What To Take With You When You "Take a Kid Fishing"

  • Fishing can be extremely simple and inexpensive and still provide great recreation and opportunities to have fun and spend quality time together.  The most basic needs are a fishing line, a hook and some bait.  The line can simply be wrapped around a can, but a basic cane pole with no reel is easier to handle and normally a better choice.  For bank fishing with a cane pole and live bait (for example, crickets or worms), simple sinkers and a bobber are useful.  Such a kit can be put together for less than $20.  Other rod-and-reel options and suggested gear are listed below.  See the section on HOW TO to learn to use this equipment properly.
  • Rod--The simplest fishing rod is a cane pole.  It can be homemade or bought for a few dollars.  In freshwater, a utilitarian rod is medium-weight, 6 to 6.5 feet long and designed to match the type of reel you want to use.  For spincasting reels a pistol grip with relatively evenly sized line guides on top.  For an open-faced spinning reel, the guides will be underneath, and the rod should have larger line guides near the handle graduating out to smaller guides at the tip.   For bait casting, the reel will go on top, the handle may be straight and the guides are pretty even in size.  Heavy saltwater rods and custom fly rods can get quite pricey, but for taking a kid fishing aren't necessary.  Mid-range rods are often sold as sets with reels attached, and for the novice this is a good way to ensure the rod, reel and line are properly matched.  An inexpensive spincasting rod and reel combo can be purchased for about $20 that will last, or less expensive youth models can be bought for less than $10.
  • Reel--Closed-faced spincasting reels are button-operated and mount on top of the rod.  The enclosed fishing line is less likely to get tangled, making them an excellent choice for a kid's first reel.  Make sure the handle is reversible, especially if your child is left-handed.  Open-faced spinning reels are a little more sensitive, and in the right hands, a comparably priced open spinning reel may be a little farther-casting and more versatile.  However, they are subject to backlashes that create "bird's nests" of your fishing line, so there may not be quite as good a choice for the novice.  Bait-casting reels are the ones that have fishing line rolled on them more like a spool of thread and the spool spins to release the line.  This is the next step up in most circumstances and requires a little more practice to become proficient.  A flyfishing reel simply holds the line, which is manually striped off by the angler and the whipping motion of the fly rod is used to cast the lure.
  • Fishing line--Various types exist, from basic monofilament to braided to new super polymers.  For the most part you want to match the weight of the line to your rod and reel, and to the end-tackle you'll be using.  For bream in freshwater 4-8 pounds is good, for bass 8-20 pounds and in saltwater 8-50 pound test may be needed--around 12 would be good for redfish.
  • Hooks--Hooks need to match the fish that you are seeking based on the size of the fish's mouth.  Sizes are a bit confusing they run from about 30 (the tiniest) to 1 and then start climbing from 1/0 to 12/0 (a big shark hook).  A small bream hook is typically 10-6 (10 being smaller) and should have a relatively short shank.  For freshwater bass, larger hooks (3/0 or 4/0) are very popular and typically have a slightly shorter shank.  For saltwater trout and redfish  2/0 or 3/0 would be good starting points.  As you get more specialized, there are bait hooks with small barbs for helping hold live bait on, and circle hooks, which are highly recommended, because they tend to hook more fish in the lips allowing safer live release, and offset hooks for rigging rubber worms and jerk baits.  Treble hooks are three hooks mounted together and typically used on hard lures, but they have some notoriety about hooking fish in the gills, which reduces the fish's chance for survival when released.
  • Bait--Whatever you use to attract a fish to bite your hook can be called bait, whether it's alive, dead or man-made.  For catfish it might be chicken liver, or a smelly ball of cheese or bread impregnated with scents.  However, most people think of baits as being things like crickets or worms for catfish and bream, or small fish like minnows and shiners for bass, to bigger fish for going after large saltwater fishes.  How you handle the bait is important to keeping them alive, so that they'll be active when hooked. Worms for instance need to be cool and moist, and fishes need to have oxygenated water.  Please don't release any live bait alive when you are finished, since they can contribute to the spread of diseases.
  • Lures--These are the man-made baits that come in an infinite variety of colors, sizes and shapes.  A basic jig is good for most species, if properly sized. A jig is a hook with a heavy weight attached directly to it, around which a skirting or plastic lure or perhaps natural bait (e.g. pork rind) might be attached.  Bass anglers often use soft plastic baits like, worms, crawfish or jerkbaits and rig them to an offset hook with a sliding weight.  Spoons are flat, metal lures shaped somewhat like the bowl of a spoon with a single embedded hook or trailing treble hook and are quite versatile.  Plugs are typically wood or plastic with a cupped front face and lip that makes them dive to different depths.  Spinners have a metal blade that twists as it goes through the water creating flash and noise.  Poppers and flies are typically smaller and often used with flyfishing or ultralight tackle.  Some rules of thumb are bigger baits for darker waters or in heavier cover with gold or silver colors, smaller baits with dark colors such as grape in clearer waters.  An important consideration is the hook size should match the fish you are after, and it needs to be of an appropriate weight for the rod/reel and fishing line you are using.  For 2-4 pound test (ultralight) use a 1/64-1/16 oz. lure; for 6-8 pound test use 1/32 to 1/8 oz. lures; for 10-14 pound test you can go with a 1/8 to 3/8 oz. lure and medium action tackle.  Lures will typically be retrieved using various speeds or interrupted patterns of retrieving and then letting the lure settle.  Experiment with your lure where you can see it to determine how to get the most action from the lure.
  • Floats--Floats or bobbers are typically used with baits rather than lures.  The float should be big enough to suspend the bait and sinkers without going more than half-way under water.
  • Sinkers--come in various shapes as well.  In saltwater, large pyramid-shaped weights are useful in choppy surf.  A bullet or cone-shaped weight is typically threaded over the line in front of soft plastic lures.  A split shot is often placed above crickets or worms and below a float when fishing for bream or catfish.
  • Sunscreen--In Florida sunscreen is essential for both you and taking a kid fishing.  A 30 SPF waterproof sunscreen is a good choice.  On the water don't go less than 15 SPF; 45 or more is probably safer.  Fishing is a lifetime sport, and a lifetime of sun exposure, regardless of your complexion, can lead to deadly skin cancers if you don't protect yourself.  Get kids to start the habitat of applying sunscreen early.
  • Sunglasses--Another very important item to bring and use to protect your eyes and enhance your vision through the water is a pair of sunglasses.  Polarized lenses will significantly increase your ability to see fish and your bait through the glare on the surface of the water.
  • Hats--As with sunscreen and sunglasses, hats are important not only for style but also for safety and comfort on a hot or rainy day.
  • Insect Repellant--Unfortunately, it isn't only fish that like to bite at dawn and dusk, and some of those pesky insects (especially mosquitoes and ticks) can carry diseases.  You don't want to ruin a great family outing because you need to leave early to avoid the bugs.
  • Water--Carry plenty of fresh drinking water for everyone in your party.  It is easy to get dehydrated in Florida's sun, and you sure don't want to have to head in early because you didn't plan ahead.
  • Pliers--Or special hook removers are useful for extracting hooks from the fish's mouth without getting your self injured (depending on the species; some fish have sharp teeth, gill covers or spines in their fins).  They are also important in the event someone gets stuck by a hook.
  • First Aid Kit--Just part of planning ahead, when you're with kids, it's always good to have a few antiseptic wipes and band aids along.  Having some aspirin, or medicine for sea sickness if you are going offshore is also useful.
  • Snacks--We're just helping you plan ahead, watching the fish eat up all your bait can be hungry business.
  • Rule Book--The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is constantly evaluating the health of various fish populations and determining what anglers in particular communities want from their local fisheries.  In order to sustain a dynamic fishery for the future and keep users content, it is an essential part of conservation management that we implement recommendations that spread the bounty among users and prevent over-harvest of the fish populations.  We try to keep the rules simple, but you should always check for the current regulations and bring a copy with you when possible.  Remember teaching kids the "right way" from the beginning is an important part of getting them off on the right track.
  • Camera--A kid's first fish is a big deal.  Make sure you get a photo.  Besides, you can bet you'll see plenty of great natural smiles during a good fishing trip--so preserve the memory, even if you release the fish.
  • Tape Measure--Having a tape measure is important to complying with the law, since there are size limits on many species of fish.  How to measure fish.
  • Towels--It's also useful to bring a few old towels, paper towels or wet naps with you.  Fish have a "slime" layer that is very sensitive and helps protect them from infection. You and the kids you are fishing with should avoid rubbing it off, if you are going to live release the fish, but unavoidably some will get on them and some kids will want to wash it off.  Remember, you want to think ahead to make fishing as pleasant an experience as possible in all ways and use it as an opportunity to teach important lessons about nature and responsibility.
  • Rain Gear--Summer afternoons in Florida have a tendency to turn unexpectedly to rain, and in winter boat rides can sometimes become chilly if the water splashes on you. So rain gear is another possible consideration.
  • License--Fishing licenses confer the privilege of fishing to adults over 16 years old.  Residents over 65 are also exempt, and several other special exemptions apply.  It is easy and inexpensive to purchase a fishing license.  A resident annual license for fresh or salt water is $17 plus handling fees, and they can be purchased online at MyFWC.com/license, by calling 1-888-FISH-FLOrida toll-free, at local bait-and-tackle shops or major sports retailers. All license fees go to support fish and wildlife conservation in Florida, including youth education programs. Many exempt individuals choose to buy a license in order to help contribute to the future of our resources and the quality of their sport.  See Licenses for more details on the type of license you need, exemptions, how the fees are set and what they are used for.

FWC Facts:
Since 2008, our Fish Camp Program has expanded by 300 percent.

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