Family Friendly Fishing in Greater Hartford

Fishing is an inexpensive, family-friendly activity that is fun to try with kids. Not long after they learn to toddle they can practice holding a pole; as kids get older and their attention span increases, they can learn to set up the rod and reel, hook a worm, and wait for a catch. Some of the best fishing spots for kids are also swimming holes in  state or local Hartford parks, so you can pack your rods, towels, and a picnic lunch for a fun summer day. 

I recently took my 4- and 6-year olds to Stratton Brook State Park in Simsbury for a dip in the swimming pond and found an unexpected fishing opportunity. While we were enjoying the beach, a park ranger who is a certified CARE (CT aquatics resource education) instructor announced that he was holding a free fishing seminar with the equipment supplied. For two hours he led the children through a detailed tutorial, ending with the kids trying their poles in the main swimming pond beyond the roped off swimming area. Using live bait, my 4-year old daughter caught her first fish in the stocked pond within 5 minutes, as did many of the other kids. I would, however, recommend that kids be a bit older for this particular program as a lot of adult assistance was required. Kids age 9 and up may attend without a parent.

Having been bitten by the fishing bug, my husband and I began researching other local areas to explore with our new anglers. In greater Hartford, there are many fishing options in area lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Those included below have been selected because they are family friendly. Some are open only to children under the age of 16; all are easily accessible from the road and parking lot, offer unobscured shoreline access, and are stocked to varying degrees. There is no boating allowed in these locations with the exception of Spring Pond in Fisher Meadows Park in Avon (no motors). Three of these locations are designated trout parks (there are 11 total in the state) by the CT DEEP. Trout parks are located in easily accessible areas and stocked frequently, particularly between opening day in April and Memorial Day, greatly enhancing a young or novice angler’s odds of snaring a catch. For a complete directory of waters available for public fishing, visit

Before heading out to the water, be sure that you have obtained a proper fishing license, which is required for anyone 16 or older (that includes a helping parent!) fishing in public waters. Fishing licenses can be obtained at town clerk offices or purchased at sporting goods stores such as Cabela’s, Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and many local tackle shops. Children under the age of 16 may apply for a free YOUth Fishing Passport, which enables them to participate in many fishing activities designed specifically for kids and receive a variety of benefits from supporting organizations and participating stores.

Stratton Brook State Park
Stratton Brook includes a trout stocked pond and brook for fishing, as well as a larger swimming pond which can be fished beyond the designated swimming area. A free fishing education program, offered through the CT Aquatic Resource Education Program (CARE) is available for children ages 9 and up throughout the summer on Mondays from 1-3. The park and fishing pond is wheelchair accessible. Also available: hiking, swimming, picnicking.

149 Farms Village Road, Simsbury
Parking fees: free on weekdays; $9/weekends & holidays, CT residents; $15 nonresident
Season: 3rd Saturday April - last day February

*Designated Trout Park

Day Pond State Park
Day Pond, which once powered a sawmill, is stocked with trout and includes a small swimming area. White catfish and sunfish can also be found. The park is adjacent to the Salmon River State Forest and offers scenic views. Also available: hiking, swimming, picnicking.

Day Pond Road, Colchester
Parking fees: free on weekdays; $9/weekends & holidays, CT residents; $15 nonresident
Season: 3rd Saturday April - last day February

*Designated Trout Park

Valley Falls Park (Valley Falls Pond)
The trout stocked lake in the middle of Valley Falls Park has a small beach and is easily accessible from the parking lot. A brook and smaller streams traverse the 8.5 miles of blazed trails. The park is well known for its cliffs and ridgeline view. Also available: hiking, swimming, playground, picnicking.

300 Valley Falls Road, Vernon
Parking fees: $5 through the summer Season: 3rd Saturday April - last day February

*Designated Trout Park

Spice Bush Swamp
This small park is a good spot for your littlest anglers. Its half-acre pond and stream are easily accessible from the road and parking lot. Only children under the age of 16 may fish here (with parents). On opening day of the fishing season, West Hartford leisure services holds a fishing derby where kids ages 5-15 can fish for trout and prizes are awarded (requires pre-registration). Also available: walking trails.

Mountain Road and Gloucester Lane, West Hartford
Season: 3rd Saturday April - November 30

Fernridge Park Pond
This is a children’s pond so fishing is restricted to children under the age of 16. The small pond and surrounding brook is in the center of a Fernridge Park, a town-owned recreational park with very easy access from the street and parking lot. Also available: playground, swimming pool, splash pad, tennis and basketball courts, softball field, picnic tables.

567 Fern Street, West Hartford
Season: 3rd Saturday April - November 30

Mill Pond Park
Mill Pond is a fishing pond in the middle of Mill Pond Park, Newington’s largest town recreation park. Fishing is restricted to children under the age of 16. Also available: baseball, soccer, and football fields; boundless playground; basketball and tennis courts; outdoor pool; concession stand; and walking nature trail with waterfall.

123 Garfield Street, Newington
Season: 3rd Saturday April - November 30

Fisher Meadows Park (Spring Pond)
This 20-acre park, adjacent to the Farmington River, has a large pond for fishing and boating (no motors or swimming). Largemouth bass, common carp, and sunfish can be fished. The park has both recreational and undeveloped areas. Also available: hiking trails, camping areas, athletic fields, playground, pavilion.

800 Old Farms Road, Avon
Season: Open year round

Photo by johnnyth3fi5h via Instagram.

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