Spots to Take a Kid Fishing in Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware
There are many ways to spend a few hours in the great outdoors bonding with your kids, but few as rewarding and fun as heading down to your local lake or river and teaching them how to fish.
It is important, however, that they get plenty of nibbles and have the chance to reel in a fish or two — watching a float bob up and down in the water all afternoon as the fish ignore your bait is pretty boring. You need to do everything you can so they can hook a few fish.
Bites are never guaranteed — even professional anglers occasionally have bad days. But, if you follow these tips, you can improve your chances of attracting the fish’s attention and putting smiles on your children’s faces.
Get a right-sized rod and reel
It is usually a bad idea to hand your child one of your old rods. Chances are it will be too long and equipped with a reel that is too complicated. Instead, get a 5- or 6-foot-long spinning or spincasting combo, which is easy to control and operate. Most big-box retailers and sporting goods stores sell beginner-fishing kits that contain these types of rods and cheap reels, as well as some basic fishing tackle.
Pick a good fishing spot
Picking a good fishing spot is one of the most important things to teach your kids about fishing. This not only means a place with a healthy fish population, but someplace that offers easy access to the water and bathrooms. Fortunately, there are plenty of good places like this in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Fishing Spots to Take Kids in PA
- There are several great places to fish along the Schuylkill River, but Fairmount Park is one of the best.
- French Creek State Park provides several places to access its namesake creek, where the bluegill fishing is excellent.
- Lake Towhee is a 50-acre lake that gives you the chance to catch catfish or bluegill while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Fishing Spots to Take Kids in NJ
- Bargaintown Pond offers some of the best bluegill fishing anywhere, although you won’t catch many catfish there.
- You can catch plenty of bluegill and catfish in Bostwick Lake, and you may even catch a yellow perch or two.
- West Pond offers terrific bluegill fishing for the kids, and you could try to catch a carp or two while you’re there.
Fishing Spots to Take Kids in DE
- Lums Pond is a 200-acre pond that holds bluegill and catfish.
- Cape Henlopen Fishing Center provides easy access to the ocean, sells bait, and rents gear.
- Brandywine Creek offers excellent bluegill fishing against a beautiful backdrop.
No matter which location you select, be sure to find a place that offers plenty of room for your kids to learn the basics of casting. Avoid places that are exceptionally crowded or have overhanging trees or other obstacles.
Target easy-to-catch fish
You don’t want to frustrate your kids by chasing fish that they’re unlikely to catch, so ignore the largemouth bass and northern pike that often captivate experienced anglers. Instead, you’ll want to target the most abundant species living in local lakes, rivers and ponds.
Catch bluegill, catfish in Pennsylvania
Most productive waters host healthy populations of bluegill and catfish, and both species are typically aggressive feeders who aren’t shy about biting baits. Keep the bait high in the water by using a float if you are targeting bluegill, but swap the float for a sinker if you are trying to catch bottom-feeding catfish.
Catch bluegill, catfish, yellow perch in New Jersey
You’ll want to target bluegill (as well as their close relatives, such as shellcrackers, red-breasted sunfish and green sunfish) or catfish. Yellow perch are also found in some of New Jersey’s waters, and they’re typically relatively easy to catch.
Bluegill typically hang out relatively high in the water, while catfish prefer feeding along the bottom. So, you’ll want to use a float when targeting bluegill but tie on a sinker when fishing for catfish. Perch may be found at varying depths, so vary your depth until you find them.
Catch bluegill, catfish, redfish in Delaware
Bluegill and catfish are two of the best choices and they’re quite abundant in most freshwater fishing spots in Delaware. There are a variety of easy-to-catch saltwater species in the state’s coastal waters too, but bluefish and redfish are two of the best options to target.
Use real bait, not lures
Experienced anglers often have great success using artificial lures, but your children will usually lack the skill and finesse to animate the lures in a manner that’ll attract the attention of fish. They’re also likely to snag the lure on every underwater obstacle in the area. Worms, crickets, shrimp and leeches are all good options, as are tiny dough balls and corn.
If there is a bait shop near the water you plan to fish, go inside and talk to the staff about the best options for the location. They’ll often be able to point you in the right direction and recommend the best bait for the current season.
Get a fishing license
Make sure you obtain a valid fishing license and follow all local regulations. The fees collected from licenses (and fines) are used to help conserve and manage local fish populations.
Children under 16 don’t need a license to fish in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, but you and any other adults in your party will need one to fish legally. You may also need a trout stamp in New Jersey, depending on the location you choose.
In Delaware, children under 16 don’t need a license as long as they are fishing with a licensed adult. Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the creel limits, size requirements and fishing seasons there.
Just make sure that you maintain a positive attitude and try to ensure your kids have a good time — whether they catch any fish or not. Encourage your youngsters when the fishing is tough and celebrate alongside them when things go well. If your kids have a good time, they’ll surely want to try fishing again in the future.
If you’d like to learn a few more tips and tricks that can make your kids’ first fishing trip a good one, check out Outdoor Empire’s comprehensive review of the subject.
Jon Sutton is founder of Outdoor Empire.