Jon Sutton, contributing writer
There are plenty of ways to enjoy a weekend morning in Utah with your children. But teaching your kids how to fish and introducing them to the world of angling is undoubtedly one of the best.
Fishing is a healthy, constructive activity, which helps foster an appreciation for the natural world and an understanding of the interconnected nature of the state’s wildlife, habitats, and people. Plus, it will help get your kids away from the digital screens and get them some fresh air and sunshine.
But you can’t just grab a rod and head down to the water — you will have to prepare carefully to ensure your children have a good time and a reasonable chance of pulling out a few fish. Just follow the five tips below to set yourself up for success:
1. Provide your kids with the proper equipment. Don’t force your kids to learn to fish with your old hand-me-down rods. They will likely be too large and complicated for your kids, and they will lead to nothing but frustration. Instead, set your youngsters up with a 5-to 6-foot-long spinning or spin casting combo, which will be easy for them to cast, reel, and control.
2. Target kid-friendly species. Adults and experienced anglers may prefer targeting pike, trout, or bass while fishing, but these species are often wary and difficult to catch — that’s part of their appeal. Instead, you will want to catch bold, easy-to-catch species when introducing your kids to fishing. Bluegill, green sunfish, channel catfish, and bullhead are among the best species to target when teaching your kids to fish in Utah.
3. Use real or live baits instead of artificial lures. Experienced anglers often have great success by using jigs, spinnerbaits, and other artificial lures, but kids will have much better luck by using real or live baits. Just set them up with an earthworm-or-cricket-baited hook and tie a float about 1 foot above the hook if you are fishing for panfish. If you are targeting catfish or bullheads, swap out the float for a sinker to keep the bait closer to the bottom.
4. Select a good location. Don’t complicate your day by taking the kids to a crowded fishing hole, where they will have to battle for room and avoid hooking other anglers. Instead, try to pick out a relatively low-traffic fishing location, with plenty of open space and room. Additionally, try to encourage them to cast away from obvious snag-hazards, like sunken logs or pier piling.
5. Fish alongside your youngsters. Battling a big fish is one of the most exciting aspects of fishing, so you will want to do everything possible to help your kids get the opportunity to do so. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by fishing alongside your kids. After all, you’re more likely to get nibbles and set the hook properly than your youngsters are. Just set the hook well when you get a bite and pass your rod to one of your kids so that they can battle the big beast and enjoy all the glory.
Don’t forget to obtain a valid fishing license before heading to the water with your children. This way, you can set a good example for them and avoid any run-ins with local law enforcement during your otherwise-awesome day.
Note that while most states allow youngsters to fish without a license until they reach 16 to 18 years of age, the state of Utah requires children to obtain licenses once they turn 12 years old. You will also want to familiarize yourself with the state’s laws and regulations to ensure you stay on the right side of the law.
If you would like to learn a few more tips and tricks for teaching your kids to fish, check out Outdoor Empire’s guide on the subject. There, you will learn a few more strategies for making the most of your child’s first fishing trip and increasing your odds of catching fish.