September 28 2020

8 Steps To Fishing The Cape Cod Canal With Kids


ryan collins my fishing cape cod breakfast

Note from Ryan: This post was originally published in August of 2014. I figured now would be a good time to re-publish this post, because each week I receive messages from parents who want to take their kids fishing.

One way my Dad got me hooked on fishing was by taking me to the Cape Cod Canal on Sunday evenings when I was between the ages of 6 and 10 years old.

No we did not jig or plug for big stripers, but we did catch a ton of small bottom fish that kept me occupied and very engaged, despite my young age.

In this post I want to share with you 8 steps for fishing the Canal with young children. However be careful because you just may get the young kids in your life hopelessly addicted to fishing – which is exactly what happened to me!

1)  Rig Up With Light Tackle

Recently I went fishing with Kyle, an up and coming fisherman who is 9 years old. The first thing I did with Kyle was rig him up with a light tackle spinning setup that would be perfect for catching schoolie stripers and other small Canal-dwelling fish.

fishing the cape cod canal with kids
Here Kyle is spooling up his new spinning reel with 10lb test mono.

You don’t need anything fancy, just a 6 or 7 foot long light spinning rod and reel spooled with 10 pound test monofilament line.

Big thanks to all the MFCC members who participated in this past spring’s My Fishing Cape Cod breakfast raffle. The money we raised through the raffle helped to pay for Kyle’s spinning setup – nice work!

2)  Tie On A Sabiki Rig

Once you have a light rod and reel ready to go, the next step is to tie on a sabiki rig.

Here Kyle is tying on a sabiki rig, which work very well on the tiny fish that live in the Canal.
Sabiki rigs work well for catching the many small fish that inhabit the Canal.

Sabiki rigs have many small hooks so just be careful. Using sabiki’s is probably the most efficient way to catch the small fish that inhabit the Canal’s rocky bottom.

Add a weight to the bottom of the sabiki rig. Depending on the current anywhere from 1-4 ounces will work.

3)  Bait Up With Pieces Of Mackerel

Small pieces of the belly section of mackerel work very well when added to each hook on the sabiki rig. We will be targeting small fish like the cunners, perch and other “bait stealers” that drive most fishermen crazy but are super fun for young kids to catch.

mackerel for bait belly section

I recommend the belly section because it stays on the hook better than other parts of the mackerel. Just a small little piece on each hook is all you need.

4)  Go To The Scusset Fish Pier Or The Sandwich Bulkhead

There’s a really nice fish pier at Scusset Beach State Park that is perfect for this type of fishing. Another place to try is the bulkhead area at the Sandwich Marina.

Kyle and I dropping baits to the bottom off the Scusset fish pier.
Kyle and I dropping baits to the bottom off the Scusset fish pier.

In these spots you can just drop a line straight down and catch a fish. There’s no need to cast which is good because casting is often the most difficult thing for a young or novice fisherman to do.

5)  Time Your Trip So You Are Fishing During Slack Tide

The Canal’s current can be very strong so you want to time your trip so you are fishing during slack tide. Slack tide is when the current will be the weakest.

I would recommend fishing 1/2 hour before until 1/2 hour after slack tide.

You can see what time slack tide occurs by viewing this Cape Cod Canal Current Table. My favorite time to fish this way is during the low slack, when the tide is beginning to flood.

6)  This Is The Perfect Opportunity To Teach The Basics Of Fishing (and have the kids do all the dirty work)

This is simple fishing. All there is to do is cut small pieces of bait, thread them onto each sabiki hook, drop the rig to the bottom, wait for a bite and then set the hook.

I feel this is a great opportunity to show the basics of fishing to the young fisher and by the end of the trip, have them doing all the dirty work like baiting hooks and unhooking fish.

teaching how to bait

You will be getting lots of bites and will need to re-bait quite often so take it from me you will want the kid doing most of the work.

Kyle's grandpa Dennis relaxing as Kyle baits all the hooks by himself.
Kyle’s grandpa Dennis relaxing as Kyle baits all the hooks by himself.

My Dad did this for me and now when we go striper fishing on my boat he sleeps in the cabin the entire time and I wake him up when we start hitting fish.

Not a bad deal for my Dad if you asked me!

7)  Start Catching

The most common fish you’ll catch using these methods is a common perch. These fish are also called cunners of bait stealers.

Perch can be found all throughout the Canal and are easy to catch.
Perch can be found all throughout the Canal and are easy to catch.

Perch may be small but they are plentiful. You will most likely start getting bites as soon as the bait hits bottom.

They are small fish but are surprisingly strong. They put up a great little fight on light tackle!

The cool thing about fishing the Canal this way is that you never know what you may catch. Growing up I caught mackerel, pollock, sea herring and flounder.

When I went fishing with Kyle, he even caught a nice sea bass!

kyle seabass

A sea bass like the one above is a real trophy for this type of fishing.

8)  Eat The Fish

kyle eating  a perch

Just kidding!

Definitely do not eat the fish.

In Conclusion

Fishing the Canal in this fashion is simple and easy. The action is fast and furious which is important for the short attention spans of young children.

I got hooked on this type of fishing when I was  young. I feel that Kyle may be hooked as well. If you have a youngster in your family and you want to get him or her outside and away from the iPad, then I highly recommend giving this a shot.

What do you think? Let me know by commenting below.

Tight lines and take care,


About the author 

Ryan Collins

I'm fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I've been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!

  • I bought my 8 yo grandson his 1st rod/reel this past March … a Penn Pursuit 3. We have gone out a half dozen times so far, either off the jetties at Bass River or the flats on the north side. He loves casting a Yozari Hydrpencil (I removed the rear trebles) and does reasonably well. I will also bring him to the Canal and let him reel in a plug after I cast it. But I love the idea of the fishing pier … gonna try that.,

  • Always keep in mind that when you take a child fishing that you are not going out there to catch the biggest fish you ever caught…you are going for a much bigger and more important reason.

  • I loved the article, but growing up in the Midwest (South Dakota) we didn’t have much in the way of oceans or salt water, so the James and Missouri rivers were the next best thing for kids to learn everything there was to fishing and believe me from about 5 or 6 years of age I was a terror on Brown Bullheads and Catfish and to this day I never miss an opportunity to cash in on a stringer of these delicious fish. Thx for the article bro…..Butch

    • That’s awesome Butch! You must of had some epic adventures along those rivers growing up. No matter where we are located, we can all relate to the fishing passion/obsession. Thanks for reading and visiting MFCC!

  • Absolutely a great article! I exactly took my two Youngs 7 and 8 to fishing for the first time at Scusset fish pier, they caught lot of perch and pollock at this day, and both told me it was the best day ever. Even the article help me at teach me some tricks that I did not know.
    Thanks for the article Ryan!

    • That’s awesome! Fishing the pier for perch and other small fish is definitely a fantastic way of introducing youngsters to fishing.

      Good luck fishing this season with your kids!

      • We also teach our little girls to fish ?????
        I love your articles . We fish now mostly in Dennis on Chapin or Crow’s Pasture!
        Using sea clams as bait!
        What’s best for bass in your opinion??

  • Great stuff ryan, the message is not lost on us, it’s all about the kids!!! And where would they be without access to our fantastic resources? Here on Long Island “the fisherman” magazine sponsors an annual send a kid fishing fundraiser where donations are made and under privileged kids get out on party boats for a day. Does the New England edition do the same thing? $60.00 would go a long way, just sayin! Maybe mfcc could have a fundraiser this winter and come spring I bet lots of kids could hit the water. I for one would be happy to contribute. Thanks again -art.

    • Hey Art – I’m not sure if the New England edition does the same thing, but that is a terrific idea. Good to know you’re onboard with it!

      With help from Garet ( I feel MFCC will be working together with special needs groups during 2015. It sure is nice being able to help kids and folks with special needs get outside and do a little fishing.

      Good for the soul.

  • This is a great article! Thanks for specifically targeting kids…when I wanted to interest my son at this age all I could come up with was a fishing party boat out of Hyannis. Did the trick though! Would love to fish with you someday with him-now an adult.

    • Thanks Robert! Happy you enjoyed it.

      Looks like the party boat did the trick and got your son hooked. I’ll keep you posted on a fishing opportunity, or maybe even an MFCC fall get together.

  • I wished that I’d started fishing at Kyle’s age and not at almost 48. I do find a lot of pleasure in this activity just as Kyle does and I do need a lot of advice myself.

    • Better late than never Emil, that is for sure!

      I think that’s the great thing about fishing and being by the ocean. It’s great no matter your age and level of ability.

  • Ryan, Kyle is fortunate that he has you to teach him the “ropes” about fishing. That is a great spot also, I have fished there and it is a great spot for kids. The raffle money could not have gone to anything better ! ! ! Don B

    • Thanks Don! I agree that the raffle money was used very well in this respect. Thank you again for helping with that!

      I still have $60 left from that raffle, so if you have any ideas how best to spend it, definitely let me know.

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