Free Fishing This Weekend: 5 Tips for Fishing with Kids

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With our weather perking up, outdoor activities are in hot demand. Living in the Great Lakes State, we know fishing happens all year round. Whether you’re out on the ice, in a boat, or shore side, fishing alone or as a family is fantastic activity to take part in. Doing anything with kids can be an adventure. However, with a little extra planning ahead of time, fishing with kids can turn out to be even more fun! It is more than time to head out on the open road, pack a lunch, and seek out your favorite fishing holes in Michigan.

fishing with kids

Tip#1: Check out the Michigan DNR Website

First things first. If you are older than 17 in the state of Michigan, you are required to have an official fishing license. These can be purchased online or at a local store that is considered a selling agent. Anyone under 17 is allowed to fish but must follow the fishing rules for various species (all of which can be found on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website). The 2021 Michigan All Species Fishing License is $26 for residents of Michigan and $76 for non-residents.

Have no fear, you don’t have to spend any money if you just want to check fishing off of your summer bucket list once. This year’s free fishing weekend is June 12 and 13, 2021. During Free Fishing Weekend, you can go in any state park and access their fishing sites without having to buy a license or a state park pass for just those two days! Fishing is free state-wide, so you can also check out some of our favorite local fishing holes!

What I love about the DNR’s website is that it is very family-friendly. They even include fun, free printable certificates that you can download to celebrate your little one catching their first fish! They also have links to maps to find a perfect fishing spot near you. Seriously, this website has so much info to offer to both you and your kids.

Tip #2: Gear, Tackle, and First-Aid

If you are just getting started, an inexpensive pole for your little ones is the way to go. You’ll want to pick up a spin-cast rod. For those of us non-anglers, this is the fishing pole that has a button on it to allow for an easy cast. If you’re a bit more advanced or have older kids in tow, you may want to try a spinning rod instead. Check out this list for the 8 best kids’ fishing poles of 2021.

I recommend heading over to your local pro shop or stopping in at Cabela’s, Bass Proshop, or any other sporting good retailers that sell fishing gear. Buying in person is sometimes helpful because they can help outfit you with the equipment that suits you and your crew the best.

Speaking of equipment, we have a few miscellaneous items in the tackle box that you wouldn’t normally think of. Nail clippers come in handy to quickly clip the fishing line. Fishing pliers are most helpful when attempting to get a hook out of a fish’s mouth. Band-Aids and alcohol swabs are also necessary items to keep with you incase you accidentally get hooked. Be sure to bring a five-gallon bucket with a lid if you plan on taking your fish home.

Tip#3: Worms or Hotdogs

As a kid, Dad always made us find our own worms outside. I think he was trying to get us out of his hair for a while so that he could pack the car for our fishing extravaganzas in peace. Worm hunting can be done anywhere there’s dirt!

Encourage kids to flip over bricks, rocks, and to go digging around in flower beds and gardens to find some grub. Store them in an old food storage container or a mason jar with dirt, and you’re good to go. Pro tip: DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT accidentally leave worms in your car for any extended period of time. My husband did this one year. Let me tell you…it was one of the most horrendous smells that I’ve ever experienced.

If you’re like me and are not into hooking live worms on your pole, feel free to use the hotdog method. After my dad had grandkids, he switched from worms to hotdogs for bait. I was appalled and impressed all at the same time.

“Putting your own worm on the hook builds character,” was slammed into my brain for years. My brothers and I had to handle our own worms or we couldn’t fish. Yet, now that there’s precious grandbabies involved, they get to use hotdogs. Just cut them into small pieces and, voila! You have yourself worm-free, dirt-free bait.

Tip#4: Snacks, Takeout, and Ducks

fishing with kids
Feeding the ducks is a fun part of fishing. Give the waterfowl cut up grapes or bird seed instead of bread.

Speaking of food, you can’t just bring fish food. Part of the wonder of fishing goes beyond the tackle box. With any outing, the kids always want to know which snacks are on deck.

Pack some folding chairs, a picnic blanket, baby wipes, and, of course, hand sanitizer. I’m a big fan of packing family snacks that are healthy and reduce waste. We especially like fruits and veggies, and especially cheese and crackers. Incorporating a picnic lunch or grabbing a bite of takeout from a local restaurant will help pass the time as you also wait for the fish to bite.

Additionally, you may want to consider packing a healthy treat for the waterfowl. Ducks and geese also hang out at the fishing spot. Contrary to popular belief, waterfowl should not ingest bread. Consider bringing cut up grapes, rice, or bird seed instead.

Tip#5: Respect for the Animals

fishing with kids
We love the “Catch and Release” method. Catch, take a pic, and gently release back into the water!

Being a born-and-raised outdoorsman, my husband always reinforces the golden rule of hunting/fishing with our kids. Always respect the animals. With this being said, most amateur fishing excursions result in the catch and release method. When the kids make a catch, quickly snap a pic and gently return the fish to the water.

For the times that we are able to catch fish that meet the DNR’s standards for harvest, we take them home and enjoy a family meal. There’s something special about enjoying the catch of the day!

Whether you’re fishing for the first time ever with your kids or getting out for the first cast of the summer, fishing is all about spending time outdoors with the people you love. With a little planning ahead of time, you and your little ones can enjoy the experience together.

Don’t forget, fishing with kids counts toward your 1000 hours outside! For more ideas on how to log those hours this summer, check out Fun Ways to be Getting Outside: 1000 Hours Outside.

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