With sunny weather on the cards and a welcome break from work and school, Easter is the perfect time to get children fishing.
The closed season might have kicked in on rivers, but there are loads of waters that are not only open, but really waking up at this time of year.
So where should you start? From having a crack at your local stillwater, to enjoying discounted fishing and special events, Dom Garnett shares eight timely tips to make it an Easter break to remember.
1. Sort out your fishing licenses for free!
Do children need a fishing license in the UK? Well, the good news is that the system has recently changed to encourage youngsters to take part and make the sport more affordable for families. So, if your kids are 12 or under they don’t need a license at all. If they’re 13-16, they will need to register for a license, but this is completely FREE! You can do this online whenever you have five minutes spare.
You will still need a day ticket on many lakes, but many venues offer these to kids for half price. Typically you’ll be looking at between £3 or £5 a day. Angling clubs are often cheaper still, with heavily discounted season tickets for under 16s.
2. Local tip-offs & smaller, well-stocked fisheries
Most of us will get a day or two off work in the next fortnight, but the golden question is where to go fishing? Sure, you can surf the internet for likely hotspots, but nothing beats speaking to locals. Take ten minutes to ask pals in the know, or pop into your local tackle shop for a pint of maggots. They’ll give you tips on the best places to go.
Given a choice of venues, look for smaller, well-stocked lakes. In these places, fish are plentiful and not hard to locate. Unless your kids have done lots of fishing already, size isn’t so important. It’s all about having fun and getting bites. Commercial lakes also tend to be safe and have shelter and toilet facilities.
3. Simple float fishing is best
Unless your youngsters are a bit older and experienced, keep things simple. The best way to get going is often basic float fishing. Whether it’s with rod and line, or a pole, watching a float is fun and gets them concentrating on those key early lessons. Our Beginner’s Guide to Float Fishing has loads of useful tips.
On many day ticket lakes, the best spot is near the bank, or just a little further where the bottom drops away a little (usually not more than a rodlength or two!). Take your time picking swims and get your apprentices to help make the choice by looking for features and fish moving.
4. Fishing basics first
Most kids will be raring to fish immediately, but there are some quick jobs to do first. Include your learners as much as you can and do your best to answer their 101 questions! Always start by plumbing the depth before you fish. If you can show them how to do this, and set up with the hookbait at just the right depth (start with it just about touching the bottom), they will spot bites better and catch more fish, period.
Another (often neglected) key skill is to test your gear and get things perfect before you get fishing. Weight that float carefully, so that just the very tip is showing. Test the drag on your reels too, so that it gives out line with a steady pull. It could be the difference between landing that first proper net-filler and getting snapped off.
5. Ways to get more bites when starting out…
When fishing with kids, getting bites is important. Ok, so fishing is not all about catching, but if you’re going to sustain their interest most youngsters need encouragement. A couple of key lessons will greatly increase the number of bites they get!
One is to use fine line and smaller hooks. Too many beginners don’t catch because they use crude gear. Try small barbless hooks in sizes 12 to 16 to start, along with low diameter lines of 4 or 5lbs breaking strain. Pre-tied hooklengths and ready-made pole rigs can be useful here.
The other essential tip is to feed bait little and often. Not kilos of the stuff, but perhaps a dozen maggots or tiny pellets every three or four minutes. This brings the fish in much better than just the occasional handful. When you are setting up or sorting tangles, this is also an excellent job to give to kids to stop them getting bored. Just try to make sure the bait keeps going in the same spot and not all over the place!
6. Help out, but don’t do it all for them
Perhaps the most common trap for parents and coaches alike is to try and do every essential job going. From tying knots to unhooking fish, it’s often tempting to take over. But if you do it all yourself, how are they going to learn?
A great rule is to do each essential task slowly, but with the message: “you watch me first, then you try it.” You might need to show them a few times and they will make the odd mistake, but this is the best way to learn. Even better, you’ll gradually get more peace when you fish yourself, because they won’t ask for your help every five minutes!
7. Plan B for a bigger fish
As mentioned, getting bites is what it’s all about for most kids who haven’t done loads of fishing. But there’s no harm in mum or dad sneaking along an extra rod, just to try for a ‘bigger something’ in between all the bites, laughs and tangles. The learners are sure to be impressed and it could add extra excitement to a fun day out.
For the ultimate, no-nonsense trick to bag a carp on most day ticket lakes, look no further than the method feeder with a large hookbait (see our guide to feeder fishing). Be warned though – bites are so positive on the method, the rod could get pulled in, so do keep an eye on it! For safety, use a baitrunner type reel in free-spool mode, or set the drag lightly.
8. Make it a social day out or join an event!
Being a fishing mum or dad can take patience. It can be tricky to do your own angling and sometimes you’ll wish you had four arms instead of two. This is where a bit of friendly help comes in.
Why not club together with friends or family to make it a social day out? If the weather’s fine, you could always combine it with a picnic. Do warn non-anglers that you’ll need at least three or four hours to make it worthwhile, though. Have a plan B too, so less keen family members can take a walk, or do something else for a bit.
If you want some expert help and even better value, why not join one of the many free fishing events around the country? There are usually various family days and taster sessions for beginners in the Easter and Summer Holidays (be sure to check your local fishing club’s website and Facebook page!). There are also lots of events and discounts available on day ticket lakes all over the country with the Take A Friend Fishing (TAFF) scheme. See if you can find some cheap fishing near you.
Wherever you decide to fish this Spring, enjoy your time out on the bank. Days like these make precious memories and turn keen youngsters into lifelong anglers, so treasure them! And if you do make it out with the family, share some photos on the Fishtec Facebook page, which is always worth checking for news, tips and offers. Don’t forget to check out our other blog posts too, including our Fishing with Children article.