How to Practice Fishing Skills in Your Own Backyard (No Water Needed!)
Looking for a fun, outdoor adventure that includes life lessons?
Plan a fishing trip with your kids. But first, help them hone their skills, right from home.
In this article I’ll show you some fun ways to practice fishing skills with your kids before you ever head to the water.
Why Practice for a Fishing Trip?
Fishing is a fun activity everyone in the family will enjoy. It instills useful life skills, while showing your kids that patience pays off. And not much can top the feeling of catching your very first fish!
Anyone can fish. It just takes patience, practice and preparation.
If you help your children get comfortable with baiting a hook, casting a line and handling a fish before you head out to the water, they’ll be confident fisher-kids before you hit the shore.
Get your kids excited about fishing with these fun practice games. Then take them for the real thing.
Fishing is one of the best outdoor activities around. It’s an age-old activity that doesn’t require physical skill (like sports), special knowledge (like bird watching) or a whole lot of money (like just about anything else). But there are a few basic fishing skills that may take a little practice for kids to master.
If you’ve never gone fishing before, or even if you have, the practice activities will get your kids excited about the main event.
There are three basic requirements for fishing: gear, skills and location. Take the time with your kids to practice fishing skills with some fun backyard games before you get to the pond or the lake and your success rate will skyrocket.
Talk about fishing. Explain that fishing takes time, because you have to wait for the fish to come to you. Do some fishing exploration online. And share how some people fish to provide food for their families, while others fish for sport and relaxation.
Then it’s time to head to the store to get some fishing gear.
#1: Gather Your Gear
This isn’t about play fishing with toy fishing gear. It’s a fun way to practice for the real thing—to help your kids develop fishing skills and confidence at home before you head to the water for the real event. So be sure to practice with real fishing gear.
If your family is new to fishing, you’ll need to get some basic gear. The list may seem long, but once you purchase a few key items, you’ll have just about everything you need for years to come. Just buy bait for each outing and replace hooks occasionally. Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need:
- Fishing rod (or pole): If a reel is attached, it’s considered a fishing rod, not a fishing pole. Do research online or ask at your sporting goods store to find out the best setup for your kids.
- Fishing line: The higher the number, the larger the fish you can catch with it. A “10 pound test line” will work for the majority of your average fishing needs.
- Knife: Use a knife to cut the fishing line. Obviously the knife is for parental use only.
- Bait: Live bait usually works best. Ask at a local sport and tackle shop, local marina or local bait shop what bait to use. For the practice games, use gummy worms!
- Tackle box: Don’t go overboard. You only need a few basic supplies in your tackle box: bobbers, sinkers, hooks, pliers to attach the sinkers and something to cut the fishing line with.
- Bobbers: These float on the water and “bob” under when you get a fish. Get the smallest bobber you can see that still floats with the weight of the sinker and bait.
- Split shot sinkers: Fish like to hang out at around the same depth most of the time. Once you find that magic depth, a sinker will help you keep the bait at that depth, where the fish are likely to bite. Get the minimum weight that works with your bait. Use the pliers to attach 1-3 sinkers to the fishing line about 4 inches [101.60mm] above the bait.
- Hooks: Fresh, sharp hooks are a necessity. Get “barbless” hooks. The barb is the little piece of the hook that sticks backward from the tip of the hook, and is what gets caught in the fish to keep it on the line.
Safety note: If you use regular hooks with barbs, and if by some small chance a person gets hooked; don’t panic. And, don’t pull the hook out. Seek medical help at the local urgent care or emergency room. It’s a simple thing to handle for any trained person.
Ask the salesperson to show you how to use your particular fishing equipment.
Check YouTube to learn some basic fishing skills. Here are some helpful topics:
- How to attach a hook, bobber and sinker to fishing line
- How to cast the style of reel you are using
- How to bait a hook
- How to adjust the depth of your bait by moving the bobber
- How to “set the hook” and reel in a fish
- How to take a fish off the hook
- How to keep, clean and prepare your catch (optional)
Brush up your fishing skills by watching videos.
Once your kids are familiar with the idea of fishing, pull out the rod and reel in your backyard and practice casting, baiting and fishing. You kids will be packing up their gear before you can say, “Go fish.”
#2: Practice Casting in the Backyard
Casting is a fun and important fishing skill. Most kids ages 5 and up will be able to cast their own lines. When you use proper fishing gear, this step gets even easier.
Tie your heaviest bobbers onto the end of your kids’ fishing lines. Set a hula-hoop in your yard. Your kids should stand about 5 feet away from the hoop, and cast their lines so their bobbers land in the hoop.
Practice casting into a hula-hoop.
As they learn, kids can practice from further and further away. Make the target smaller for older kids. Use a Frisbee, a bucket or the hoop from a basketball net.
#3: Practice Baiting a Hook
Teach older kids ages 9 and up to bait their own hooks. Since they won’t have to wait for someone else to help them bait, your kids will do more fishing and they’ll gain a sense of confidence in being able to do it themselves.
Grab a bag of gummy worms and practice baiting a new, oversized, barbless hook.
There may still be a giggle or a squirm factor at play when it’s time to use the real-live bait, but it’s all part of the fun!
#4: Practice Handling a Fish
Fish have little spines on their backs and if you’re not careful, you can poke yourself. Use this activity to show the proper way to touch a fish.
Check out this video to learn how to properly handle a fish.
Use an orange. You can use one orange per child and construct a family orange fish or create a single “fish” for the family to share.
Push in several toothpicks in a straight line, about 3 inches long, at a 45-degree angle pointing downward.
Take turns petting the fish with your hands. Point out how when they “pet” it one way, it doesn’t poke, but the other way it does.
Explain how important it is to touch a real fish the same way they are touching the orange. This will make sure that they don’t hurt the fish’s spines or their hands.
#5: Practice Fishing
This is a fun way to round out the preparation for the trip.
Make up treat bags of trail mix or other snacks for your kids to take with them on the fishing trip.
Take a wooden clothespin and tie it onto the fishing line on a pole. Make sure that the line goes all the way to the ground.
Take the screen out of the window of your house. First floor is safest, but still don’t let young kids stand near an open window alone.
Go fishing for snacks. Drop the line out of the window. Make sure someone else is on the ground by the open window. Have this person pin the treat bags onto the fishing line, and then “tug” the line like a fish.
These simple activities will help your kids prepare for the upcoming fishing trip. Ask them if they have any questions about fishing. Look up anything you don’t know in a book or on the Internet.
#6: Go Fish
To find the best spot to fish, look online or ask around. Contact a local bait and tackle shop, and tell them you’re new to fishing and are looking for a safe, fun place to take your kids to fish. You may want to include the ages of your kids.
Ask questions like:
- Where’s the best place to possibly catch a fish?
- Is there a place with a play area for younger kids?
Plan your fishing trip according to the ages of your kids. Older kids will want to fish for a few hours, while younger ones will most likely be done after only 1 hour. If your family has a range of ages or attention spans, here are some ideas:
- Set a time limit. Tell the older kids that you’re leaving after X amount of time, so they know that in advance.
- Find a fishing spot near a playground or bring along some toys or activities for younger kids to do when they’ve had enough fishing.
- Divide and conquer: have one adult take the younger kids home when they’re done, while another stays to fish longer with the older kids.
Time to go fishing! Remember, just because it’s called a “trip” doesn’t mean you’re going for days. Unless you’re planning a camping trip, fishing trips just last a few hours.
Pack up your car the night before to make the trip even less stressful and to ensure you don’t forget anything. The morning of the trip, put ice in your cooler if you plan to keep the fish you catch.
Once you get to the water, set boundaries for your kids. Let them know where they’re allowed to travel alone and where they’re not.
Set up your gear. Put the bait on the hooks, and cast on out. Your kids will be pros after their practice in the backyard!
Have fun catching the fish and enjoying the day together.
HINT: Hold the fish towards the camera so it looks even bigger!
Take that hula-hoop you used for casting practice, tie it onto some line and toss it out into the water. Your kids can try to get their hook to fall into the hoop.
Be careful with this and let only one person play at a time. When they reel their line in, the hoop will come in too. You don’t want a hoop being pulled in three different directions!
Fishing is more than a fun family adventure. It’s a hobby you can learn and enjoy together. This will make for wonderful memories for years to come.
Some Final Thoughts…
A fishing trip can last a couple of hours or a whole weekend. You can fish far away or nearby, anywhere there’s a fishing hole, lake or pier. Before you go, you can “fish” in your own backyard.
Fishing with your kids can seem overwhelming, but when you plan and prepare correctly it will be easy and fun. Gather everything you need, including ideas for locations, from your local tackle store.
Your kids will acquire skills and knowledge before they even get to the water. This will allow them, as well as you, to get the most out of the experience. They will learn patience while they fish, as well as the joy of rewards when their patience pays off. The look on their faces as they catch that first fish is priceless!
What do you think? Have you ever been on a fishing trip with your kids? What are some of your favorite things to do before or during a fishing trip? We would love to hear (or see) your thoughts and ideas. Let us know what you’ve done or share some pictures with us in the comments.
Marissa and her husband Eric have two kids and love to spend time outside. They founded FamilyLifeUniversity.org whose mission is to inspire Christ-centered Meaningful Marriages, Proactive Parenting, and Family Fun. Other posts by Marissa Dingler »