Getting started in a new sport can be confusing, and fishing is no exception. Here are some tips for families to ease the way toward catching fish from area lakes that open during spring.
First, buy licenses as required and review the fishing regulations for the lake you’ll be fishing. Kids in Washington (under 15) and Idaho (under 14) can fish without a license. Know the limits for size and daily catch.
Don’t start out with the most expensive equipment in the store. A simple spinning rod with a light-action reel will do. Sporting good stores have good reel, line, rod combo packages.
The goal on your first trip is to get some action, not go after the biggest fish in the pond. If you don’t have a boat, try bait fishing from shore or a resort dock at Spokane County trout lakes such as Williams or Fishtrap.
Go with moderately light main line – 8-pound test – and trout hooks. Buy a package of small swivels with clips, a package of 4- or 6-pound line for leader and a few half-ounce slip sinkers. Run the line from your reel through all of the rod guides. Thread the slip sinker on the line and then tie on the swivel.
Next, tie up some No. 2 trout hooks on the end of about 18-20 inches of leader. These can be purchased pre-tied. At the end of the leader, tie an overhand loop. Fasten the loop to the clip at the end of the swivel on the main line. Tie up several of these hooks and leaders with loops and wrap them on a the cut-off flap of a cardboard box so they’re quickly available to clip on a new leader as needed at the lake.
Bait the hook with two mini marshmallows pushed up to the hook eye, then add a piece of nightcrawler or worm long enough to be pierced with the end of the hook two or three times with a little left to dangle.
Cast the rig into the lake. The sinker takes the line to the bottom while the marshmallows float the hook and bait up off the bottom so they’re easier for trout to find above weeds.
Another method that works well is fishing with a baited hook or jig under a bobber. This is especially effective in panhfish lakes such as Newman northeast of Spokane or Rose Lake southeast of Fourth of July Pass in North Idaho.
To increase your odds of success, set your alarm the night before going fishing. Try to get out at first light. Or if you like to sleep in, get out near dusk. Fish like low-light conditions, especially in the summer.
If kids are involved, pack a lunch, snacks and drinks and dress them for the weather. Let the kids explore if they get bored. Let them skip rocks across the water and chase frogs. It’s all about the experience.
If you catch fish that measure up, put them on ice and make a big deal about serving them as a self-harvested family dinner treat.
Take plenty of photos. Nothing adds to the excitement of a family fishing trip like a few pictures to capture the memories.
Brent Frazee of the Kansas City Star contributed to this story.
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