If you’re a dedicated angler and you have kids, you’ve been through plenty of problems as you’ve raised those rascals aboard your boat. My “little ones” are in their teens now, and I’ve made it more or less out of the woods. But I learned a lot about the challenges of outfitting a tyke for boating, because unfortunately, most companies (which are naturally focused on profit margin more than anything else) don’t make gear sized appropriately for children. Here are a few items I’d call invaluable, when taking the kids fishing on a boat.
1. Ice fishing rods – Don’t laugh—I’m serious. Those tiny three foot long rods are ideal for kids in the two to six year old range. No, they don’t cast very far, but you want to limit your child’s “arc of destruction,” anyway. And these days, it’s easy to order an ice fishing rod from somewhere like Minnesota or Manitoba or Nova Scotia, or wherever the heck they do that ice fishing thing, anyway.
2. Foul weather gear – This is a real toughie, because most rain jackets sized for kids have the same quality level as those fold-up, pocket-sized ponchos you can buy at any convenience store. One notable exception: Gage (made by Grundens) has a line called Weather Watch Junior, which consists of high-quality jackets and pants made with 300-denier polyester.
3. Fighting belts – If you’re going to take your kids fishing for anything over 30 or 40 pounds, they’ll need some type of fighting belt. Unfortunately, no one I’ve ever been able to find (and yes, I spent a LOT of time looking) makes a good, comfortable, kid-sized version. The solution? You need a regular fighting belt, a cooler, and a can of Pringles potato chips. Dump the chips, and cut the bottom out of the can. Then remove the belt from one side of the rod-butt holder, thread the belt strap through the can, and then re-attach it. When your kid is hooked up to a big one, open the cooler and push the strap and can inside, so the belt hangs down on the front of the cooler. Then close the lid and let the kid sit on it. The Pringle’s can will keep the strap from pulling out of the cooler, and the fighting belt will hang down in-between the child’s legs where he or she can drop in the rod butt and go to war with that monster fish on the end of the line.