Planning a family fishing vacation
In a time where life is asking for faster, stronger, higher and more, a family fishing vacation takes families out of their daily rush and routine and into a place of excitement with abundant smiles, laughter and fun.
In Ontario, there are a multitude of opportunities and offerings for family fishing trips, and amazingly, there is something for everyone, experienced or brand new to the sport. With all vacations or adventures, it pays to do your research as many angling operations have lots to offer visitors and with many, it isn’t all about the fishing – it’s about families.
Levels of service
In Ontario, there are three levels of operator service available for families looking for a fishing vacation. Depending on their needs and wants, they can choose something very basic, such as a cabin on a secluded lake all the way up to an all-inclusive, full-service fishing lodge experience.
Do-it-yourself (DIY): Basic cabins are wonderful for families who don’t want a schedule of any kind. They come and go as they please, do all their own cooking and cleaning and fish as much or as little as they want. Generally, DIY camps are cabins on remote lakes with the basic amenities for wilderness comfort. Most camps are rustic and may not have power, some may have solar. Families will have to bring their own food, bedding and fishing gear. Some outpost camps may provide canoes or kayaks for outside recreation other than fishing and swimming. The best practice is for anglers to do the research on the camp they choose, speak with the outfitter to understand the recreational activities possible at the camp and then decipher what outpost is right for them. Great DIY camps include:
- Wilderness North, Northwester Ontario
- Fly-in Fishing with Air-Dale, Wawa
- Anderson’s Lodge, Sioux Lookout
- Birchland Cottages on Clear Lake, west of Iron Bridge
Housekeeping: A step above a DIY outpost camp, housekeeping lodges are often a great option for families looking for an unstructured fishing vacation. Housekeeping outfitters offer a lodge manager on-site for the entirety of the family vacation. This allows for peace of mind for families unfamiliar with outdoor pursuits. Managers ensure the boats are running and can guide families as where to go and how to fish safely. They will often perform light housekeeping services such as linen changes. Families are still responsible for their own food and drink but can come and go as they wish and fish on their schedule. Consider your next family fishing vacation with these housekeeping adventures:
- Waterfalls Lodge, Spanish
- Bear's Den Lodge, Alban, French River
- Outpost Lodge, Thessalon
- Snowshoe Camp, Thessalon
- Como Lake Resort, Chapleau
Full Service or American Plan: Families looking for a fishing vacation where they don’t have to worry about any planning details should consider a full-service fishing lodge. Fully equipped, offering meals, housekeeping service, and often guiding, full-service lodges are designed to eliminate the day-to-day responsibilities. Often, full-service outfitters will offer other recreational watersports or land-based activities. Many full-service lodges cater to families. Families will fish and play around the lodge’s kitchen schedule for breakfast, lunch and dinner and can fish as much or as little as they wish. All families need to do is arrive with a great attitude and be ready for fun! Some full-service lodges in Ontario include:
Families new to fishing
For families new to fishing, Ontario has a program with choice lodges to introduce them to the sport in a positive, fun and educational way. These lodges invite new anglers of all ages to participate in their Experience Fishing program. All equipment is provided as is basic instruction on the fundamentals of fishing. It’s a wonderful way to get involved in the sport, learn from an expert and have a great first experience angling in Ontario. Some Experience Fishing program lodge participants include:
- Crane’s Lochaven Lodge, French River
- Dog Lake Resort, west of Thunder Bay
- Pine Portage Lodge, Kaby Lake
For anglers who are experienced and are looking to get their kids into fishing, there are some considerations of the sport that should be front of mind on those first fishing trips. Most importantly, the first fishing trip for new anglers should not be about the fish. It should be all about fun! Here are some tips to ensure their new angler has the best possible time on the water.
- Safety: Safety is paramount while on the water. New anglers may not take to casting right away and with hooks flying around there are a few things anglers can do to keep kids safe. Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses not only protect young eyes from the rays and reflection of the sun, but they also serve as protection from flying hooks or lures. Use barbless hooks. Before an angler makes their first cast, consider pinching down the barb on the hook. If a barbed hook gets into the skin, it can be quite difficult and painful to remove. A barbless hook will back out of skin easily and cause minimal damage.
- Weather: The first fishing trip for any child should be as comfortable as possible. Angling in cold temperatures, heavy wind, rain or inclement weather of any kind can end a young anglers desire to fish immediately. All kids in boats will be wearing lifejacket, so consider comfortable temperatures to start. Wind creates waves that may induce seasickness. Stay in calm waters to prevent illness on the water. Also, always watch the sun. Anglers can be sun effected very easily while fishing, not only from the sun from above, but also from the bounce of the sun off the water or an aluminum boat. Sunscreen is vital on every angler’s boat as is drinking water.
- Time: Many experienced anglers fish for the entire day. Up early and off the water late. When introducing kids to fishing, keep their time needs front of mind. 14 hours on the water might not be the best idea. The kids will tell you how long they want to be out. It may be 4 or 5 hours, or it may be 10 minutes. Boredom will end a young angler’s career before it begins.
- Entertainment: Fishing for young anglers isn’t about catching fish, it’s about having fun. And it’s not hard to keep them entertained if planned ahead. Consider bringing a few things along to keep them interested if they choose not to have a fishing rod in their hand. Live bait is a great distraction while out fishing. Consider worm races, playing with minnows, exploring a swamp with a dip net and swimming off the beach or boat. Being out with Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa is a wonderful opportunity for education about other creatures or environments found in Ontario all while under the veil of fishing.
- Species: For the first few times young anglers are out and they are interested in catching fish, consider the species to target. Kids will have fun if they are actually catching fish so deciding to target hard-to-catch species will not bode well. Species that are plentiful and easy to catch will have their young angler interested and having fun while on the water. Panfish species such as yellow perch, sunfish and rock bass are great species for kids from which to learn. They will experience the feel of a fish taking their bait and have fun doing so. This is also a great opportunity for anglers to teach the proper ethics of catch-and-release fishing and proper handling of fish to keep them safe. Consider bringing a pail along as well. Kids get great pleasure in watching the fish they just caught swim, breathe and display their beautiful colours. It’s an opportunity for new anglers to learn about the species of fish they are catching and releasing.
- Research: New anglers are encouraged in Ontario to take part in fishing for the first time. Ontario has designated free fishing weekends where anglers don’t need an Ontario fishing license to participate in the sport. There are many events, festivals and fishing derbies around the province designed to introduce fishing in Ontario.
Family fishing adventures, be they week-long vacations or day trips to a local body of water encourage education, fun and quality time with all family members. Getting into fishing is easier today than ever before. With a little research and a sense of adventure, experienced anglers and would – be anglers alike can experience the incredible angling Ontario has to offer. The sport is affordable, accessible and available in every part of the province. Programs such as Experience Fishing and Ontario’s free fishing weekends are designed to get people out on the water and keep them there.
Last updated: September 11, 2023