Shore Fishing Fun

Looking Back

What pops into your head when someone says, “Let’s go fishing”? What is the picture in your cartoon bubble of what the trip will look like? For many, that picture contains a boat, lots of tackle and rods, and the hope of a magazine-cover-worthy fish picture. For others, it’s the image of a passel of folks on a pontoon with stuff everywhere, and maybe the hope of some fish. I would like to give you another image to consider—an image that fits perfectly with raising kids and building relationships, all while shore fishing for fun.

Looking back on all of the fishing adventures I’ve had with my kids over the last twenty years, the most memorable, meaningful and fun trips have all been shore fishing. Yep, shore fishing. Don’t get me wrong; fishing in a boat is fun, but it comes with limitations and experiences that aren’t present when shore fishing. These things aren’t bad; they are just present. So let’s talk about some shore fishing fun.

Over the years, I have fished from Georgia to Montana and understand that shore fishing tactics are different wherever you go. And to be clear, this isn’t a fishing tactic article; it’s a parenting tactic article.

I grew up shore fishing because our family didn’t have the disposable income or the desire to buy a boat with a motor. What we did have was a nice little lake 15 minutes from home that we sometimes visited 3 to 4 times a week during the hot summer. What sticks out in my mind about my many days at this lake is we could swim, fish, grill or have a campfire, and there was something for everyone to do together as a family.

 

Now

Fast forward a bunch of years, and my wife and I had two small children. we lived in southern Minnesota, with multiple lakes nearby where we could take them shore fishing and play in the water. Keep fast forwarding to today in North Dakota, with even more kids, and our family still enjoys hanging out on shore, having fun and even fishing together.

When it comes to shore fishing with your family, there’s a handful of tactics that help make the trip memorable and fun. First, don’t put a ton of money into fishing tackle and other equipment for the trip. Most of the places we fish, you can get by with simple bottom rigs or bobber set-ups. And almost every rod holder we’ve ever used is homemade.

The reason I say this is that as a parent, the more money you put into something, the easier it is to get angry when it gets broken. I’m not saying that you don’t teach your kids to take care of things, but when you don’t have a ton of money invested as a parent, you have the freedom to not worry as much.

One of our most expensive and valuable pieces of equipment that we used when shore fishing over the last 20 years is a $20 barbecue grill that we bring along when we can’t have campfires. Remember, kids don’t care how much money you spend on them. What they care about is spending time together, and when you can focus on having fun and learning together, it removes a lot of the stress that is self-induced by parents.

 

Variety

Next, shore fishing allows everyone the room and freedom to do something different. One kid can throw rocks, one kid can swim, one can chase frogs and one can pick their nose with the grass they found on the shoreline…and everything in between, all while waiting for a fish to bite. In other words, it’s hard to get bored waiting for fish to bite if everyone has something to do.

I have to put a disclaimer in here: I get in a lot of trouble with my wife when we go shore fishing, because mom’s inherently have rules for kids that are appropriate for the house and not for the shoreline. This is the place to get dirty, kiss frogs, throw snakes and get your shoes wet…Wait, why are they wearing shoes?

If you haven’t figured it out yet, food is an extremely important part of this equation. Remember the principle “never get cold, never get hungry.” Make sure you have plenty of snacks, and sometimes spring for the really expensive hotdogs, because again, if a kid drops one in the fire, it’s something to laugh at and not get angry about. In spring and fall, cooking over an open fire is a really fun thing to do while you’re waiting for the fish to bite. And ending the night with blueberry or peach cobbler definitely is a bonus. Don’t worry about dishes and balanced meals; this is the time to relax and have fun together.

Another clever parenting tactic that is worth every minute is when the time arises, bypass bedtimes and normal evening rituals for the investment in stories that build relationships. One fall night when all the kids had school the next day and the walleye bite wasn’t fast and furious, we started to pack up to go home, and realized that the stars were exceptionally bright on a cold, crisp night. We put out the campfire, and all 6 of us laid on the ground and watched the stars much longer than we had ever planned. It was worth every minute.

On another occasion, we had an epic bite and we lost track of how many fish we caught after 50. We fished until we ran out of bait and were all too tired to stay out any longer. What’s important to remember about that night was, the biggest walleye was maybe 13 inches long, but the memories were keepers.

In the old days, the rule was “no radios.” Nowadays we just say “no technology,” because there’s no sense being outside around a fire on the shoreline and allow something to get in the way of getting to talk to each other. When I say talking to each other, I mean half storytelling and 75% picking on the kids.

Another disclaimer: As a rule, dads are horrible at taking something too seriously and getting angry; which I’m sure is still appropriate in the car while on vacation, but it is not acceptable while shore fishing.

The final tactic that’s important to remember is that shore fishing is an environment where memories are made when you let them happen. You cannot plan positive, lifelong memories. Most of the memorable shore fishing trips our family has gone on over the years were a last-minute decision made by my wife and I because the weather was right, we all needed a break and it just made sense. So, save some money, eat some cheap food over a campfire, laugh together and make memories on a shoreline near you this summer.

 

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