Wednesday, April 21, 2021

How to Take Your Kids Fishing in Connecticut: Guest Post by Fishing Father


As we turn the corner into our second spring of COVID and everyone is getting restless.  The kids are chomping at the bit to get outside and run around and you’re probably just a little bit sad that some of your usual spring activities are still on hold.  If you’re searching for a new activity to try with your kids that is safe and socially distant, you might want to take up fishing.  It gets your kids outside, they’ll love it, and there are few places more socially distant than the middle of a lake.  Win-Win-Win.

 There’s only one small problem: fishing is hard, or less you would have already done this.  No worries.  I’ll get you up and running so you can have a fun day fishing with your kids in Connecticut.  Indeed, I have an entire website devoted to helping parents learn how to fish with their kids,, but this article will give you all the practical knowledge you need to get going.


In this article, I’ll set you up with the proper gear without wasting your money, help you find a fishing spot in Connecticut (or elsewhere) that works well with kids, teach you how to catch a fish, and give you some tips to help you save a day when things don’t work out, so you can still be the hero.  Interested?  Then read on.


Gear Up

 Before you can take your kids fishing, you need to buy or borrow some gear.  Do yourself a favor: leave the kids at home while you go get this.  If you bring your children with you, I guarantee you that you’re leaving the store with a rod that “looks cool” as opposed to a rod that “makes sense.”  Remember, this could turn into a life-long passion.  Why buy a little princess rod that your daughter will only want to use for a year or two before it becomes embarrassing to her?


Rod & Reel

I once wrote an entire article on what the best fishing rods are for kids, but I’ll cut to the chase: get your kid an Ugly Stik that is about 4’6” to 5’ long for little kids (2-7) and 6’ long for older children.  You want something light and small enough that they can use comfortably. 

 I do recommend a spinning rod (this will be right on the label) as opposed to a casting rod.  The difference, essentially, is what type of fishing reel pairs with them.  Spinning rods accept spinning reels.  Casting rods accept baitcasting reels (which are a big NO-NO for kids) and spincast reels (which some people recommend for children, but I view as unnecessary and wasteful as they’ll soon fall out of favor from most anglers).

 Some Ugly Stiks come with a reel, which is fine.  If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to buy one.  I recommend getting one that is on the smaller size as it balances better and is easier for kids to use. 

 Fishing Line

 You will also need some fishing line if your combo doesn’t come with one.  I’ll make it super simple for you.  Use Berkley Trilene XL monofilament in 6lb test.  This is inexpensive, available everywhere, easy to work with, and strong enough for most fish your kids will catch from shore.

 Hooks, Weights, and Bobbers

 Tackle shops can be overwhelming (though I prefer the term, “breathtaking”).  They don’t need to be.  All you need is a box of hooks, and maybe a box of sinkers (weights).  Don’t bother with a bobber.  I know this may be counter-intuitive to you.  After all, when your grandpa took you out when you were a kid, he put a bobber on, right?  Well…  Are you now a full-grown adult who is reading an article about how to start fishing?  I guess that bobber didn’t enamor you, did it?

quote about fishing


Anyway, move past those red and white bore-balls and just buy a hook and perhaps some sinkers.  Use common sense when buying the hook.  Buy one that is small enough for a sunfish or other small species to get into its mouth.  I sometimes see rookies fishing with enormous hooks and while I admire their optimism, I don’t recommend going all-in like that.  Fishing with kids is about catching quantity.  Small hooks do that.


As for weights, you can buy little sinkers that look like teardrops, or you can simply scrounge up some nuts and bolts from home if you prefer.  Just make sure they’re relatively small (I like 1/8 oz). 

See – I told you this would be painless.  You walked into a tackle shop filled to the ceiling with all sorts of lures, but all you need to have fun with your kids is a hook.

 Where to Buy Your Fishing Gear

 If you’re reading this in Connecticut, your best bets for purchase is going to be Cabela’s in East Hartford, Bass Pro Shops in Bridgeport, or one of the two Fishin’ Factories (Plantsville and Middletown). I used to love going to Dick’s Sporting Goods, but they’ve recently remodeled some stores (such as the one in Plainville) into giant leotard warehouses, so not all of them carry fishing tackle anymore.  Call ahead!

 Finding the Right Fishing Spot

 If you aren’t that experienced at fishing, water looks like water, right?  Yet only some parts of that water will be productive for catching fish.  Much of this can be trial and error but there are a few things to keep in mind:


1.       You need to find a spot that has enough shoreline space for kids to cast and play near.

2.       This spot should be next to water that is at least 3’ deep and preferably reaches 6’ with a cast.

3.       This water should be near some sort of cover (meaning weeds, rocks, sticks, etc.) that fish can hide in.

4.       This cover should not be so thick that you can’t effectively fish it without snagging your hook.

5.       This spot should be next to a playground or park where you can move on to PLAN B if the fish aren’t biting.

 If you want to find spots like this on your own, just drive around and take a little walk.  It will be easy to see where most of the popular fishing spots will be because they’ll be worn down and sandy from all the people standing and fishing there.  Bear in mind that these spots fill up early.  Note that I did write an article with some great fishing spots in Connecticut that you can read here.

bass fishing ct

 If you want another shortcut, you might install the Fishbrain app.  It’s a nifty little program that takes satellite images of your local lakes (and they all are on there) and then allows its users to share data about where they caught fish.  This is great because you can find the lake or pond you’re taking your kids to and then zoom in to see where most of the data entries are.  If you find a spot with many clusters, chances are it is a good fishing spot.  As of writing, it costs $5.99/month.  I know that may seem a little steep for something your kids “might” like, but you can always cancel after your first month.  Anyway, you spent all that money on a rod, reel, hooks, line, and sinker but you don’t want to toss $5.99 at an app that will literally show you where to use them?


 What is a Good Time to Try Fishing?

 During most of the time of year you’d think about going fishing (meaning, during warm weather) fishing is going to be best early in the morning or late in the evening.  Fish tend to congregate in the shallows where they can be reached from shore during these times and are feeding actively.


Fishing in connecticut

In Connecticut, May is a FANTASTIC month to go fishing with your kids.  This is because many sunfish can be found extremely close to shore (so close that you can usually see them).  They are there to spawn their own young, and to feast on the eggs of largemouth bass.  They are very aggressive at this time, concentrated, easy to find, and easy to catch. 

 “The Spawn” can continue through June in Connecticut.  Once you hit July, it is mostly over, and aquatic vegetation growth is going to limit the places you can reach from shore.  While fishing is still good, it becomes more challenging and will remain so until about September when the cooling temperatures warn fish that it’s time to start feeding heavily and they again become easier to target.


How to Catch a Fish

 Notice that I entitled this section, “How to Catch A Fish” and not “How to Catch a Trophy Bass.”  If you are taking your kids fishing for the first time, they do not care what kind of fish they catch—they just want to catch something.  A running theme of my blog and my book is that every parent’s goal is to get a fish into the livewell or bucket as fast as they possibly can.  This means you’re targeting sunfish first and foremost.

connecticut lake fishing

 Catching sunfish isn’t that hard if you find a spot that has them.  It’s basically a matter of putting a worm in front of their face and managing to hook them as they peck away at it.  Most of these little fish have been caught so many times already that they know what the deal is and they try to nibble away at the edges, but eventually, they’re going to make a mistake and you’ll get them.  Just make sure you’re holding the rod when they bite so you can set the hook quickly and snag them.


I recommend using a technique called a “drop shot.”  It is simply a hook that is tied about 12” above a sinker, or weight.  You cast it out, and you hold onto the rod while you slowly work it back to shore.  Your child will feel every nibble this way and get the full excitement of feeling a fish take its first run after it feels the hook.  This is much better than having them stare at a bobber.


I’d recommend using worms such as nightcrawlers, but if you can’t find any or are against that for moral / “yucky” reasons, then some small 2” minnow-shaped lures from Berkley Gulp also work very well. 

 This article will teach you exactly how to tie a drop shot and cast it out.  Just make sure you’re holding onto the rod while you’re fishing, so you can feel a bite.  When you get a nibble, set the hook by snapping your rod back a few inches to drive the hook into the fish’s mouth.  Then, holler “fish on!” and hand it off to your child. 

 The handoff can be a bit tricky.  Your main goal is to ensure that there is no slack in the line when you give your kid the rod.  Any slack will more than likely let the hook slide out, so be sure to keep a tight connection before you hand off the rod to your little one.


What to Do When the Fish Aren’t Biting

 So, my son is going to start roller hockey on Thursday.  They have this little “learn to skate” program at Plainville Indoor Sports Arena that I signed him up for.  I’m a bit concerned that he might hate it, or it might not work out, so I’m pitching it to him as, “Let’s go to the rink, learn to skate, and get a cotton candy Slushy afterwards!” This way, if the skating doesn’t go so well, it still ends on a good note for him.

 Apply this tactic to fishing.  If you don’t make the trip exclusively about fishing, then it cannot completely go wrong if the fish aren’t biting.  Instead of saying, “Hey do you want to go fishing?” ask, “Hey, should we go to the park?” Bring a ball with you.  Make a picnic.  Include that treat your kids always ask for. 

 You can also say things like, “Hey, let’s practice our casting” rather than “Hey, let’s catch a fish.”  Then, if you do catch a fish, it’s super exciting, but if you don’t, well, that’s not really what you set out to do in the first place.

 You’re the one in charge, so you set the parameters.  Don’t box yourself into a corner where you’re going to “fail” if something as unpredictable and finicky as a fish doesn’t play along. 

 If you really want to try and salvage a fish out of the trip, bring a second adult along.  One of you should fish until you hook one and can call the kids over.  The other should play with them and distract them so they’re having fun.  What you don’t want to do is make the kids sit next to you, bored, while you stubbornly keep trying.  That’s a guaranteed way to make them hate this great sport.


Fishing is a wonderful activity to share with children.  It has all the things they love: water, slime, and animals.  I completely recommend that you try this with them this summer.  After the kind of year we’ve had, it could be just the ticket to break the monotony. 

 Even though it seems a little scary, you can do it.  Keep things as simple as a worm on a hook, have a Plan B, and leave the bobber at home.  I’ve sprinkled a few helpful hints in this article, but feel free to visit my blog for more in-depth help.  You can also feel free to reach out to me directly.  A friend of Jamie’s is a friend of mine and I’d be happy to help you.


Have a great day for fishing,


John Paxton

Fishing with Kids: A Parent’s Guide