Each year the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) designates four free fishing days. On these days, a fishing license is not needed to fish in the state’s public waters. The final free fishing day for 2021 is this Saturday (September 25th). Free fishing days are perfect for learning how to fish, going solo, or taking your child fishing for the first time!

This year, my six-year-old started showing interest in fishing. Since no one in my family had ever fished, one of this summer’s free fishing days gave us the perfect opportunity to test this activity out as a family. As I quickly learned, fishing is one of those activities with a bit of a learning curve but it’s a great activity for spending quality time spent as a family talking, laughing, walking in nature, looking at the pond for fish, and just sitting quietly side-by-side.

the back of two young kids fishing

How To Get Started 

If you’re like my family and you’re interested in taking your kids fishing for the first time but aren’t sure where to start, the DNR offers a free education program with instruction and opportunities for learning about fishing. 

Where To Fish

Since our family was new to fishing we didn’t have equipment so if you’re like our family don’t let that hold you back.  Fishers Parks offers pop-up fishing events on these free fishing days.  All equipment is included.  If you happen to have your own fishing equipment, drop in a line at a local pond in your neighborhood or one of the many fishing spots #AroundFishers. Since our first adventure in fishing this summer, we learned the top places to fish in Fishers include:

But please remember, all fishing at Fishers Parks is catch and release only. They recommend tamping down the barbs on your hooks to make hook release easier and less harmful to fish.

 

Tips For Fishing With Kids

a dad showing his young son how to fish

1.) Focus On The Experience, Not The Fishing. 

On our first fishing adventure, an experienced angler told us, “it’s called ‘fishing’ because you’ll spend 90% of time doing just that; otherwise, we would call it ‘catching.’ Just enjoy the process and each other.” This is great advice for beginners of all ages. My kids and I went into the experience thinking a catch would be immediate, or at least we’d catch something during that adventure.  Share with your child this is a process without immediate reward and a good lesson in patience.

2.) Hook, Line, And Sinker

Children are naturally curious, so explain the “how” in fishing. Demonstrate how a bobber works and moves when a fish bites. Teach how to hold the rod in front of their body moving it in a 9 to 11 o’clock position as they cast and share that like any skill, it takes time to learn.

 

3.) Safety First! 

When teaching your child about fishing, start by setting clear safety rules around water and handling the hook. As you teach how to cast, if you have multiple children around, have them practice casting away from the others. Start by practicing casting before you put bait on the hook in short distances, then add length. 

4.) Set A Reasonable Time Limit

Remember if you’re fishing with a child, this will most likely not be an all-day event—plan for about one hour, then check in with your child to see if they’re still having fun.  If they are, great! Definitely stay longer and enjoy the time together!

5.) Snacks!

“I’m hungry!!” We’ve all heard this phrase and know that kids can get hungry fast especially when there’s downtime.  Make sure to pack some easy kid-friendly snacks and drinks. We like bringing fruit, granola bars, pretzels and of course goldfish.

a family posing and smiling in front of a pond
two young kids standing next to each other and smiling

6.) Just Have Fun

The goal of fishing should be to create fun memories and experiences.  But fishing takes a lot of patience, especially if the fish aren’t biting. Make this adventure fun by keeping it light and entertaining. If the “catching” is slow, encourage your child to poke around the river bank. Challenge them to see what critters, rocks, and natural treasures they can find. Encourage your children to play with worms, get dirty, make leaf boats, or even just take a break together and walk along the shoreline.

Please remember the Indiana DNR only has four designated free fishing days. Outside of these days, anyone over the age of 17 must have a license to fish in public waters. Apply for your fishing license here!

Share your fishing adventures on free fishing day on social media using the hashtags #AroundFishers and #FishersParks!