On the TV fishing shows they make it look so easy. With the flick of the wrist, the angler in his fishing boat casts his lure out 50 feet, dropping it on the edge of the reeds, exactly where the ravenous bass are lurking.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be talented to enjoy a fun day of fishing with the family on a Minnesota lake or river. All you need is a boat, the appropriate fishing licenses (resident kids under 16 do not need a license), fishing poles and some wiggling worms.
If it has been awhile since you last fished, here are a few suggestions from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to enhance your family fishing experience.
— First, make sure you have valid Minnesota fishing licenses. They are available in a variety of time spans, with different rates. More information online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.
— Next, make sure everyone has a properly fitted life jacket. Your boat rental company should have adult sizes.
— Pack the Basics. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, sunglasses and towels. Don’t forget the munchies!
— Start your fishing trip at home. Show your children how to dig up a worms and store them in a can.
— Print out a Fish ID Guide from the Minnesota DNR website so your children (and you!) can identify what you catch. Minnesota is home to 160 species of fish. (www.dnr.state.mn.us/fishing/fin/kids.html)
— Bring a camera! You’ll cherish forever a photo of your child holding up his or her first sunfish!
— Take the time to find a fishing spot with fish. Talk to the experts at your boat rental company or the staff at the local bait & tackle shop for suggestions.
— Remember that live bait (worms, minnows) is better at attracting panfish than artificial lures.
— Be prepared to spend much of your time baiting hooks, untangling lines and releasing fish.
— Definitely use bobbers. Don’t start out casting spoons. Change the depth occasionally. Not all fish swim near the surface. Some are happier near the bottom.
— If you don’t have a clue how to rig a rod and reel, chat with the staff at the tackle shop for recommendations on size of hooks, line weight, and how to set up the rod/reel. Note: At many state parks (including Afton, Interstate and William O’Brien, all on the St. Croix River), you can check out fishing kits that include a rod, reel and stocked tackle box. (More information at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/loaner.html.)
— Make sure that you only keep fish that are in season. Sunnies, perch, crappies and catfish can be caught all year. But some fish — especially walleye, northern pike, trout, sturgeon — have restricted seasons or minimum sizes or require stamps.
— Don’t be disappointed if your children are not interested in helping you clean the fish. It’s challenging to make that look fun.