Looking for outdoor family fun? Get your kids hooked on fishing

A cure for cabin fever could be as simple as casting a rod – just go fish.

“Water is so calming,” said Kelly Kingery, Five Rivers MetroParks’ outdoor recreation program specialist. “It’s a great stress reliever, even if the fish aren’t biting.”

And fishing and social distancing are a good fit.

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“What’s great about fishing is that you have a six-foot fishing pole and you need room to cast, so no one is on top of each other,” Kingery said.

It’s also something the entire family can enjoy together, a perfect break from home schooling which was recently extended to May 1. Kingery still fondly remembers her first childhood catch.

“I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was missing my two front teeth in the picture,” she said, smiling. “I yanked that little sunfish out of the water so hard that it arched over my head and slapped on the bank behind me.”

Like that fish, Kingery was hooked.

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The basics

While there are many places across the state that do not require fishing licenses – including a few of the local MetroParks – they can be purchased for just $25 for adults for an entire year. Family fun is a bargain, as those under 16 don’t need a license.

Basic tackle includes rods and reels. While the equipment will vary, a good all-around fishing outfit for this area, according to the MetroParks fishing guide, is in the light-to-medium class range with 8- to 10-pound test line. Small hooks work best for first-timers and kids.

“There are some really good beginner kits with themed equipment, like Sponge Bob, for the kids,” Kingery said. “And you want to have a bobber for them so they have something to focus on.”

Bait can be live – minnows, insects, crayfish or nightcrawlers – or artificial – plastic worms and jigs, spinners or flies. If wrangling a wiggly worm onto a hook isn’t your thing, Kingery has an alternative.

“They have bait dough balls — some of them are brightly colored, that you can mush around the hook,” she said. “They’re easy to use.”

From largemouth bass and bluegill to channel catfish and brown trout, there are a wide variety of fish in local lakes, ponds and rivers.

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Family fun

“Catching fish is the goal, but just being out in nature and making that connection is also important,” Kingery said. “Let them get their feet dirty and have fun.”

Patience is important for parents and children alike. Bring snacks, drinks and outdoor toys. A small dip net can be used to catch minnows or tadpoles if the fish aren’t biting.

“Some kids have a short attention span, so you might need to help them keep busy,” she said.

If kids are in the mix, the focus should be on fun, not just fishing.

“You want them to have a good experience so they want to go back,” Kingery said.

Ohio fishing licenses – One year

Resident (16-65 years old): $25

Senior (66 and older): $10

Youth: Those under 16 are not required to purchase a fishing license

Nonresident: $50.96

Note: Free licenses are available for those who are physically disabled, members of the U.S. Armed Forces on leave or furlough and holders of "veteran" license plates.

For information or to purchase a license, visit www.wildohio.gov

No License – No Problem

You can fish without a license at the following MetroParks (check the Five Rivers MetroParks site, www.metroparks.org, for maps, hours, directions and policies):

• Carriage Hill MetroPark’s Cedar Lake and North Woods Pond

• Possum Creek MetroPark’s Argonne Lake and fishing ponds

• Germantown MetroPark’s Sunfish Pond

• Eastwood MetroPark’s Lagoon and Blue Lake

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• Have fun. Seeing your child enjoy reeling in their first fish is rewarding. Take pictures.

• Target areas with a high likelihood of success. Most kids are satisfied catching lots of smaller fish such as bluegills rather than catching fewer, bigger fish such as bass. Catching a few fish on the first few outings will peak children’s interest and make them look forward to the next trip.

• Use live bait to increase the chance of catching a fish. Live bait is also more interesting for children.

• Pick a place that is easy to get to, comfortable and safe.

• Bring snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent and first aid basics. This will make your trip comfortable for everyone.

• Provide them with simple tackle in working order. Nothing can be more discouraging to a child than complicated equipment or equipment that doesn’t work. Consider giving the child their own fishing outfit. This gesture is practical because short rods are easier for kids to handle.

• Above all else, have patience. You will be unsnagging lines, baiting hooks and landing fish for them often. On your fishing trips with youngsters, they will get dirty, fall down or even get a little wet. By taking time to introduce children to fishing, you may end up with a fishing buddy for life.

Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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