At 50 Campfires, we know camping and fishing just naturally go together. One without the other lessens the joy in either one. The reason? Because the measure of fishing success is not how many fish you take home. It’s not even how many you catch. Fishing success is all about the memories you make.
The same goes for camping. The reason we camp is not to gain tangible things. It’s about collecting memories.
Fishing and camping are both about the social interaction. They are about family and friends enjoying good and memorable times in the outdoors. They are about lessons learned from our greatest teacher – Mother Nature. They are about introducing your kids and your uninitiated friends … maybe even yourself … to the joys of being outdoors together.
If you’ll focus on these wonderful characteristics of fishing and camping, then every adventure will be a success whether the fish bite or not, whether it rains every day, or whether the focus of the trip is the campfire rather than the lake shore or vice versa. As Zebco says, it will “catch on.”
Here’s 50 Campfires’ best advice to introduce your family and friends to fishing and to share every great moment.
If The Fish Are Biting … Count Your Blessings
The surest … and easiest way … to hook a newcomer on fishing is to give them plenty of action. Size of the fish doesn’t matter. Species of fish doesn’t matter. Seeing that bobber making rings in the water matters. Feeling the resistant tug on the line matters.
You can boost your odds for fast action by focusing on fish species that are plentiful and not fussy. This usually means focusing on the categories called pan fish and catfish. These names are spot on! “Pan fish” are delicious in the fry pan. “Cat-fish” species all have whiskers that help them find and taste good things to eat. (However, catfish are no slouches in the fry pan either.)
Pan fish include bluegills, sunfish, crappies, perch, white bass, and rock bass. The common catfish you’ll encounter include channel cats, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. One closely related species you’ll almost certainly encounter has the totally unlovable name of “bullhead.”
Like all catfish, bullheads don’t have scales, just slick skin. When new anglers touch their first few, it usually makes them say “eeeww” and think they are gross. However, bullheads nearly always bite readily even when other species won’t, so they will help keep the action steady for newbies when nothing else will bite.
One way to add to the memories we’re really out to catch is to create fish species flash cards to quiz new anglers … and perhaps yourself … on the identities of fish. With beginning anglers, you will be targeting fish species that give you the best chances for fast action, but part of the fun is never knowing for sure what’s on the end of the line when the bobber goes under.
We’ve made flash cards super-easy with this downloadable PDF file of full-color images covering 18 of the most common species you’re likely to catch: Ultimate Guide to Fishing Flashcards. Print them front to back for easy-to-use flash cards. This makes a fun game to build up anticipation for a first fishing trip. It’s also a practical guide on the shoreline when you land a fish you don’t recognize. And at the lake, pond, or river you can offer an extra prize to an angler each time he or she correctly identifies a fish he or she has caught.
As a bonus, we’ve included an extra page that shows the names of all the fish parts. This is for the budding scientist among your crew who gets intrigued by the flash cards and wants to learn more. (You’re going to be surprised at who and how many they are once you make a game of fish ID.)
To help you make sure you have everything you need when you set out, Zebco built customizable Adventure Checklists. They will help you enjoy fishing even more, no matter what other outdoor adventures you connect them with.
If The Fish Aren’t Biting Go To Plans B, C, D…
You can do everything right, come up with the “perfect” plan, target the right species with the right tackle and bait, and sometimes the fish are still not going to bite. But don’t fret – great enjoyment of the day and epic memories are still possible. You just need a plan. The key is having other activities and entertainment planned to which you can switch at the newcomers’ first sign of waning interest.
Such activities fall into two categories:
- Activities that you can do while you’re still fishing
- Nearby activities that can immediately take the place of fishing
Fishing from shore especially lends itself to multi-tasking. The lines can stay in the water while you’re eating or reading for example. The bobber’s going to tell you when you have a bite. Considering the habits of the fish you’ll likely be after from shore, you don’t even have to be quiet.
For ideas on how to add to your fishing adventure, check out this link on Zebco.com.
Some activities you can enjoy at the same time you’re fishing:
Eating – you can enjoy almost any kind of eats while your bait is still in the water. It might just be a bag of trail mix you pass among the anglers, or it could be as elaborate as setting up the portable grill and cooking up burgers and hotdogs. A couple of items that make eating and fishing at the same time more convenient are camping chairs and hand sanitizing wipes. Not many anglers find baiting a hook then eating string cheese very appetizing without a wipe in between.
Tunes – music goes everywhere we go today. Old school, you can bring along a boom box, but the more likely source will be your phone. Ear buds are okay, but they kind of defeat the social experience. Instead, a portable, weatherproof Bluetooth speaker lets everyone share the music. (Just be respectful of others nearby who may not want any more music than the singing birds.) On the lakeshore or around the campfire, your crew can play games with playlists like picking a song that has as the first word of its title the last word in the title of the one just played. And this can all happen, while you’re trying to catch fish.
Tunes II – why save the guitar or harmonica for the campfire? Nothing says you can’t break them out on the lakeshore – again as long as you’re respectful of others around you. If catching fish is slow, it’s not going to be any slower by putting a soundtrack to it, yet you can keep those lines in the water … so there’s always a chance.
Campfire – the process of building and starting a campfire is nearly as fun and engaging as sitting around it roasting hotdogs and toasting marshmallows. If it’s allowed where you’re fishing, a campfire can be a great addition to the day and stretch it well past dark if you like. Even if you can’t build a campfire on the ground, you may be able to have one on a portable fire pit, so check it out ahead of time for the location you’ll be fishing. There’s no better place to go for advice on building and enjoying campfires than the 50 Campfires website.
Books & Puzzles – many a soggy, gray camping trip has been salvaged by books, crosswords, Sudokus, and such in the tent or camper. Same can go for fishing. With a place to sit (or even stretch out on the grass), reading or working on puzzles is completely compatible with fishing. Just be sure to note where the book lands and what page you’re on when the bobber dives under the water! Things will get crazy – fast!
Electronics??? – maybe, but maybe not. One of the great things about fishing and camping is the chance to socialize with real, live people who are right there with you … on the lakeshore or around the campfire. Someone sitting in a camp chair with ear buds in place carrying on conversations on three social media channels at once isn’t really there. Help them see fishing and camping are awesome opportunities to connect with people you love and to make new in-person friends.
If things get really slow and interest in fishing that day falls off a cliff, you can still be prepared to enjoy the moment with backup plans for other activities. If you’re willing to leave the lakeshore, the sky is the limit. Knowing what go-kart tracks, tennis courts, farmers’ markets, swimming beaches, batting cages, indoor attractions, etc., etc. etc. are nearby can save the day.
There may even be good alternatives to fishing right at the lakeshore or on the riverbank.
Exploring – prepare for exploring the lakeshore by stashing a butterfly net and a magnifying glass in the car. You can use it to catch butterflies and grasshoppers for examination, but you can also roll up pants cuffs and wade in shallow water to scoop up aquatic life to discover as well.
Hiking – especially if you’re fishing at a state, county, or regional park, chances are good there are hiking trails on the same property. All that’s required is some alternate footwear to the fishing flip-flops, a well-stocked daypack, and a sense of adventure.
Geocaching – have you heard of it? It’s a worldwide treasure hunting game with millions of treasures to find. Just download the free geocaching app on your phone, and you’ll be ready to lead your crew to all kinds of new adventures. Chances are you’ll be amazed how close the nearest geocache is to your favorite fishing spot.
Lawn Games – from Frisbees to Ramp Shot to Spike Ball and more. Any campsite … or fishing hole … is more inviting when there are games to play. Seeing you having such a good time may even bring over the neighbors asking to join in. 50 Campfires has reviewed many great outdoor games, where you can find the right ones to pack for your next fishing trip. You might even find a disc golf course in the park where you’re fishing.
When to Make the Introduction
There’s never a wrong time to introduce someone to fishing. They’re never too young, and definitely not too old. You just need to plan ahead for varying levels of interest and patience. To experience fishing success:
- Don’t push it! Keep fishing interesting and exciting. Offer other activities around the fishing adventure to make it truly memorable.
- Invite, don’t make! Good memories result from “trying” something new rather than new things being forced to do it.
- Keep it social! Music, food, laughter … these keep fishing – and any other outdoor activity – fun. And they keep people coming back.
… oh, and if you can, catch a couple of fish. But it’s NOT the measure of a successful trip.
Quick Links To The Ultimate Fishing Guide presented by Zebco