Get Hooked on Fishing

Kids don’t remember their best day of television

When families come to the Heber Valley, it’s usually to take advantage of the many outdoor recreational activities our beautiful valley boasts: mountain biking, hiking, snowmobiling, and more!

As Spring awakens the land and the rivers swell with fresh mountain snow runoff, one of the more popular family adventures is fishing. And no wonder, with eleven new state fishing records set in Utah last year, alone! 

Our valley is ideally situated at the base of the Uintah Mountain range – the birthplace of many rivers that not only supply water to our valley, but much of the Utah and Salt Lake valleys, as well. Bass, pike, and trout are abundant. Anglers come from all over to try their hand at a
boast-worthy catch. Since it is likely that you’ll catch at least one fish per trip; it’s an ideal place to teach young people.

As with all good things in life, fishing with kids takes some forethought. I’ve listed a few tips that will help you get started and provide a good framework for a successful trip. However, you know your children (or grandchildren) best, so take what you like, leave the rest, and have fun!

Fishing Permits

First things first. As the adult you’ll need a state-licensed fishing permit. Children under the age of twelve fish for free in the state of Utah. That means if you’re fishing with children ages 12-18, you’ll need to purchase a permit for them. However, the fee is less than an adult permit.

Licenses are easy to obtain and can often be purchased the day-of at licensed sellers like: outdoor and sporting goods stores; grocery stores; and most fishing and fly shops. You can also purchase your license online through Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources (wildlife.utah.gov) or download and purchase it through their app. One of the advantages to purchasing it through the DWR app is that your permits are easily accessible on your phone. Current year license prices and fees for both residents and non-residents are listed on both the website and app.

Get your fishing permits at: Walmart, Sportman’s Warehouse, Smith’s, or Lee’s Marketplace. Check out Fish Heads Fly Shop on Main Street for all your fishing needs.

Where To Go

Once you’ve secured your permits, you’re good to go. Utah has majestic rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, as well as an abundance of smaller ponds and fishing holes. In the Heber Valley, the easiest and most obvious spots to get to are the Deer Creek and Jordanelle Reservoirs. They both have easy-access day use areas with shaded pavilions and space to swim if the kids tire of fishing. Deer Creek Reservoir has at least eight varieties of fish to catch, including trout, perch, walleye, and sunfish, so chances are good you’ll get a bite. There is ample space for shoreline fishing, and a lot less competition for anglers if you get out there in the spring, before the summer temperatures hit. As soon as the daytime temps hit the mid-60s, you’ll be sharing the waters with more boaters, skiers, and windsurfers.

If crowds aren’t your thing, consider the rivers and creeks. You’ll find plenty of space to spread out on the Provo River, Lake Creek, Rock Creek and all the tributaries in between — maybe you’ll discover a new favorite spot. Don’t be afraid to test different waters. Enjoying a fresh view is half the fun.

Why Fish with Kids?

Children are spending more time indoors than ever before. The research is clear; time outdoors in nature boosts mood, increases concentration, and slows activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex (our brain’s main processing center) which reduces stress and anxiety. The benefits of time outdoors are myriad and well-researched. Spending time outside is good for everyone’s brains. Introducing new environments to your children can increase conversations; allowing for both the time and space to talk. Having a shared interest, or just taking the time to do something special with a child shows you care and are invested in them. This can have long lasting effects on your relationship. The younger you start, the better.

The wonder of catching a fish, demonstrating respect for nature and natural processes of life, and connecting through shared success or dejection are skills that can’t be taught in front of a screen. So do the little bit of legwork required and take your children outdoors.

Preparation

Make sure you, yourself, are prepared. Children will be more at ease if they know you’re confident in what you’re doing. This doesn’t mean you need to be an expert angler, it simply means that you’ll be able to explain what the child might expect (the slippery texture of a fish, why it’s muscles reflexively move). Being able to talk through new experiences, introduce a few fishing vocabulary words, such as ‘lure’, ‘bait’, and ‘cast’, will make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone. This is where knowing your child’s preferences and attention span are key. It should go without saying that you’ll need to be more flexible when fishing with small children than you would on a solo venture.

Keep the trips shorter to begin with. It’s more important to make the trip fun and engaging than to spend endless hours trying to catch something bigger or better. If a child is getting restless or bored, be willing to let them pick a new spot, switch activities, offer snacks, or even pack up and go. You can always try again tomorrow, or next week.

What To Bring

You’ll obviously need an appropriately sized fishing rod or two, as well as hooks, bait, and any other fishing gear you’ve found helpful over the years, but these other items are essential when it comes to fishing with children.

  • Sun-protection. Sunscreen, hats, UV-blocking shirts, etc. All the same precautions you’d take for yourself.
  • A camera or phone camera. You’ll want to capture all those fun memories you’re making!
  • A small cooler. If you plan on taking your catch home, you’ll want a way to transport it safely.
  • Extra fishing line, hooks, and a pocketknife or utility tool. Developing coordination and casting skills mean you may be tying more knots than you planned.
  • A fish identification booklet or phone app. It’s wonderful to know what you’ve caught, especially if you’re new to fishing. Research the types of local fish in your area before you go and look at pictures with your children. It will get you both excited to get out on the water.
  • Snacks and drinks! Plan to bring more than you think you’ll need and be respectful of your environment. Teach children to practice the “leave no trace” rule of thumb; if you packed it in, pack it back out. Help the next generation learn to respect our beautiful natural places.

More important than any technique or great catch is the joy and fun you bring to the experience. Children reflect what they see. Be willing to be silly. Even if you go home with an empty cooler, the great memories you’ve made mean you won’t be going home empty handed.

Additional Resources

If you’re looking to give your kids a head-start and some great instruction, both Heber and Park City offer youth fishing programs.

In Heber, the program is offered through the Wasatch State Park Community Fisheries program. Classes will take place over six Thursdays in June & July. The program is only $20, and kids aged 6-12 will learn basic knot tying, how to catch, hold, and gut their own fish. They are always looking for adult volunteers, so if you’re thinking of enrolling your child, consider tagging along and helping! You may just learn some new tricks yourself. Contact Kathy Donnell to get on the mailing list and receive more information for sign-ups ([email protected]).

In Park City, lessons are taught in partnership at the Deer Valley Ponds. The club is offered through the Park City Municipal Athletic and Rec. Center (1200 Little Kate Rd, Park City, UT 84060). They also offer a flyfishing program in partnership with High Country Fly Fisher, for more advanced youth anglers. Go online to parkcityrecreation.org for further information.

Registration for both programs usually open in March or April and fill up quickly, so get on the list as soon as you can.

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