Introducing Kids to Fishing

Angling for fun

By Brian Jennings

Fishing in Central Oregon. Fishing in Bend,

As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The same can be said of kids, and Central Oregon provides ample opportunities to take youngsters fishing and introduce them to an outdoor activity that they can enjoy for a lifetime. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Bend office has produced a booklet every parent wanting to introduce their kids to fishing should have. “Easy Angling in Central Oregon” is a 28-page publication compiled by fish biologists that lists the area’s favorite entry-level places to fish.  All are within easy reach by car and offer a good chance of catching a fish using simple techniques. Many offer restrooms and picnic tables, and the fishing regulations are simple.

Some of the favorite spots include Bend’s Shevlin Park, the Pine Nursery Pond, Reynolds Pond in Alfalfa, the Prineville Youth Pond, Firemen’s Pond in Redmond, Sprague and Century Ponds in the Deschutes National Forest, and many others.

“Shevlin Pond is a kids-only pond open to youngsters 17 and under,” explains ODFW’s Jenn Luke. Parents can assist their kids at Shevlin, which is regularly stocked with fish. Luke says they are starting to stock it with bigger ‘trophy’ fish for added enjoyment. “It’s a very easy place to catch a fish in a beautiful setting,” she says.

The Pine Nursery Pond is operated by the Bend Park & Recreation Department and is stocked regularly by ODFW. Luke says it’s a great place to take young people fishing in early spring and fall. Unless frozen over, both ponds are accessible year round.  Luke reminds parents that kids 12 to 17 years of age need to be licensed to fish in Oregon. The cost is $10, and licenses are available at most outdoor stores.

ODFW also provides a convenient list of tackle and techniques necessary when introducing kids to fishing. The list — that includes a simple rod and reel, small selection of lures, bait hooks, bobbers and artificial bait — is enough to begin. Luke advises parents to not make the process complicated. “If you fish Shevlin Pond, just use a worm and bobber. Start simple.”  She says kids get excited about watching a floating bobber with a worm or power bait attached to a hook. “It’s important for a young child to actually feel what it’s like to catch a fish.” While Luke says there is a good chance kids will be successful on almost any outing in Central Oregon, “You should teach them that sometimes they won’t catch a fish.”

John Kruse is host of the Northwestern Outdoor Radio show which is heard on over 50 stations, including KBND in Bend. As a father and outdoorsmen, he has also fished throughout the Pacific Northwest. “The best advice I can give is do all you can to make it a successful outing.”  He says kids don’t care how big the fish are, they just want to catch fish.  “Don’t get fancy, get basic, and use bait. Kids love to see a bobber go under the water.” Kruse also states that it’s important for youngsters to be comfortable and warm. “Have snacks on hand, and plan some alternate activities if the fishing is slow. Go for a hike, look for frogs or wildlife.”

Karl Findling of Bend grew up in Eastern Oregon and has fished many of Central Oregon’s lakes and rivers. As a father and dedicated conservationist, he offers insightful advice about getting kids outdoors and fishing.  He says to start them young and take them to a sportsmen’s show where they can catch fish in a tank and actually see fish bite a baited hook. He says area ponds are a great place to teach kids basic techniques using inexpensive spin cast rods and reels. Findling — who has taken his two daughters hiking, camping, and fishing — says it’s important to keep it fun. “The more fish they catch, the more likely it is they’ll become a fisher for life.”

Shaun Pigott is an active member of the Deschutes Chapter of Trout Unlimited. He says it’s also important to keep trips short when introducing young people to fishing.  “Two hours max, followed by ice cream.” Pigott advises parents to introduce kids to fishing using a simple spinning rod that is easy to cast. “Take them to a football field or open area where you can help them focus on the motion of casting before you take them to a pond,” he suggests.

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife offers many programs for young people and families who want to fish. Jenn Luke will offer a family fishing clinic at Pine Nursery Pond on May 21st from 9 am to 1 pm. ODFW also offers a free weekend of fishing the first weekend in June.  Here in Central Oregon the free event will be held at Caldera Springs at Sunriver.  The Bend Park & Recreation Department also offers fishing workshops for kids. And the Kokanee Karnival Youth Education Program provides river and lake stewardship education to fourth and fifth grade students in Central Oregon.

Luke says there is nothing more positive than watching a child catch his or her first fish. She recalls a young girl who had just caught a fish at Shevlin Pond. The girl was crying, and Luke was worried. She told Luke, “I’m crying because I’ve never caught a fish before and I’m so happy!”

For further information about getting kids started in what may become a lifelong passion, the ODFW office in Bend can be reached at

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