Guide to Kayak Fishing with Kids – The Complete Checklist & Tips


Kayak fishing is increasing in popularity with all ages, as it becomes more accessible for beginners, young adults, and children, alike.

And when you’re looking for something to do to keep the little darlings entertained, there’s no better option than getting them into nature and the great outdoors.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled this guide to kayak fishing with kids – with a complete checklist so you and your family can enjoy a fun, educational, – and, above all, safe day out on the water.

So, get their noses out of those smartphones, and into a kayak. Done right, you’ll have a new fishing buddy for life.

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

Kayak Fishing with Kids – Too Long, Didn’t Read

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of kayaking with your children, let’s take a brief look at the main points you should be considering for a successful experience all round.

It’s a good idea to break down your organization into a handy checklist, which should include the following points:

  • Planning the trip – the who, what, where, how long, and when.
  • Getting them interested.
  • Lessons/skills/water safety instruction.
  • Kayaks and paddles.
  • Safety gear and equipment.
  • Clothing.
  • Food and provisions.
  • Fishing gear and practice.
  • On the day – how to make things go smoothly.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than just a few bullet points, so read on to explore each consideration in more detail.

father and son prepare a kayak for fishing on the sea

Planning the Trip

Organization is the key to any outdoor trip or experience, and this is particularly important if you’re bringing youngsters along.

This is the who, what, where, how long, and when aspect of your day out, and you need to make sure everyone fully understands and sticks to the plan.

First, you need to consider who will be involved. This will primarily depend on the ages and skill levels of the people in your party.

Are your kids competent in a kayak on their own? If not, then are they capable, willing, and able to sit at the bow of a tandem kayak with you or another adult?

This is a great way to get children into kayaking – no matter their age or skill level.

If you’re bringing even younger kids along, you need to make sure you have at least one adult for every child.

For the most part, this article assumes your children are of kayaking age. Babies and infants can still be included, but they will need to remain under close supervision at all times, carried by a responsible adult.

As a rule of thumb, it’s recommended that children over the age of seven can be safely taught to pilot a kayak solo.

Once you know who’s coming along, and you have enough people to supervise, you then need to plan the type of craft you’re taking, as well as all your equipment and supplies. This represents the ‘what’ of your checklist.

We’ll talk more about this below.

Next, you need to organize where you’re actually going, with a detailed route, put in and out points, and a full understanding of the water conditions, including level, speed, and any hazards that you might encounter.

This includes boat traffic, and the presence of other water users. You and your children need to know how to call them out, and understand how to avoid collisions with obstacles.

Look for child-friendly destinations, calm waterways, with lots of variety, and plenty of space to paddle. Taking them on class VI whitewater first time out is not an option.

Kids have a tendency to get bored easily, so anywhere you can break up the kayaking with on-land games, a picnic, sightseeing, or exciting exploration is a good choice.

What’s on the bank can be just as important as what’s on or in the water.

And remember to factor in the need for bathroom breaks – which leads me nicely onto how long the trip needs to be.

I highly recommend keeping things short and sweet to begin with, with plenty of on-land breaks if and when required.

This can be as brief as 20-30 minutes – as you don’t want to overdo things and scare them off from the get-go. Save the 12-hour angling marathons for you and your fishing buddies for now.

Finally, you need to decide when this trip is going to take place – which is particularly important when it comes to the weather on the day.

This is also key for planning trips around school and/or other commitments, especially if you’re trying to limit the amount of contact you’ll have with other water users when you’re out there.

father and son fly fishing together on early morning

Getting them Interested

We’ve all been there, trying to get the kids off the couch and away from the TV/video games/latest phone app can be a constant struggle.

And in order to pique their interest in a day of kayak fishing, you might have your work cut out when it comes to selling it to them.

The key ingredient here is you need to involve them at every step of the way.

You also need to make sure the trip is tailor-made for them, and it’s not just about you bringing someone along to keep you company, hold your rods, or pass you a sandwich.

So, right from the get-go, let them help with choosing a route, picking out their own kayaks (if you’re treating them), as well as their clothing and fishing gear.

It’s perfectly fine to throw in a few bribes here and there – especially if you’re struggling to get them to commit. Dangle a visit to their favorite theme park as a sweetener, for example, or a trip to the best ice cream in town.

If your kids have never been kayaking or kayak fishing before, neither you nor they will know whether they’re going to enjoy it or not.

Half the battle is getting them out there to try it, but remember – it’s not for everyone – and don’t be too disappointed if they don’t love it as much as you do, or they’re just not interested in going out at all.

Lessons/Skills/Water Safety

It’s vitally important that your children understand the main aspects of water safety before they go out, and that both you, and they, are aware of their own skill set and limitations.

This includes their physical strength, stamina, and coordination, as well as their level of maturity.

As such, I would highly recommend a basic kayaking lesson or two – especially if they’ve never even set foot in one before.

At the very least, watch some video guides with them that show the main strokes, as well as tips, and advice on how to control the kayak in different conditions. The video below is a great place to start.

Be sure they know how to enter and exit a kayak. Practicing on dry land is an excellent way to familiarize themselves with the techniques.

Do they know how to swim? This is a vitally important aspect of water safety, for obvious reasons, so it’s a good idea to touch base with your local swimming pool if they need to top up their skills.

A local pool should also be able to put you in touch with a kayaking course, and might even offer kayaking practice in a controlled environment – which is perfect for anyone who is apprehensive or nervous about the sport – no matter their age.

Kayaks and Paddles

There’s nothing quite like the moment you paddle your own kayak for the first time. That feeling of freedom is unbeatable, and it’s a great moment to be able to share with your kids.

And just as much fun, is them being able to choose their own craft. In fact, this is probably the main carrot you can dangle for getting them into the sport.

It’s essential they use the right kayak for their size and comfort. The exact same can be said for the paddle.

Check out this article on how to choose a kayak paddle for more information, but they will probably need a child-sized paddle before they graduate to an adult version.

And there’s a wealth of child-friendly kayaks out there. Some of these basic budget-friendly options are ideal. Look for smaller, simpler, more manageable craft – without all the bells and whistles to begin with.

Of course, they don’t have to be able to pilot their own kayak, and you can have a lot of fun bringing a child along in one of these tandem fishing kayaks.

The bow seating position is a great place for a child to sit and learn the ropes of kayaking, and a responsible adult can sit behind in the stern to oversee and advise.

Alternatively, a good kayak fishing canoe is a great choice in which to take out several members of the family in one craft, likewise with one of these inflatable boats for fishing.

Just make sure those all-important maximum weight capacity figures are adhered to, whatever vessel you’re using.

And finally, one of the most important things to remember, is to keep your child/children comfortable. The second they don’t like the seat they’re in, is the moment the howling beast will awaken.

Try adding padding or cushioning to the kayak seats if they’re not already up to scratch. Child-friendly, waterproof options are available.

father and son kayaking on the sea

Safety Gear and Equipment

The single most important piece of safety equipment when you’re kayaking is the personal flotation device (PFD).

There are no excuses here, everyone who is out on the water in your party needs to be wearing one – the dog included.

And this is especially true when you’re out with children.

Take a look at this article on the best fishing PFDs on the market, but you need to make sure that both you and your kids are wearing the correct size and fit.

And that means, the correct size NOW – not in the future for when they “grow into it.” Ill-fitting life preservers can cause obstruction, discomfort, and the wearer to slip out depending on the situation.

All too often, accidents and fatalities have occurred because the life-jacket didn’t fit, or the victim wasn’t even wearing one. You have been warned.

It’s also a good idea to bring some additional safety gear, as you never know what might happen when you’re out there.

As well as PFDs, give all your children a safety whistle. A responsible adult should also have a good first aid kit, and tow-lines are essential.

Not only will they help get a child out of difficulty should that situation arise, but because a child doesn’t have the stamina of an adult, a tow home might be in order at the end of the experience.

For more information, this article on the ultimate kayaking safety tips will help you and your children understand what’s at stake, and how to enjoy a safe, comfortable, and successful fishing adventure.

And don’t forget a camera! Use a waterproof case or mount, so you can keep it protected and capture these unforgettable moments forever.

Clothing

Wearing the right clothing depending on the weather and conditions is vital for both you and your children.

This article on kayak fishing clothing will go into a checklist in more detail, and it’s pretty much the same for the kids – but obviously the right-sized gear.

Remember to keep them protected from the sun, as their delicate skin is even more susceptible to UV damage – particularly infants and babies.

Sunglasses are a very good idea – as they protect eyes from more than just the glowing cancer ball in the sky.

Make sure everyone is wearing a decent fishing hat (you could even make a competition to decide who is wearing the best), and be sure to lather on that sunscreen for every member of the party.

Except the pooch, perhaps.

And remember to dress for immersion – as it’s the water temperature that is key, not the air temperature.

Take a look at this hypothermia table – which has a recommended clothing guide for what to wear depending on the temperature of the water.

For beginners, children, and anyone who is at all inexperienced when it comes to paddling, I would highly recommend only going out when the water temperature is above 70 degrees.

fisherman in sit-on-top kayak with multiple fishing rods

Food and Provisions

I can guarantee that the words, “I’m hungry,” will be spoken at least once on your trip. Possibly several thousand times.

It might strike just as you’re loading up the car, perhaps as soon as you push off from land, but most likely when you’re about to land a US state record fish.

It’s essential that you cover all your bases when it comes to food, and have enough provisions with you – including plenty of water – for the full length of your trip.

This includes a selection of their favorite snacks to keep them tied over until lunch. Chips, fruit, nuts, and energy bars are highly recommended.

Encourage your charges to drink water regularly throughout the day, and make sure they all have their own bottle with them on board their kayak.

Be ready to dish out snacks when called for, and it’s a great idea to stash everything on your kayak in one of these awesome coolers. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not just for fish and/or beer.

Fishing Gear and Practice

At the heart of a kayak fishing experience, is the fishing itself. It’s your hope that your children will love it as much as you do, and they’ll be champing at the bit to cast off with you again soon.

But it’s important that you don’t force it, and that you bring the right fishing gear and positive mindset with you to the water.

Take a look at this fishing gear checklist, which will go into more detail on what you need to bring with you.

When it comes to kayak fishing with kids, consider if they’re using a rod of their own, and how competent they are at setting up a jig themselves.

I started out with a telescopic rod, similar to those at that link, and their portability makes for a great kayak fishing pole.

Make sure that whatever equipment they’re using, it’s suitable for their small hands, as well as their coordination, and skill level.

Keep things simple and basic – don’t overload them with crazy complicated rigs and jigs on their first time out.

Some kids might not be prepared for the slippery, slimy look and feel of any fish caught – so take your time introducing them if they don’t want to touch the creature initially.

But handling live bait can be fun for kids, so let them peer into the bait bucket if you have one. Let them pick out a wriggly, even if you do have to get it on the hook.

And make sure to teach them about hook safety – which can be a common cause of injury to the uninitiated.

On the Day

Even with the best laid plans, things can and do go wrong. Here are some extra tips you should take into consideration to help things go smoothly when you’re on the water.

Take things easy and go slow. If you rush a child into the fishing side aspect of things too soon, you might unwittingly create a negative experience, and they’ll be reluctant to go out with you in the future.

Break it up. Listen to your child/children’s needs – take regular breaks, enjoy the scenery, simply paddling for a while, or return to land the moment anyone wants to or is feeling uncomfortable.

Make it entertaining. Play games when you’re out on the water – safety first, of course. Encourage them to spot wildlife, develop proper paddling technique, fire off some water guns, or blow some bubbles.

It can also be a great opportunity to teach them about fish finders, and many kids will be enthralled at such technology, and what’s going on beneath the surface. If you haven’t got one, I highly recommend them for a kayak fishing trip with children.

Education, education, education. Kids learn by seeing, following, and doing. There’s never a better time to teach them about the great outdoors – particularly when it comes to conservation, and water safety.

Stick to the rules. Make sure your kids understand that this is still a challenging environment, and safety needs to be adhered to at all times. They must listen to you and do exactly as you say should the need arise.

Having a safe word is a good idea to help them know that the serious hat is on, and they need to pay attention.

Stick to limitations. Never push yourself or your children into uncomfortable situations or scenarios.

It’s not all about catching fish. Not getting a bite first time can be demoralizing for some kids, so they need to be aware that it’s not the be all and end all of the experience.

Have fun! Outside the safety factor, having fun is the single most important thing you need to remember. Make it a thrilling day for all, and the whole family will be in for a lifetime of enjoyment from kayaking and fishing.

Summary

Kayak fishing with kids is one of the most enriching, empowering, and educational experiences you can have for you and your children.

But you need to be properly prepared to truly have a successful and safe day out.

I hope this article has encouraged you to have an unforgettable adventure with your family. Let me know if I’ve missed anything, or if you have any brilliant tips for taking the kids out on the water.

Stay safe out there, tight lines, and happy kayak fishing!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Recent Content