No Trophies Necessary – Plan Your Own Family Fishing Competition

 

The kids will vie for something competitive when you all fish together – the longest fish, the heaviest fish, the tastiest fish, the quickest catch, the final catch, who Dad loves best. Turn that potentially disruptive energy into a positive and design your next outing as a family fishing competition.

The rules can be serious or silly. They can involve encouraging your offspring to hone their fishing skills, or they can be designed to minimize bickering. They can be sober with strict parameters, or they can be meant to elicit giggles. Design a game that seems good for your clan. If doesn’t go well, that’s fine. Try a new tactic the next time. Here’s how to get started.

State the rules clearly

Spell out what’s important to you. Siblings, cousins and such can be cut-throat, after all. Toss out the words “good sportsmanship” as appropriate, and set your guidelines, which may include these standards:

  • Only one fishing rod per participant
  • Only use the bait provided. (Yes, Johnny, that means you can’t sneak extra spider jigs into your pocket before leaving home.)
  • Spell out if the contest is only for one species of fish – walleye, say, or if it’s for anything that bites, or anything legal that bites.
  • Stand or sit a minimum distance away from competitors.
  • Receive one point per fish. Or maybe go by the total weight of all the fish caught.
  • Adjust points for distinct fish varieties, if necessary. For example, give one point for a beach fish, two for a reef fish and three for a big fish, if catching all are possible.
  • Then add in extras you care about: Remove your hat, and you have to bring everyone else a cold drink. Refuse sunscreen, and you have to wear a frilly pink long-sleeve blouse while fishing – then accept the sunscreen. Resist the life jacket for even a second, and you start 15 minutes later than everyone else. Whine, and your brother gets to choose the music played on the car ride home.
  • If too much quarreling ensues, the parent gets to play a dry educational book over the speakers once the tournament ends ­– assuming the captain doesn’t rebel.

Decide if there should be an entry fee

Real fishing tournaments require a pay-in up front. Cash seems odd for a family tourney, but it might be worth asking every contestant to ante up something valuable. Why? To keep their attention. Otherwise, a bored child with nothing at stake might opt to sit by the captain, rod-free. If cash isn’t fair incentive, try for portable possessions from superhero figurines to the bag of candy snuck into backpacks before leaving home. If you’re stumped for ideas and your kids have smartphones, there’s your contribution. Put all the gizmos in a waterproof bag and have the charter staff lock them up. Everyone who quits has to wait an extra hour to get electronic machines back.

Announce who’s the arbitrator

Mom, Dad, the professional guide or another objective adult should be pre-named Decider-in-Chief. Chances are, your charter captain will be most objective, or at least most trusted by everyone in the family, so consider him or her.

Set a timer

Choose a time frame – four hours, eight hours with a break for lunch, even six days if you’re out on the water for a week. End the contest exactly on the time pre-decided.

Allow handicaps for the youngest fisherfolk in the family

Maybe the 5-year-old starts with 3 points, or a head start. Compensate for nap time with extra points, or adjust in another way to allow for age and skill-set differences.

Create enough categories for everyone to win, especially if your children are young

The real winner will have caught the most fish or the most amount of pounds, probably. If you want everyone to be a winner – it’s coddling but effective – conjure up additional categories on the fly: prettiest fish, ugliest fish, fish that looks most like Great Aunt Bertha, Best Effort, Best Attitude, Fewest Tantrums, Most New Skills Accomplished (maybe Brittany baited her own hook for the first time), Best Whistling While Fishing …  . Go all in. This is about creating a positive experience for all.

Offer enticing prizes

Hand out what your troupe likes, whether that’s extra time for video games back home, a trip with three friends to the nearest arcade, the opportunity to choose the night’s restaurant for dinner, or first dibs on the boat or hotel shower. For some families, a bunch of frisbees from the dollar store will do the trick. Or try this: offer the right to write the official Instagram post, including a photo with the winner holding a fish and standing next to the captain and/or crew. Then again, even big ol’ bragging rights might work beautifully.

Have fun

Most important, a family fishing competition should be a bonding experience. Set an example by being upbeat throughout. Be flexible, infuse humor, and let kids be kids as long as their behavior is safe. Creating a fun and fulfilling day is way more important than sticking to all the rules set out above. If you end on a positive note, you all come out victorious.

With a charter fishing expedition, the captain, and the crew will handle the busywork for you, from plotting the course to storing the catch. That leaves you free to participate in the tournament, or just lay back and enjoy the show. (But hey, store your smartphone too. Set a good example.) Search FishAnywhere.com for charter services that get high ratings with our users.

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Written by Rona Gindin

Rona Gindin is a multimedia writer, editor and television personality covering a broad range of subjects for national and local media outlets. Working from an Orlando base, she’s Central Florida’s go-to source for information on the destination’s restaurants and attractions.

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