Make fishing enjoyable for kids
Keep in mind that this trip is not about you, or catching fish. It’s ensuring they have a good time. If they do wind up catching fish, then that’s just a bonus. Make sure to have all the gear you need prepped the night before. Fishing poles, hooks, split shot sinkers, lures/bait, and of course snacks and drinks. Pack a few cans of soda, juice, or water as well as some of their favorite food. That way if the fishing winds up being slower than anticipated then you have a way to break up the monotony of cast and retrieve. Also, don’t forget to either pack a camera or have your phone fully charged. Anything they catch is going to be picture worthy, as well as any turtle, duck, goose, or tadpole they see. If they’re going to be using a phone to take pictures then a waterproof case with a float on it will save you a giant headache later on.
If you really want to get them excited take them to the store the week of and allow them pick out their own tackle box and a few lures. Pick out a rod when at the store too. Your best bet is to purchase a spin cast combo. They’re easy to handle and don’t backlash, which makes them perfect for the novice. They’re also pretty cheap so you don’t have to worry about dropping too much money. But beware they’re not the most durable. If your kid really takes to fishing then I’d recommend graduating to a spinning reel. Easy to cast, hard to backlash and they make more durable options, albeit pricier options.
When you first arrive take some time to teach them how to properly cast and if they’re not grossed out, how to bait a hook. That way when they wind up catching something, they’ll know that they did it themselves.
When looking for a time of year to go fish try to pick sometime in the spring or mid fall. Because of the changing seasons the fish are going to be more active, and the weather will be more favorable. Both bass and Bluegill will be actively trolling shorelines looking for food. Fish like to swim along the sides of dams looking for baitfish, so this is a perfect place to be. There is also ample room for learning to cast, and easy shoreline to walk.
Allow them to dictate the fishing schedule for the day. Nothing good can come from making your kid sit there for hours on end if they’re bored out of their mind, if they do get bored, switch their focus for a while and teach them something boating related. For example, I like to teach kids how to operate an electric trolling motor, it's safe and they pick it up faster than most adults. If they want to go run around and look at turtles or ducks or 20 minutes before coming back to the spot then allow them to do so. Forcing them sit on bank when they want to go explore will only dampen their experience. If you wind up getting skunked then finishing the trip with an ice cream or some kind of treat is a great way to leave a positive memory of the day.
Life vests are not required for fishing from the shore but bring one just in case. Especially if fishing near steep drop offs or on bodies of water with current. The night before, make sure to take a pair of needle nose pliers and crimp down the barb on all the hooks that you will be bringing. Crimping the barb is more for you than anyone else, after all it’s hard to hook yourself while casting, but incredibly easy to hook the person sitting next to you. So, for your sake, take the time the night before to do this. It makes hook removal incredibly easier and less painful.