Fish n’ Kids

Fancy a spot of fishing with the little ones but don’t know where to start? Avid angler Scott Cushman offers a handy guide

From the moment Maui hauled the North Island from the depths of the Pacific, fishing was cemented as the de rigour Kiwi pastime, and many a magical childhood memory involves a hook, line and sinker.

The local wharf can be ideal for catching a few sprats and intriguing the children with a couple of wriggling little wonders swimming around in a bucket. Late summer or early autumn can be the best time to fish from shore as many fish species feed hungrily before moving out into deeper water.   

Gear guide

Don’t panic if you don’t have any gear. The simplest method to catch a fish for a beginner is with a hand line from a wharf. Lines and hooks are cheap to purchase from a local tackle shop where the staff can give you the best advice on tying knots, baiting, and handling fish. Don’t be shy about asking lots of questions!  A fishing rod and reel is a step up from a hand line and you’ll need a few simple instructions on how to use it. Ask around to see if you can borrow one before you invest in the kit. My number one tip for taking kids fishing is to use small hooks (size 12, which are about 15mm long). Small hooks quickly catch small fish; and small fish are always more fascinating to children than no fish.   

Check list 

  • Fishing hand lines 
  • A range of hooks including small hooks 
  • Bait and bread 
  • Sharp knife for cutting line 
  • A rag to handle fish and wipe slime off hands 
  • Bucket and rope to lower bucket and fill with water 
  • Sunscreen and hats 
  • Snacks, patience and a sense of humour! 

Bait basics

Frozen pilchards are a popular bait but fresh pipis from your local supermarket are arguably better. Take some bread with you to soak in water and flick into the tide. This will attract the fish to your location (think mass marketing) and get them interested in biting. 

Health and safety

Fishing has an old school, rustic appeal, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the safety basics, especially if you’re with children. Before you head out, check the weather and sea conditions. As a general rule of thumb, wind blowing stronger than 16-20 knots can get uncomfortable unless it is coming from directly behind you when fishing on the wharf. You can check www.swellmap.co.nz for your local conditions. If it’s a hot day don’t forget the sunscreen, hats and plenty of water. You might want to take snacks too, and hand sanitiser in case there’s nowhere to wash your kid’s little mitts when they’re desperate for a biscuit.

Keep an eye on kids at all times and watch they don’t get too close to the edge. Be careful when using hooks as they can be excruciatingly painful to remove from a finger. Use a rag to handle fish as they have spikes that can surprise the inexperienced. 

Some fish species have size and number limits and must be thrown back whether alive or dead as soon as possible – see www.mpi.govt.nz/travel-and-recreation/fishing for more. 

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