Outdoors column: Strategies for putting kids on fish

by Steve Carney
Contributing writer

My job as a fishing guide puts me into a ton of unusual circumstances where it is my mission to put people on fish.Most of my clients throughout the world are basically business people, celebrities and out-of-towners that have little time to spare and I have to put them on action pretty much right from the opening bell.

Ten-year-old Sophia Nimsger of Eden Prairie caught and released this largemouth bass.
Ten-year-old Sophia Nimsger of Eden Prairie caught and released this largemouth bass.

Frequently I have the task of taking out very young children often under the age of 10 and that’s when the challenge gets difficult as it is very difficult to provide a proper morning on the water with children that young.

Believe it or not I have had some excellent mornings this summer with very young children and I would like to share some thoughts on some of the tricks I employ to get the job done.

There is no doubt that putting young children on fish is the greatest challenge and then again is one of the most rewarding parts of the guiding business a well.


My number one priority is safety. Oftentimes the adults in the group do not accompany their children and I often find myself alone with full fishing responsibility of young children. Without mom or dad in the boat, my work is cut out for me.

Child-size life vests are an absolute must. These young kids tend to spend way too much time looking over the side of the boat and a life vest alleviates some of my stress and yet provides a life saving piece of insurance.

I always try and keep the kids in the lower portion of my 19-foot boat but because children are children they don’t often remain there.


One of my rules of thumb regarding young children is to abandon the idea of casting.

Having children casting baits with exposed hooks is a recipe for disaster. I always make it a point to use the wind to my advantage and always drift along my chosen fishing spots with everyone fishing off the same side of the boat.

By turning the boat parallel with the break or weed line you can use your electronics to drift along the sides without having to make casts.

I just help the child let a good amount of line out and then have them close the bail and get ready for action.

I teach them to gently lift and drop the baits and with a little effort they can trigger strikes by the lift and drop method. I find this technique far superior to even bobber fishing because young children do not necessarily have the patience to sit and stare at the same object hour after hour.

I frequently have the child reel in the line periodically to check the bait and give them something to do in the process.

By helping them along they can do the lion’s share of the fishing without casting and jeopardizing the occupants in the boat.


I do not have specific gear for smaller children but have a selection of short, five-foot rods with very small spinning reels that work well with kids.

You can’t expect a kid to handle an adult-sized rod and reel but rather downsize the setup to alleviate the weight.

Often the ice fishing reels I use in the winter make excellent summertime choices for kids. Having the kids using a somewhat adult size setup gives them confidence and they feel more adequate and on the same level as their adult parents.


Species don’t matter to a child. It’s the action part they crave and I always target the easier species during midsummer such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike and some panfish.

Using baits such as Power Minnows, Power Worms or even small, live sucker minnows can be excellent, all-species choices in midsummer.

Use these on a quarter-ounce jig and use the drifting method along your favorite break line, weed edge or shoreline drop and you will be in business.

And by the way, keep the trips limited to three hours at the max… keep them hungry for more.

Steve Carney is a regular contributor to the ABC Newspapers Outdoors page.

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