A Step-by-Step Guide for Teaching a Toddler to Fish

young girl holding hooked fish

There are few joys in life that can match that of fishing. Even if you spend a day on the creek and don’t catch a thing, there are few activities that offer the same opportunity to relax while enjoying the great outdoors.

If you’re a parent or a grandparent to a youngster between the ages of two to four, you might wonder if fishing with a toddler is possible.

It is entirely possible to teach a toddler how to fish. Doing so simply requires some patience, safety awareness, and planning. With these elements, you can help your toddler develop the basic skills essential to angling.

Teaching a toddler to fish is a great way to help them develop manual dexterity while instilling their confidence. It also shows kids the entertainment that can be found in nature.

If you want to prevent an overdose of screen time, fishing with a toddler is a great way to cultivate outdoor activities that could turn into lifelong habits.

What Age Should I Teach My Child To Fish?

There is plenty of advice available for parents who want to teach their grade school-age kids how to fish. When you’re wondering how to teach a toddler to fish though, fewer resources are available. This may lead you to wonder, how old should a child be before they learn how to fish?

A child should be at least two years old before they go fishing. At two, a child has the dexterity to start fishing with guidance from an adult, but it’s essential to consider the limitations of their age.

While a toddler might be physically capable of a day-long fishing trip, their attention span and energy level will likely necessitate a shorter session.

Despite these challenges, there are many reasons to start fishing early with kids.

Toddlers have a natural curiosity that makes any new adventure appealing, and the chance to hang out with their parent or guardian can make it a special bonding experience. If you’ve got a two-year-old, it’s the perfect time to introduce them to the joys of fishing.

We suggest you check our article, What You Need to Start Fishing with Kids (Basic Gear & Tips).

Can Toddlers Fish?

Kid fishing on the riverbank

Yes, toddlers can fish. You might not see your two-year-old reeling in a ten-pound bass, but you can certainly teach them the skills necessary to get started with a fishing rod.

The most important part of the equation is ensuring that they have adequate supervision and proper training — and with mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa on the scene, that won’t be an issue.

Toddlers should be encouraged to learn every step of the fishing process, starting with selecting bait. Don’t be surprised if youngsters are insistent upon the brightest bait in the box.

Even if this isn’t necessarily the best bait for the job, it’s okay to let them choose an option that appeals to them. As they gain more experience and learn more about fishing, you can delve further into the specifics of bait selection.

How Do I Take My Toddler Fishing?

Taking your toddler fishing will likely be an exercise in patience — for both you and your kiddo. As you’re guiding your child through each step of the process, they may become bored or distracted. If this happens, don’t worry. Fishing with a toddler can be done, but nobody ever said it would be easy!

For an in-depth guide on how to teach a toddler to fish — and keep them engaged while doing so — check out this advice.

Tips, Tricks, and Common Concerns

When met with the idea of teaching a toddler to fish, many people have reservations, and it’s easy to see why. It may seem unsafe to take a child so young fishing, or you might be worried about keeping them engaged throughout the process.

These are common concerns, and they’re reasonable, but they shouldn’t dissuade you from fishing with a toddler.

To address safety concerns, you should invest in safety basics such as a life jacket. You should also be sure not to let your toddler handle a hook or other sharp objects. Always do this part yourself while showing a youngster how it’s done.

If you’re worried about keeping a child engaged for several hours while you teach them how to fish, you should plan for breaks and snacks throughout the excursion.

Pack lots of water, juice, crackers, and other sustenance to ensure they aren’t distracted by hunger. When that’s not enough, take a break and return to the rod later.

One simple tried-and-true trick is to take your toddler fishing at a stocked pond or lake. These areas receive sometimes-weekly deliveries of fish from a hatchery. If you fish in a stocked body of water, you at least know there are fish in there and that it’s possible to catch something! A simple google search of “stocked pond” and your area will tell you everything you need to know.

Teaching a Toddler to Fish: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Attach bait.

Once you’ve selected bait and assembled your other fishing gear, you should show your child how to attach it to the hook. Because of the danger posed by the sharp hook, you should do this portion of the task yourself and show your child exactly what you’re doing. Set the hook aside to be secured later.

2. Attach fishing line.

With the bait attached to the hook, you can proceed to attach the line. It should be about a foot longer than the fishing pole’s length, which creates an excellent opportunity for your toddler to help.

Let them measure the line, and when it’s the right length, make a cut. You can then wrap it to the fishing pole’s tip and tightly secure it.

3. Secure the hook.

Use a secure knot to tie the hook to the fishing line. Several knots are ideal for this purpose, but one of the best is the Palomar knot. It’s secure, simple, and easy to demonstrate for youngsters.

4. Get ready for fish.

Now it’s time to play the waiting game. This is a good time to teach kids about the virtues of patience. Explain to them that they might not see any fish for a while — or at all.

While you’re waiting, though, you can show your toddler proper handling technique for their fishing rod. It’s best to sit behind them and hold the rod above their hands while doing so.

The Benefits of Teaching Toddlers to Fish

Father showing toddler live bait

Teaching a toddler to fish comes with a litany of incredible benefits. Many parents and grandparents agree that it’s a valuable opportunity to spend time with their kiddo while teaching them a skill they can use for years to come.

Even if your toddler doesn’t do the heavy lifting during your fishing trip, you can give them the chance to feel like a winner by reeling in the catch.

If they need a little help, you can assist — and if they don’t want to do it, you can have them net the catch instead. This allows them to take ownership of the success and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Instilling kids with outdoor skills at a young age can also help them develop self-sufficiency. You can show toddlers how fish becomes food and gift them the ability to catch and cook their meal.

Though this ability is above the skill set of a toddler, fishing gives them the foundational knowledge they will need to develop these skills later.

Related: Taking Children on Their First Fishing Trip

Teaching Toddlers to Fish FAQs

1. What do I need to do before teaching a toddler to fish?

If you haven’t been fishing in a while, it’s good to refresh your memory by reviewing a quick fishing guide. You should also check your tackle box to ensure you have all of the necessary supplies — including a toddler-size life vest — for a fishing trip. Finally, you should pack snacks and drinks to ensure your kiddo is fed and hydrated throughout the day.

2. Are there any unique risks to consider when fishing with a toddler?

Toddlers require an extra degree of caution, but there are no egregious risks inherent to fishing with a youngster. The greatest risk is proximity to water, and you can combat this risk by simply fitting your toddler with a life vest and keeping them within arm’s reach.

3. How can I encourage my toddler to pay attention when we’re fishing together?

You might find the toddlers are distracted or unengaged when you’re trying to teach them how to fish. If so, you can try showing them an age-appropriate video that covers fishing basics and having them follow along as you prepare your gear.

Once your hook is set and in the water, you can use a bobber on your line. This bright red-and-white accessory floats on the water while attached to your line. When a fish bites on the hook the bobber dips below the water, signaling that it’s time to reel in your catch. Watching that bobber is a great (and easy!) responsibility for a toddler. Have them keep a close eye on the bobber and tell you if they see it go under the water. They’ll love feeling like they’re contributing.

4. Can fishing help a toddler develop other age-appropriate skills?

Yes! Several aspects of fishing can help toddlers develop their fine motor skills. As you ask them to measure the fishing line and pick out bait, they are developing their manual dexterity, too.

Teach Your Kids a Valuable Outdoor Skill

Fishing is one of the most effective activities for teaching toddlers basic outdoor skills. If you want to know how to teach a toddler to fish, this guide will get you ready for plenty of fishing fun.

Teaching a toddler to fish isn’t just about fun, though — it’s about investing in quality time with that special child in your life.

Recommended: What Should Kids Wear for Fishing? (Checklist Included)