eyes
- Water – can be bought in the galley, but you may want to bring your own
- Extra tackle – kids tangle up, lose tackle etc. make sure you have extra (or cash to buy some from the boat)
- Camera – make sure you’re ready when they land their first fish
- Handtowels – bait and fish can be messy
- Bandaids and first aid ointment – little nicks and scrapes happen, better to be prepared
If all the above sounds like a little too much…
5 Simple Parent Cheats
- First time out = Half day boat
- Seek out a deckhand, introduce yourself, let them know you’re new (or that you’re taking the kid out for the first time), slip them some money and say you’d appreciate them keeping an eye out for Jr.
- Pay attention to the fishing tutorial at the beginning of the trip
- Have cash on hand – you need it for food, fish cleaning, tips. When a kid learns they can charge stuff in the galley by giving them a bag number…
- If anyone needs to throw up, go over the rail – NOT IN THE GALLEY OR RESTROOM!
Good luck if you get out there!