Tips For Northern Freshwater lake Fishing With Kids
Im Chad Nelson, husband to a supportive wife and father to two energetic boys. Despite growing up in South Florida, most of my favorite childhood memories were from times spent at a humble cabin on the edge of a 148 acre lake in Northern Wisconsin. When I was really young, I loved catching panfish off the pier with my dad and grandpa. As I got older, I transitioned from catching bluegill and perch using worms and a bobber, to catching walleye, musky, and northern pike on artificial lures. While my time on the water is now spent fishing the flats of Biscayne Bay and Everglades National Park with my wife and two sons, I also get to take them up to that same family cabin to experience fishing in the North Woods. There’s obviously vast differences between inshore saltwater fishing and fishing in freshwater lakes and ponds, however, when it comes to fishing with kids there are some common strategies that will ensure your experience freshwater fishing with kids is a success!
Go With The Flow
Although my boys have caught bonefish and other prized inshore saltwater species, they almost always prefer catching small snapper up in the mangroves. Similarly, while I always envision them catching northern pike or musky in freshwater, they almost always want to catch bluegill, perch, and crappie. Although we often take them out on the boat in the hopes of catching bigger fish, sometimes they prefer to just fish off the dock where they can watch fish after fish eat a worm or minnow. Why? Because kids don’t typically understand the “allure” and “mystique” of the more prized species. Kids are impatient, and most importantly, they don’t understand delayed gratification. So as parents we can either choose to push kids hard to fish like we want to, making thousands of casts in a day for a chance to catch the fish of a lifetime, OR we can go with the flow while they are young to help them learn to love fishing. All kids are different, and some may be ready to fish all day long. But by going with the flow you won’t burn your kids out, and over time, you can begin to introduce them to other styles of fishing that take more patience, focus, and maturity.
Keep It Simple - Live Bait
Just like inshore saltwater fishing, using live bait will ensure that your kids have the best chance of catching fish at your local lake or pond. Although live worms are the quintessential bait for panfish like bluegill, sunfish, perch, and crappie, I actually prefer for my boys to use live minnows under a bobber. In my experience, live minnows attract more fish due to the natural action they provide, and minnows also allow the potential to catch larger fish such as bass and pike. Live leeches are also another “go to” bait that we like to use when fishing in areas where small mouth bass, perch, and walleye are present. Leeches can be rigged on small J hooks under a bobber just like minnows and worms. You can also rig leeches on a small 1/16 to 1/4 ounce jig that can be jigged on the bottom, however, this style often requires a little more patience. Similar to minnows, leeches provide the opportunity to catch fish large and small. If all else fails, and the fish aren’t biting, kids love playing with live bait.
Artificial Lures For Kids
When your kids are ready to transition to casting artificial lures, one of the best options for kids that works in both fresh and saltwater, is a paddle tail (swim bait) rigged weedless on a weighted hook. Although a Texas-rigged plastic worm is the classic artificial bait for largemouth bass, paddle tail baits are typically better for young kids because they don’t have to worry about a finesse retrieve and can focus on simply casting the bait and reeling it in. When moving through the water, the paddle tail moves back and forth as it swims, creating a natural action/vibration to attract fish and increases the chances of kids getting bites. My favorite paddle tail for both fresh and saltwater applications is the Torrent Outdoors “Stone Roller”. I recently took my boys to a small farm pond in Maryland where they both caught a handful of largemouth bass on the Stone Roller rigged on an Owner ⅛ ounce twist lock hook. The weedless set up allowed the paddle tail to slide through thick weeds and lilly pads without issue.
Another great option for kids is a small in line spinner bait such as the Beetle Spin. A Beetle Spin consists of an artificial grub rigged on a small jig and inline metallic spinner that flutters as it is retrieved. This lure is extremely easy to cast, and is capable of catching any fish that swims in freshwater. We find that the Beetle Spin is best in areas with minimal weeds or grass, when used in low light or overcast conditions.
Get Out There and Make Some Memories!
Whether you decide to use live bait or artificial lures in freshwater, the most important thing is to make sure you go with the flow to ensure your kids have a great time. Not everyone has the opportunity to go inshore saltwater fishing, but there is a pond or lake in nearly every city in America. Get out there, use these proven tips, and make some memories with your kids!
Stay hooked fam