How to Make a Great Fishing Game for Kids (and Adults)

Written by: Tanner Keith, Orvis Social Media Engagement Specialist

My baby girl’s first birthday is coming up and to make it extra special, I decided to try my hand at creating a homemade party game. Her big day is in July, and since we live in Virginia, it’s sure to be hot and humid. I needed a game for all ages that would also double as a cool-off spot. It had to be big, fun, easy to pick up for the kids, and engaging enough for some of the more “competitive” adults. Thinking back on my own childhood, I dug up some great memories of an old magnetic fish game: tiny bright plastic fish swimming around a tub, their mouths opening and closing, while I wielded a little toy rod with a magnet at the end. Just the thing, but I’ll make a giant one! Once my girl has caught her limit she can go for a quick dip (with her guide close by, of course).

After a trip to my local hardware and craft stores and using a few things I already had around the house, I was able to build my fishing hole for less than $50. Depending on what you already have on hand, your version may cost less. These instructions will make around 20 fish and 1 rod. Have fun, and let’s go fishing!

Required Tools

  • Hot-glue gun and glue sticks
  • Tweezers
  • Kitchen chef’s knife

Adults should do any steps that require the use of the hot glue gun or knife.

Materials and Cost

  • Kiddie Pool—$10
  • 2 Pool Noodles (3” diameter)—$5
  • 40 Googly eyes (any size)—$5
  • 5 Wine bottle corks—$0
  • 21 Ceramic Disc Magnets (1/2” diameter, 1/8” thick)—$5
  • 20 Bolts and 40 Nuts (1” long, 3/8”)—$10
  • 2 Eye bolts (Small)—$1
  • Wooden dowel (3’ long, ½” diameter )—$4
  • Yarn/String/Twine/old Tippet (about 5’)—$0
  • Spray paint—$5

Crafting the Fish

I worked through several prototypes, from very fish-like, to mostly fish-head-like. While the pool noodles have plenty of surface tension and float-lift, keeping them face up was the main issue. Special thanks to Phil Monahan for recommending the inserted weight, which helped to keep them balanced.

1. Starting at one end of the pool noodle, take the knife and make one cut at about a 45 degree angle toward the center, stopping at the center. Then rotate the noodle, and repeat this cut. This will make a V shape you can then remove, creating the open mouth of the fish.

2. Measure about 3 inches down from the lip, and make a 90 degree cut completely through. This will form the fish shape.

3. Next, use the hot-glue gun to attach googly eyes to each side.

4. Cut the wine cork into 4 separate discs, about ¼” thick. Using the tweezers, hold the cork discs and hot-glue them in place, just below the opening of the fish’s “mouth.” Once the cork is secure, hot-glue a magnet in the center of the cork disc.

5. Thread 2 nuts all the way onto the bolt so that it is weighted towards the head. Next, affix the bolt on the inside of the fish, at the flat bottom part. I found it easy to punch the threaded end into the inside of the noodle just a bit, which held it in place as I applied a thick layer of hot glue.

Let the glue cure for a minute or so, pull off any wisps, and this fish is ready for the water! Repeat these steps to make as many fish as you need.

Crafting the Rod

We need something to catch all these fish!

1. Decorate! You can paint the rod anyway you want. I tried to distinguish between the handle and body of the rod. I wanted to make nod to the Orvis Helios 3, so I used spray paint to create a black-and-white color scheme and dubbed the rod the “Helios Negative 1.” Screw in one eye bolt at the top end of the rod in the center.

2. Screw in the other eye bolt about 8” up from the bottom in the side near the “handle.” Tie one end of the yarn to the handle side eye bolt, and run it up to the other eye bolt at the rod tip. Tie it there as well.

3. On the free end of the yarn, take one magnet with tweezers, run hot glue on the edge, and wrap the yarn there, then tie the very end of the yarn off and trim.

For Fun or For Sport

While this game is perfectly fun as is, a point system ups the ante for older kids and adults. Using permanent marker, assign each fish a point value on the bottom, so it remains unseen by the players. Each player can land 3 fish and tally the high score per round.

I can’t wait to break this game out in the summers to come. Thank you so much for reading, and if you make one of these yourself, I would love to see it!

Have you checked out our Summer Kids’ Camp, featuring fun activities for you and kids of all ages to enjoy?

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