Fishing Made Easy: Three Tips for Small Fry – and Other Beginners


March 9, 2016 - So this is the year you’ve vowed to teach the small fry how to fish? Great idea! National wildlife refuges can lend a hand.

Refuge staff and volunteers are expert at introducing kids to fishing. They’ve been doing it for generations — at annual kids’ fishing derbies and learn-to-fish events, complete with loaner rods and free, friendly hands-on lessons. Find a national wildlife refuge near you:

How to make a first fishing lesson fun?  Here are three tips with a central theme — Go small:

  • Go for little fish. Spotted sunfish – the bitty guys that hang out near the lakeshore --are fine. For young children, the thrill of catching a fish – any fish – outweighs the size of the catch.
  • Make your outing short. An hour may be plenty. Kids lose patience fast. You may, too, if you’re the one baiting the hook and handling likely snags and tangles.
  • Go small on tackle: Small hook, small bobber, light rod. For that matter, go small on expectations, too: Let them be kids. Technique can come later.


Here are a few kid-friendly fishing events coming up on refuges:

Carp Rodeo
April 30, 9 a.m. to noon  
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, 26 miles from Las Vegas, NV
Take part in a friendly fishing competition. Free fishing instruction and loaner rods are available. The day also includes games, gourmet cooked carp, crafts, and a free BBQ lunch for the first 100 attendees. Those 12 years old and older need a fishing license. Buy it at

Pier Fishing
June 4, 9 a.m. to noon
Dumbarton Fishing Pier
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
For ages 5 and up. Learn the basics, then try your luck on the pier with loaner fishing poles. All participants receive a free box with tackle. No fishing license needed. Space is limited to the first 50 people. Arrive by 9 a.m. to participate. Registration required here or call 510-792-0222 ext. 476. Registration begins May 1. 

Family Fishing Day
June 4, 9 to 11 a.m.
Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, TX
All ages are welcome to this free event at the Champion Lake Public Use Area. For this day only, no fishing license is required. Fishing lessons, bait and loaner rods are provided. More info.

Kids’ Fishing Day
June 11, 8:30 a.m. to noon
Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, MD
Free fishing demonstrations and lessons for ages 15 and under at the National Wildlife Visitor Center. Fishing equipment is provided. Fishing is catch and release. Space is limited. Pre-registration is required: 301-497-5887. Registration begins May 18 at 9:15 a.m. More info.

You can also find state-by-state information on the Refuge System’s Fishing Guide here.

Other refuges that traditionally hold kids’ fishing events in the spring or summer include:


Look for kids’ fishing event listings on the Refuge System’s special events calendar as spring draws near.

Genoa Kids Fishing Day
Genoa Kids Fishing Day
Credit: Genoa Fish Hatchery

Young anglers admire thier catch
Young anglers admire their catch at Family Fishing Day, Patuxent Research Refuge, MD.
Credit: Ed Grimes