Kiran Walgamott shows off one of several nice yellow perch he caught on the south end of Ferry County’s Curlew Lake in late August 2019. (Andy Walgamott)

Land some quality time: How to introduce your kids to fishing


By Danny Garrett and Michael Foster, WDFW

Taking children fishing is a great chance to pass on an important tradition of fun, food, and conservation to your family. Even if you’re new to angling, it’s an opportunity to bring your loved ones together to learn a new skill and maybe create a new tradition.

But how best to get children involved?

Here we’ve collected tips and tricks from WDFW biologists on fishing with youngsters to help make your outing a success:

Getting started

· Be patient and adjust how much time you plan to spend fishing. A 2-hour outing is more reasonable than 4–6 hours on the water with young kids.

· Leave expectations at home and bring an open mind to the lake.

Blake Nordlinder holds up his opening day catch of rainbow trout in 2014 at Lake Margaret in King County. (Danny Garrett)

Where to go

· Pick a lake with good access. Lakes with county or state parks often offer ideal shore fishing opportunities. You can start your search here.

· Look for higher rates of success. Try looking for lakes that have been recently stocked with trout. Most lakes are stocked in the spring. You can find out what lakes have been stocked here.

What to fish for

· The lowland lake trout stocking is one of the best opportunities to introduce kids to fishing. Lakes that are stocked with trout in the spring usually fish very well into June. The whole family can also take part in the free 2023 statewide Trout Derby:

· Yellow perch and other warmwater fish, such as bass, bluegill, and crappie, are also good for sparking interest in kids. Trout fishing slows a bit during the summer when yellow perch fishing comes on strong. But perch will move off the bank in summer to waters that are 5–20 feet deep, so a boat or fishing pier will help.

Baits and lures

· For trout, try a slip-sinker rig with floating bait, such as PowerBait or a worm and a marshmallow:

· For perch, try a dropshot rig, which is a dropshot hook tied 12 inches above dropshot weight with a worm on the hook:

These kids had a successful day of trout fishing in 2015 at Lake Holm in King County. (Dana Bennett)

Best times of year

· Trout fishing is at its peak from May through June and again from September through October when water temperatures are cool and trout are hungry.

· The best time for yellow perch fishing is from June through August, but they can be caught all year.


· Children 14 years of age or younger do not need a license to fish. Adults can help and are not required to have a license if they won’t be fishing.

· Adults and older teens who will be fishing can buy fishing licenses here. There are several types of fishing licenses to choose from. Make sure to choose the license that is appropriate for what you will be fishing for. The following licenses are for fishing trout, perch, and other freshwater species.

o Annual Freshwater License

o Annual Combination License

o Annual Fish Washington License

o Annual Get Outdoors Package

o 1–3 Day Combination Licenses

Take the lead

· Beginner trout anglers sometimes use a leader that is too short, so their bait gets buried in the weeds just offshore. By tying on a slip-sinker rig with a long leader of 3–4 feet to a size 8 hook and a floating bait, you will float your bait above the weeds for the trout to easily find.

· If you’re not having any luck, keep moving your bait around. You are likely fishing too shallow or too deep if you’re not having any success.

Keep boredom at bay

· While waiting for a trout to bite, talk with your kids or play a fun word game. If the kids are younger, bring a few games to keep them occupied until the fish cooperate.

· Remember, you’re not letting that bait soak until dark so tell the kids your plan for moving the bait if nothing bites. Always keep them engaged in the process of fishing, even if there’s very little to do.

OK, we caught something, now what?

· Bring a cooler and ice so you can properly care for your catch. Keep the fish chilled, and if you’re catching trout or salmon, cut the gills and bleed the fish before placing it on ice.

· Back home, look up a quick how-to video on cooking what you catch, and you’re on your way. Most importantly, this is the part of the process that often hooks kids, so include them in cleaning and preparing the catch.

Providing food for the table is something to be proud of, and you can share that success with your kids. Tight lines to you and your family this season!

The before-you-go checklist

· Rod and reel

· Line, hooks, sinkers

· Scissors, fillet knife, pliers

· Bait

· Licenses, if needed

· Snacks and beverages

· Cooler with ice

· Sunscreen, bug repellent

· Weather-appropriate clothing

· Camp chairs

· Rod holder

· Games



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.