Guest Post By Jon Sutton
Michigan provides a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy with your family, but few are as ideally suited for a day of bonding as fishing is. Most kids love learning how to fish, and if you implement the tips and tricks detailed below, they’ll likely have a great time and be eager to fish again in the future.
But, before you head down to your local lake or river, be sure to familiarize yourself with Michigan’s fishing rules and regulations, to ensure you stay on the right side of the law. Kids in Michigan can fish without a license until they’re 17, but you (and your spouse, if appropriate) will need to obtain one.
1. Set your children up with age- and size-appropriate equipment instead of hand-me-downs.
Don’t set your kids up for failure by handing them a few of your old rods and reels. They’ll need smaller, simpler gear while they’re learning the basics of casting and reeling, and an adult-sized rod will likely frustrate them. A 5- to 6-foot-long spinning or spincasting combo will suit most youngsters well.
2. Ignore the warry species and target the aggressive feeders.
Michigan is home to a number of celebrated gamefish, including northern pike, walleye and largemouth bass, among others. But, you’ll want to ignore these difficult-to-catch species in favor of bluegill (or other panfish) and catfish. Both species are typically quite abundant, and they are usually much easier for youngsters to catch.
You can fish for bluegill and catfish in a number of Michigan’s lakes and rivers, but a few deserve special consideration. Grand Lake, located right outside Kralow, is full of both species and provides several opportunities for fishing, whether you are doing so from a boat or the bank. If you can, be sure to check out Black Bass Bay, as it is a particularly productive fishing spot in the lake. On the other hand, if you live in the upper peninsula, you may find Big Manistique Lake to be perfect for a day with your kids. There aren’t many catfish in this body of water, but it is full of bluegill.
You can also try your luck in Lake Michigan, Lake Huron or Lake Erie, if you like. Bluegill and catfish are a bit less common in these lakes, but perch – another easy-to-catch species – are quite abundant in each.
3. Use real bait rather than lures.
Artificial lures may be popular with advanced anglers and line the shelves of sporting goods stores, but your children will have a much better chance of catching fish if they use real baits. Worms, leeches or crickets are a few of the best options. Just thread them on a hook and tie a float or sinker about 1- to 2-feet above the end of the line (use a float if you’re targeting bluegill, but a sinker if you are fishing for catfish).
4. Make sure your kids are dressed for the weather.
Uncomfortable kids can become cranky very quickly. Try to avoid this problem by ensuring that your kids are dressed for the weather. Because temperatures often range between chilly and hot during Michigan’s spring and fall, layers are ideal. This way, your kids can add or shed items to cope with the temperature changes. Don’t forget to coat your kids with plenty of sunscreen and bug spray too.
5. Fish alongside your kids.
Because you’re more likely to detect nibbles and hook fish than your kids are, it is wise to keep your own line in the water at all times. If you get a nibble, set the hook securely and pass the rod to one of your kids so that he or she can battle the monster and enjoy all of the glory. Just be sure that you give all of your kids a chance to reel in a fish to avoid hurt feelings.
If you employ the tips and tricks above, you’ll have a great chance of catching a few fish with your kids. Just make sure that you keep a positive attitude and provide plenty of encouragement to your children if the fish don’t seem to be cooperating, and everyone will still have a pretty good time
If you’d like to learn a few more ways to improve your kids’ chances of catching fish, be sure to give Outdoor Empire’s article on the subject a read. There, you’ll have the chance to learn a little more about picking out equipment for your kids, selecting the best baits and targeting the best species.