Memories with Dad – searching for the perfect fishing hole, getting your very first fishing pole and your first big catch. As kids, we remember these moments forever, and it’s the little things that stick with us. It’s not about the big boat; or stopping at nothing to bring home a bucket of fish; or spending time buying all of that high-quality fishing equipment. Favorite memories derive from laughing, simplicity and just being together. So before you head out on your first fishing trip this summer, remember this, keep it simple.
According to Neal Ramsey, guest experiences director – West at Great Parks of Hamilton County, the first experience means everything.
“You need to make this a fun experience,” Ramsey says. “It’s got to be something they’re going to want to do again.”
What you don’t want is to plan for a 4-hour day, and no matter if your kid is tired and ready to go home, you push to hit your fishing goal. If they are ready to leave, then call it a day. Afterall, it’s not all about catching a fish, it’s about spending time with your kids. Ramsey suggests letting your kids have a say in the day. If they get distracted and want to run around in the grass, let them. If they decide they want to skip rocks, great!
“Kids will let you know when they are ready,” he laughs.
They will have fonder memories of your time together. Their memories of the nifty fishing equipment and those long boating excursions with you juggling life vests and hawling bags and supplies? Not so good, and they may not be so excited about your next fishing trip together. The goal is to make it fun.
DOs and DON’Ts
DO plan for a shorter day.
Simplicity is key and you don’t want to drag out the day. “Set it up for a fun day,” Ramsey suggests. “If they don’t want to leave, bonus!” Set aside enough time for fun, but don’t expect it to go as planned.
DO pay attention to weather.
Is it cool and windy? Chance of rain? This will make a huge difference, especially if you plan on casting your line from a boat. If it rains, don’t grab the umbrellas and head out anyway. There will be more sunny days.
DO go to “small” water
Especially if your kids are still little, according to Ramsey, smaller lakes and ponds make it easier to catch a fish. As they grow older, you can start experimenting with larger lakes and heading out on the boat.
DO choose live bait
This is the easiest way to catch a fish if you’re a beginner. If it’s their first time fishing, use live bait such as mealworms or wax worms — everything that swims will eat it. Or even better, if you have a yard, have the kids search around for nightcrawlers the night before!
DON’T carry too much
Keep your equipment light. The last thing you want is to lug along loads of heavy equipment and use your time together getting it all setup. Your fishing rod, your kids new fishing pole, bait, snacks, sunscreen, water, hand sanitizer and towels. Done.
DON’T target a specific fish
This can be way too complicated, especially with younger kids. Whatever they catch, whether it be a giant catfish or little tiny bluegill, make a big deal of it!
DON’T stay in one spot
Move around and let your kids have a say on where they want to go next. Ask, “What looks good to you?” Ramsey says it’s all about their level of experience. If they are younger and you’re not getting a bite for the first 5 or 10 minutes, move on!
DON’T take anything for granted
Ramsey says safety first. Be mindful where you choose your fishing spot, watch the kids closely, and never let your kids bait a hook or handle fishing equipment by themselves unless they already know how. Guide them through it and assist them with their first cast. When they catch their first fish, Ramsey suggests “doing the dirty work for them” by taking the fish off the hook and then showing them their accomplishment.
Finding Your Kids’ First Fishing Pole
When they are little, all they care about are the colors and cool design. Start them off with a little kiddy push button reel and rod combo – you can find a huge variety of Disney characters and more at your local store or on Amazon. Then let them practice casting and “catching fish” out in the yard. As a rule of thumb, get a fishing pole that is the same height as your kid.
By the time your kid is not so little anymore, about 8 years old, they may be ready for their first fishing pole spinning rod and reel combo. Combos are simpler and better deals rather than buying them separately. It’s best to keep it inexpensive, especially if they are just starting off. Kids will give wear and tear to their fishing poles, plus, you won’t be so heartbroken if they accidentally drop the fishing pole into the lake or ground. It’s all the fun, right?
“Every kid is a little different, but by the time they’re 8 years old, they can cast,” says Ramsey.
Most kids’ poles come with a casting club, so it makes it easier to learn. Once you teach them to cast away – leave a foot of line before you cast, safely check your surroundings, swing over your shoulder, cast and let go – it’s time to take them to the lake. From there, you can bait their hook for them, put their bobber on, and let them have a blast.
“The more you engage with them, the more interesting it is for them,” says Ramsey. “Before the ‘You caught one!’ you should have already given them a good experience.”
Choosing a Fishing Spot
We live in an area with an array of beautiful fishing spots that are a quick car ride away. Consider some of these fishing spots. Tip: call before you go and don’t be afraid to ask if the fish are biting or once you get there, ask where the best fishing spot is!
MIAMI WHITEWATER FOREST
9001 Mt. Hope Road, Harrison, Oh; greatparks.org/parks/miamiwhitewater-forest
MITCHELL MEMORIAL FOREST
5401 Zion Road, Cleves, Oh; greatparks.org/parks/mitchellmemorial-forest
LAWRENCEBURG LUDLOW HILL
PARK Bielby Road (S.R. 48) on Ludlow Hill; bitly/2WLpnu6
FOLZ FISHING LAKE
7312 Bridgetown Road, Cincinnati, Oh
50 Thornton Ave., Cincinnati, Oh; greatparks.org/parks/fernbank-park
3251 Brookline Ave., Cincinnati, Oh; cincinnatiparks.com/central/burnetwoods
Fishing Licenses Ohio
• You must carry a fishing license if you’re over age 16.
• You must carry a fishing license to take frogs and turtle from private bodies of water.
• Keep you license with you (can be displayed using a mobile device).
• Purchase a license at ohiodnr.gov.
Fishing Licenses Kentucky
• Resident and nonresident children under 16 do not need a license to fish.
• For pay lakes, you need a Kentucky fishing license or a free permit issued by the operator.
• Licenses and permits are not required for the first Saturday and Sunday in June during Free Fishing Days.
• Learn more at fw.ky.gov.