Side view portrait of father and son sitting together on rocks fishing with rods in calm lake waters with landscape of setting sun, both wearing checkered shirts, shot from behind tree

If you’re thinking about taking your children fishing it can feel quite daunting; once you’ve worked out the different types of tackle, you have to think about where to go, which fish you might catch, and which bait to use, never mind where and when you’re allowed to fish.

But as fishing is known for boosting our mental health, and we have over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers in the UK, it really is a great thing to do. It’s also something the whole family can do together; it’s a great bonding experience and a fantastic way to get children outside and away from a screen.

So, as we head towards Father’s Day , we thought we’d put together a guide to safe river fishing with kids.


There’s a set season for river fishing and close season is the time of year when you can’t fish for certain types of fish, to protect fish stocks. You can’t fish for coarse fish in rivers and streams in England and Wales from 15th March until 15th June, but you can fish in most still waters and canals all year round. The best thing to do is check local byelaws.


  • A rod license – you need one of these to fish in any canal, river, reservoir or lake. Over 13s need a valid license but don’t need to pay until they are 16. The license lasts 365 days from when you buy it, and you could be fined up to £2,500 for fishing without one.
  • A permit – you’ll need permission to fish from whoever owns the fishing rights; this is often an angling club. You can get a season ticket and children are often free or get a discount. Check the specific club’s social media/website for more information.
  • Keep it simple – there are so many different types of fish out there, and different ways to catch them, but when you’re just getting started with children, keep to the basics; for example, float fishing is a great start as it’s very straightforward.
Little boy and girl fishing in a river. Sitting on a wood pontoon


We’re spoilt for choice here in the UK, but it’s probably best to start small. You could always ask your local fishing club, or tackle shop, for the best places to fish in your area. There are some fantastic fishing destinations in the UK so do some exploring. The Angling Trust also have an interactive map that helps you look for places to fish, with information about river levels etc.


Rivers tend to have ‘hot spots’, so it’s worth sussing it out beforehand. Maybe go for a walk without all your kit and look at the water a bit more closely; are there places where the water is faster? Are there deeper areas/weed beds/overhanging trees? Where would you go if you were a fish?

There are certain places where you’re more likely to find fish:

  • Where the water has a nice steady flow – around walking speed, although faster water might be good at the start of the season as there’s more oxygen in it.
  • Creases – a ‘crease’ is where fast water meets slower water; the current carries food for them (insect larvae etc.) which the fish can just grab and then sit back in the calmer water and eat, without using up too much energy; kind of like a ‘drive-thru’ for fish!
  • Pools – look for where the water is slower and deeper, maybe on a bend, fish tend to feel safer in these areas.
  • Covered areas – this could be overhanging bushes, weeds, anything that could give fish shelter and food.


Children can learn a lot from fishing, including patience and discipline, it also gets them outside at a time when a lot of their entertainment and socialising comes through a screen. It can also improve their motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

  • Get them involved from the start – they can help plan the trip, whether that’s helping to find a location, choosing the right bait to use, or setting up their own gear.
  • Find somewhere with lots of fish! They’re much more likely to want to go again if they have good results on their first go. It also helps if it’s accessible and not somewhere they walk miles to while carrying lots of gear.
  • Go on a nice, sunny day – taking them fishing on a warm, sunny day is a much nicer introduction than dragging them out in the wind and rain.
  • Make it fun – talk to them about what’s going on under the water; why certain fish prefer certain bait etc. Point out the kinds of plants and wildlife that you might find near water.
  • Give them goals – kids love a competition, especially if siblings are involved. You could see who can cast the furthest, or who can catch the biggest fish.
  • Keep their equipment simple – use gear that is designed for children to handle.
  • Bring plenty of drinks and snacks – this is the golden rule for doing anything with children (and most adults too!).
Father and son fishing


  • Use barbless hooks and child-friendly tackle.
  • Give them protective eyewear – not only to protect their eyes from the glare off the water, but also to protect them from overhanging branches etc. along the riverbank. (Anglers of any age should have a pair of these).
  • Consider using flotation devices.
  • Have clear rules about how to behave next to the water, and around tackle that could be dangerous.
  • Take plenty of water and sunscreen on hot days.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and shoes.
  • Take a first aid kit.


  • Do your research about where different fish tend to congregate, for example; bream prefer deep water, so you need to cast down the middle, while carp are often found near bridges and overhanging bushes. Take a look at our blog and learn about some of the freshwater fish you might find in the UK.
  • The best all-round bait is maggots, and the rule tends to be little and often when it comes to getting fish feeding, so make sure you take plenty. If you fancy being a bit more adventurous you could get the kids involved and try making your own homemade fishing bait!
  • Keep an eye on the weather as it can affect how the fish behave; for example, in hot weather fish may prefer fast, non-oxygenated water.
  • Be patient and know when to be quiet.
  • Stay safe and be aware of your surroundings, particularly uneven ground along riverbanks, especially after bad weather.
  • Remember to do your bit to keep our rivers healthy; not only does litter look awful, it’s also not good for wildlife or the environment. Here at The Insurance Emporium we’re a supporting sponsor of The Angling Trust’s Anglers Against Litter campaign, which encourages anglers to take 5 minutes at the end of their fishing session to pick up litter.

Fishing as a family is a great bonding experience and sets your children up with a hobby they’ve got for life. If this has inspired you to get out there with your family, you might also want to think about insuring your fishing equipment.

All our fishing policies come with a set of standard benefits that you can tweak with our Optional Benefits that include Gadgets and Mobile Phones, and Family Member Cover. Give us a call or visit our website and get a free, no-strings quote that could give you peace of mind while leaving you free to enjoy your time on the riverbank with your tiddlers.

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