Fishing in Nebraska with Kids? Here’s What You Need to Know

Casting lines into glistening waters as the sun peeks over the horizon. Reeling in wriggling fish as smiles stretch from ear to ear. Fishing with kids allows creating memories that will last a lifetime. And when it comes to family-friendly fishing, Nebraska has no shortage of fun spots to drop a line.

Why Fish with Kids in Nebraska

Nebraska offers the perfect ingredients for fishing with kids. The state boasts over 300 lakes and 8,500 miles of fishable streams and rivers. Many of these spots offer kid-friendly amenities like playgrounds, hiking trails, beaches, and campgrounds. No matter which part of Nebraska your family adventures take you, there’s likely a charming fishing hole waiting nearby.

The variety of fish in Nebraska makes it easy to keep young anglers excited. Common catches include bluegill, crappie, catfish, walleye, trout, and bass. Nebraska also has quality populations of unique fish like paddlefish and sturgeon that can really get kids’ attention. The diversity of species and abundance of waterways means plenty of options to put kids on fish.

Choosing Where to Fish

Identifying family-friendly fishing spots tailored to kids ensures the best chance to make great memories. Here are some top picks across Nebraska to consider:

Southeast Nebraska

Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area spans over 1,800 acres in Lancaster County. Two lakes connected by a canal offer excellent panfish, catfish, bass and walleye fishing. Pawnee boasts sandy beaches, playgrounds, and hiking trails perfect for families.

Branched Oak Lake SRA in northwest Lancaster County provides 5,000 acres of water and over 13 miles of shoreline. Anglers regularly catch good-sized channel catfish plus crappie, white bass, walleye, and bluegill. Branched Oak has a swimming beach, playgrounds, trails, and three campgrounds.

Northeast Nebraska

Lewis and Clark Lake SRA straddles the Nebraska and South Dakota border. The lake covers over 34,000 acres with 150 miles of shoreline. Lewis and Clark holds walleye, smallmouth bass, catfish, white bass, and panfish. Two marinas, campgrounds, cabins, beaches, and hiking trails accommodate families.

Pibel Lake SRA in Wheeler County offers a quieter 175-acre fishing lake. Pibel contains crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, and catfish. Sandy beaches, playground equipment, a basketball court, and showers provide family amenities.

Panhandle Nebraska

Lake Minatare SRA sits near the town of Minatare in western Nebraska. At over 800 acres, Lake Minatare brims with walleye, white bass, wiper, crappie, catfish, and panfish. Picnic shelters, playgrounds, sand volleyball, a swimming beach, trails, and campgrounds cater to families.

Box Butte Reservoir SRA northeast of Alliance provides 1,600 acres of water and over seven miles of shoreline. Anglers regularly catch walleye, white bass, crappie, catfish and smallmouth bass. Box Butte features playgrounds, beaches, trails, and multiple campgrounds.

Those represent just a sample of the many family-friendly fishing locales across Nebraska. Be sure to check and for additional spots to try.

Know Before You Go: Licenses and Regulations

Before wetting a line, be sure to understand Nebraska fishing licenses and regulations. Properly licensing family members and following the rules makes for an ethical, legal trip.


In Nebraska, anyone age 16 and older must have a valid fishing license. Types of licenses include:

  • Annual resident license
  • Nonresident 1-day, 3-day, or annual licenses
  • Low-income resident licenses

Kids 15 and under can fish without a license. Those 16-17 need an annual or nonresident youth permit. Visit the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission licensing webpage for current rates and to purchase/download licenses.

Limits and Other Regulations

Regulations help maintain healthy Nebraska fisheries. Be sure to review size restrictions, bag limits, tackle limitations, and other rules before fishing.

Key regulations to know include:

  • Most lakes have special length and bag restrictions for certain fish
  • Only two fishing poles per licensed angler are permitted
  • Live bait restrictions exist on some waters
  • Specific paddlefishing and sturgeon rules apply

See the NGPC fishing guide for complete regulations by waterbody. Regulations do change, so a quick refresh before each trip is wise.

Making Memories: Tips for Fishing Fun

What truly makes a fishing trip with kids rewarding are the memories made along the way. Focus on keeping things simple, educational, and fun. Here are tips to create lasting memories:

Match the Fish to the Fisher

Start young kids with easy panfish like bluegill and sunfish. They bite frequently and can be caught with basic poles. As kids’ skills progress, target more challenging species like walleye, bass, or catfish.

Make Sure Gear Fits

Use kid-sized rods and reels so young anglers feel comfortable and in control. Add a bobber and small hooks/lures to make catching fish simpler. Customize equipment as kids grow.

Take Breaks

Kids have short attention spans, so keep fishing trips brief. Take regular breaks for snacks, games, or exploring nature. Limit initial trips to an hour or two.

Focus on Fun

Patience and a fun attitude are key! Jokes, snacks, exploration between catches all help make fishing enjoyable versus competitive. Celebrate the small stuff like baiting hooks and casting practice.

Teach Ethics

Explain the importance of being kind to fish through quick catch and release, wet hand handling, barbless hooks, etc. Instill why regulations keep fish populations healthy. Lead by example.

Capture Memories

Take lots of photos and videos – jumping fish, big smiles, muddy boots, sunsets over the water. Recording and sharing memories reminds kids how special fishing trips can be.

The tips above help ensure fishing with kids stays engaging, educational, and fun versus frustrating. Most importantly, be flexible and keep the focus on making memories!

Planning Your Fishing Adventure

A bit of planning and preparation makes fishing with kids even more enjoyable. A few things to address:

Check conditions – Wind, temperatures, rain and lake levels all impact fishing success. Have backup ideas if weather may be an issue.

Pack properly – Bring all needed tackle, licenses, food, drinks, sunscreen, hats, bug spray, towels, changes of dry clothes, etc. Better to have it and not need it!

Safety first – Always supervise young children near the water. Ensure proper life jackets fit and make flotation devices mandatory for non-swimmers.

Consider before/after adventures – Camping, hiking, swimming, boating, wildlife viewing, etc. make great additions before/after fishing. Plan a full day or weekend around fishing.

Cook up your catch! Catching and cooking a fresh fish dinner makes for lasting memories. Keep recipes simple with basic pan frying, foil packets, or campfire grilling.


Creating special memories starts with spending quality time together. And in Nebraska, fishing with kids allows just that – making memories that will be treasured for a lifetime.

With family-friendly lakes and rivers dotting the landscape, Nebraska offers countless spots to take kids fishing. Focusing on having fun, being patient, and staying safe leads to rewarding fishing adventures. Teaching fishing ethics and skills along the way helps raise responsible stewards of nature.

So grab the kids, the fishing poles, and a sense of adventure. With a bit of preparation and the right mindset, fishing with kids in Nebraska promises a catch of special memories that won’t soon be forgotten. Let the family fishing fun begin!

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