Jon Sutton

The Treasure State is home to some of the most enjoyable fishing opportunities in the country. Yet while plenty of adult anglers get out and enjoy Montana’s waters, it is important that we introduce the next generation to the sport.   

But to spark a child’s interest in fishing, you’ll definitely need to, you know, catch fish.

Children rarely it relaxing to watch a float bob up and down for extended periods of time; most kids (and some adults) consider this boring. Of course, that all changes when someone hooks a fish. At this point, you’ll see nothing but smiles, excitement and a bit of curiosity as they wait to see what type of creature will emerge from the depths.

There are obviously no guarantees, and even the best planned fishing trips can end with empty stringers and long faces. However, you can certainly increase your odds of dragging a few fish from the water by embracing the following tips and tricks.

1. Target easy-to-catch species.

Don’t waste your time chasing after native trout, bass or sturgeon when you are trying to introduce your children to fishing. Even if you manage to hook one, your kids are unlikely to do the same.

Instead, target panfish or catfish. Both of these species tend to be plentiful, ravenous and easy to catch. These species also tend to be less skittish than bass and trout, which means they’ll continue to remain in the area, even after your little one decides to start splashing the water with his rod tip. As an added bonus, panfish and catfish make for great table fare.

2. Use simple equipment.

Children as young as 8 or 9 can often learn to wield a fly rod or walk a topwater bait across the surface, but these skills require time and practice to acquire. Instead, you want to use very simple rods and tackle when first introducing your kids to the art of angling.

Cane poles are the simplest fishing rods, and many children enjoy using them. They completely sidestep the need for your child to cast or retrieve a bait; instead, they must simply detect the bite and lift the fish from the water. Alternatively, spin-casting combos are a great option for young anglers, as they feature a closed reel, which will limit backlash problems and tangles. However, most youngsters can also learn to use an open-faced spinning reel if need be.

3. Use live and real baits.

Experienced anglers who enjoy the challenge of fishing typically prefer to use artificial lures or flies. But when you are just trying to put fish in the boat, you’re better off using minnows, nightcrawlers or cut fish (in waters in which they are allowed), rather than jigs, spoons or plastic worms. Real baits will not only draw more strikes, but they’ll lead to fewer snagged lines and technical problems.

Willing youngsters can often learn to bait their own hook, but many are put off by the slimy nature of worms and fish. However, you can use kid-friendly baits in many cases. For example, corn is often effective for catching panfish and trout, while catfish can often be caught on hot dog slices or prepared baits. Most kids will be comfortable touching these types of baits.


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