When you take a kid fishing, a few things happen that have long-lasting effects on that child for the rest of their life.
First, they will always have the memory of the time shared with you and the excitement of catching their first fish. Second, they will begin to explore a new hobby that they can grow with and enjoy for the rest of their lives.
Overall, fishing can be an inexpensive hobby that can be done at any age, and in almost any physical condition.
When you teach a child to fish, they will always have a connection to nature that they can partake in, even as a resident in an urban area. Just one short car ride, or bus ride, and they can escape to a peaceful afternoon of fishing alone, or with a friend.
So, where do you take a kid to fish for their first time? In the state of California, there are great fishing opportunities within a short distance from urban centers.
You may not want to take a child on an ocean fishing expedition for their first time. This can be too chaotic and overwhelming!
The best place to take a kid fishing for their first time is a park with a well-known fishing pond. It must be well-known because nothing is worse than taking a kid out for their first fishing experience and they see zero action.
Some ponds are stocked by state and local DNR authorities, and others just have a good reputation of having some action. Here is our list of the best kid’s fishing destinations in California.
California is a large state; therefore, we have broken down the best kid’s fishing destinations by region.
Advice for Taking a Kid Fishing
The first thing to remember when taking a kid fishing is to have fun. It does not matter where you decide to drop a line as long as the kid understands it's about fun, relaxation, and spending time with people you care about.
Second, keep it simple. When it comes to gear, find gear designed for a beginner that is not too complicated.
Keep bait and tackle simple as well. Worms, leeches, minnows. Keep the fancy spinners in the car. Last, focus on the kid and make them feel special.
The best kid’s fishing destinations in California are designed for the child in mind. Get them started, then when they are a bit older, you can enjoy some more exciting fishing expeditions on the big water.
When you think of Los Angeles, you may not think of nature immediately. However, all around the greater Los Angeles area, you have mountains and wilderness areas with many excellent fishing locations.
For a kid-friendly fishing spot located close to the LA city center, we recommend Legg Lake.
Legg Lake is just a 20-minute drive east of downtown LA off of Hwy 60. Located within the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, this little gem is perfect for a kid’s first fishing experience. Very centrally located, easy to get to, and has several activities for you to do other than fishing so you can make a full day out of it. Try some angler worms or small minnows for panfish and small bass.
Sacramento is located in the central valley and is just a drive away from many national parks and world-famous lakes like Lake Tahoe.
However, if you live in the city center and do not have a car, you still have access to the Sacramento and American river as well as a few smaller canals and creeks.
An excellent kid-friendly spot to go fishing within reach of a bus ride or a short bike ride is at Discovery Park.
Discovery Park is within walking distance of downtown Sacramento and is a noticeably quiet spot to take a kid fishing for their first time. Even though it is located so close to the city, the park itself is located on a smaller waterway that feeds into the Sacramento River. This heavily wooded location will make you feel like you are thousands of miles away from the big city and is a good place to escape. Try some stink bait for catfish or some nightcrawlers, you never know what you will find on this Sacramento River tributary.
If you live in the San Diego area, you will be impressed with the setup at Chollas Lake Park.
Chollas Lake Park: The park is located 15-minutes from downtown San Diego directly off of Hwy 94. This park may be much busier than other locations, but it is worth it. Not only is it a great fishing spot, but the city puts on a kid’s fishing clinic every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This is an excellent way to take a kid fishing to build interest before investing in all the gear. The park provides all the rods, tackle, and bait. Just show up, sit back, and watch your kid have a great time. They may even make a few new friends.
If you live in the San Francisco area, you have access to the beautiful and well put together Golden Gate Park. There are two excellent kid-friendly fishing spots in the park.
North Lake: The bigger of the two lakes, start the day off here and see what’s biting. If you get bored, it is just a short walk down to South Lake.
South Lake: A little quieter than North Lake, South Lake is a great location to watch the sunset in the late afternoon as you catch your limit.
Right outside of San Jose is the beautiful Vasona Lake Country Park.
The Vasona Reservoir: This reservoir is a great location for fishing right in Los Gatos, just a 20-minute drive from San Jose. Plenty of good structure in this body of water and you can rent a boat if you do not want to shore cast.
If you live in the Oakland area, then you probably know of Lake Merritt located in the heart of Oakland.
Lake Merritt: This is a good fishing spot to bring a kid who may still like to be close to the amenities of the city while still getting in an afternoon of fishing. Wet a line for a few hours, take a break and walk to one of the many restaurants nearby for a nice lunch, then head back out for some evening fishing.