Not much beats spending quality time outdoors with your family.
Some of my best childhood memories involve camping and fishing with mom, dad, and siblings in tow. And, now, they’re still two of my favorite outdoor activities to do with my own family.
Here are a few top tips to make sure your next family camping and fishing trip goes smoothly.
Make a List and Check It Twice
Make a family camping checklist so you never leave anything important behind.
Essential items your list should contain include a camping tent large enough for your entire family, weather-appropriate sleeping bags, and a cooler.
Camping cookware is also important. A camping stove – a two- or three-burner model is best for families – along with a few pots and pans makes preparing camp meals a breeze. Don’t forget dinnerware and utensils!
Other gear my family likes to bring for camping includes lanterns, headlamps, camping chairs, hammocks, and sometimes a portable power device for longer trips.
Of course, you can’t forget your fishing equipment, like your fishing rod, reel, line, hooks, bait, lures, and more!
The Ten Essentials are always smart to bring anytime you step into the wilderness.
Perhaps the essential my family uses most is our trusty camping first-aid kit for the all but inevitable scrapes and bruises that come with being outdoors.
Go Where the Fish Are Biting
Scouting for fishing locations is necessary for any fishing trip – but it’s even more important when kids are joining.
Look for a location where fish are plentiful. Best Fishing in America’s best state fishing guides, such as Best Fishing in Oregon, is an incredibly helpful tool. An interactive Oregon fishing map allows you to browse the best fishing spots by region. (Stay tuned for more state fishing guides and maps.)
Visiting your local tackle shop is another great way to find out more about local fishing holes, including what bait, lures or flies to use. Here, you can also pick up any fishing licenses and learn about current fishing regulations in the local area.
The Journey Can Be Just as Fun as the Destination
Weekend trips to a local fishing destination are always fun. But, if you have a few extra days, a camping and fishing road trip is sure to be remembered.
Even if you just head to the next county over, plan a scenic route with stops at local attractions and natural areas.
Sometimes my favorite part of a camping and fishing trip is actually the drive it takes to get there. I spy and the license plate game are fun ways to pass the travel time with kids.
Who knows…driving on back roads is sometimes one of the best ways to find fishing spots that not everyone knows about yet!
Teach Your Kids to Fish
Engage your kids with every step of the fishing trip.
Show them which fishing equipment you pack, let them tag along to the tackle shop, and tell them about any fishing regulations, licenses, and proper etiquette.
Whether you’ll fish from a dock, shore, or boat, place the emphasis on safety and fun. Most kids are naturally curious so prepare for tons of questions!
Demonstrate each skill, such as properly holding the rod and casting (sidearm casting is better for most children), but let them do the majority of the fishing themselves.
Make sure they know that fishing is a learning process – no one is perfect at first.
Teach your kids about setting the hook, different baits, and the species you’re going after.
Be sure to tell them about catch and release (including proper release methods) as well as the basics of selective harvesting for fish you keep.
Cook Delicious Campfire Meals
Making campfire meals is one of the best parts of camping. But even meals prepared on a camping stove taste great.
If you’re lucky, you might even get to cook up freshly caught fish on your campfire! There are a ton of different ways to do this (depending on preferences and type of fish), but using butter or olive oil, salt and pepper, and a little lemon is hard to beat for freshly caught fish!
Beyond The Tent has an extensive camping food resource to help you prepare the most delicious camping meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Bring Plenty of Games
Your fishing camping trip doesn’t have to be all about the fishing. Plan some other campground activities for once you’re back at the campsite.
In addition to fishing, hiking, and making s’mores on the campfire, some of the best camping activities for kids include collecting nature items, whittling, making sling shots, building a lean-to, and plain old exploring the surrounding area.
Of course, it’s important to know your audience. Bring favorite games, favorite books, and other favorite activities to keep your kids busy when the fishing is done for the day.
Make the Next Trip Even Better!
If this is your first time planning a camping and fishing trip with kids, know that you might not get everything right the first time out. But that’s okay.
Maybe you forgot something at home. Maybe the fish weren’t biting. Maybe your kids didn’t like being out in the boat all day.
So, learn from your mistakes. Make a camping and fishing checklist, try a different fishing hole, fish from the dock instead next time. Chances are your next camping fishing trip will be even better than the first!
Remember that camping and fishing with kids should always be fun. It’s not about how many fish you catch – it’s about quality time spent together outdoors learning something new.
Always keep fun in mind to ensure the success of your next family fishing camping trip!
Ryan Cunningham runs the family camping website Beyond The Tent. He loves getting out into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota with his wife and seven kids.