The Beginner’s Guide to Freshwater Fishing

Every year, countless anglers take to rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds the world over, in order to experience the vast enjoyment of freshwater fishing.  Freshwater fishing offers a wealth of opportunity to anglers from every walk of life, as such fisheries can typically be found in abundance, within a short drive of almost any location.

Freshwater fishing is simply defined as the pursuit of any species of fish that is found in water free of natural salt content. This adequately describes virtually every inland fishery and excludes only coastal waters. No matter where you call home, excellent freshwater fishing can almost certainly be found in your immediate vicinity.

Types of Freshwater Fishing


The sport of freshwater fishing can be divided into several individual pursuits. Each of these pursuits offers its own merit and can be conducive to excellent fishing within a given setting, or under a particular set of circumstances.

The most common forms of freshwater fishing are as follows.

Bank Fishing

Bank fishing is defined as fishing from the shore of a particular waterway, in absence of a boat or fishing vessel. Most fishermen begin their angling career bank fishing, though this form of fishing also offers an excellent opportunity for experienced anglers.

Boat Fishing

As one might guess, boat fishing is conducted from a water-worthy vessel, no matter the type. This type of fishing presents anglers with an abundance of opportunity, as a significant expanse of water can be covered during any given outing. The type of boat that is used in such a scenario can differ substantially from one application to the next and can include fiberglass boats, aluminum boats, kayaks, and canoes.

Ice Fishing

In many northern climates, ponds and lakes freeze to adequate thickness, as to allow anglers to venture out onto their icy surface. When this occurs, many anglers drill holes in the ice, through which fish can be caught. This form of fishing is known as ice fishing and is immensely popular in northern climates.

Freshwater Fishing


Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is a form of fishing that utilizes specialized equipment, in order to present lightweight lures in a manner that would not be possible otherwise. This form of fishing is extremely popular among trout anglers, who often wade cool running streams in search of excellent fishing action.

Freshwater Fishing Basics


When planning your first freshwater fishing excursion, it is of significant importance to have a plan of action in mind. Doing so requires an angler to have a basic knowledge of the waterways that they will be fishing, as well as the species of fish that they will be pursuing.

Freshwater Fish Species

There are numerous species of fish that can be pursued by anglers when fishing in freshwater. Fishing for each of these species requires a specific approach, that is tailored to the situation at hand.

The following are some of the most commonly pursued species of freshwater fish.

  • Catfish
  • Carp
  • Walleye
  • Musky
  • Pike
  • Yellow Perch
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Redear Sunfish
  • Lake Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout 
  • Rainbow Trout

Pro Tip: Panfish such as bluegill, crappie, and redear sunfish provide a wealth of opportunity to new anglers, as they are relatively abundant in most waters, and easily caught on a variety of baits.

Where to go Freshwater Fishing


Freshwater fishing can be conducted in numerous settings and locations. No two bodies of water are exactly the same, and new challenges are often encountered with each outing. Knowing how to fish each body of water that is encountered, is the key to finding consistent success.

Where to go Freshwater Fishing


Natural Lakes: Naturally occurring lakes can offer excellent fishing action for any angler who stops to wet a line. These bodies of water are often relatively deep, and typically feature cooler water temperatures than man-made reservoirs. When fishing a natural lake, success can be found around incoming drainages, drop-offs, and areas of heavier cover or vegetation.

Man-Made Reservoirs: Man-made reservoirs and lakes offer wonderful fishing, as they tend to be diverse in structure. Anglers can find success when fishing such bodies of water, by focusing their attention around a submerged structure, shallow flats, points, and channel ledges.

Rivers/Streams: Areas of flowing water, such as rivers and streams, are another source of excellent fishing. When venturing to such destinations, pay special attention to areas of slack-water, as well as any submerged logs or trees in the rivers or streams.

Ponds: A well-stocked pond can be among the most productive of freshwater fishing destinations. Most ponds can be easily accessed by anglers of any age and can be fished successfully throughout.

Thing To Know Before You Go


Before striking out for the water, there are a number of additional considerations that one must take into account. 

Get Your Fishing License: Before heading out to the nearest lake or river, it is absolutely essential to purchase any applicable fishing permits and licenses. A failure to do so can lead to the implementation of fines and suspension of fishing privileges in many areas. While most states or provinces require an angler to possess a valid fishing license, some areas also require special permits when fishing for certain species of fish, such as trout.

Know The Law: It is also essential to read and understand all fish and wildlife laws that pertain to the area in which you will be fishing. Regulations related to permissible gear, creel limits, and minimum fish size are all quite standard. Infractions pertaining to such regulations often result in fines, as well as a possible loss of fishing privileges.

Learn To Tie A Hook: Prior to setting out for adventure, it is important to brush up on your hook tying skills. A fishing hook can be tied to an angler’s line in a number of ways, including with a palomar knot, uni-knot, or clinch knot. While learning to tie a hook is not difficult, becoming proficient in doing so does take a little practice. Therefore, it is important to practice this discipline prior to hitting the water, or else risk losing a fish during a fight,

Practice Casting: Learning to accurately cast takes time, and can be frustrating initially. However, this learning curve can be shortened before ever heading out on the water. One can practice casting in their backyard, by tying a fishing weight to the end of their line, in absence of an actual hook. An angler can repeatedly cast, using their rod and reel of choice, without becoming snagged or bound up in the grass, as no hook is present.

Pro Tip: Prior to heading out for your first fishing trip, locate a map of the body of water that you will be visiting. Many lake and river map detail points of interest, such as docks, access points, and even fish attractors. 

Freshwater fishing


Choosing the Method for You


When planning a trip to a local lake or river, one must first determine how they intend to fish. This centers around selecting the particular method of fishing that is best suited to the situation at hand. 

The first decision to be made centers around whether to fish from a boat or the bank. In many cases, this comes down to whether or not an angler has a boat at his or her disposal.

However, those new to fishing, in general, might find it easiest to begin their angling careers from the bank, even if a boat is readily available. This allows an individual to become accustomed to the subtle nuances associated with casting, setting the hook, and retrieving fish, without also being forced to contend with navigating a boat simultaneously.

The next most important factor to consider relates to determining the species of fish that you intend to pursue. Each particular species of fish requires a different strategic approach when attempting to find the greatest possible degree of success. For example, both largemouth and smallmouth bass are typically caught in numbers by fishing various forms of structure, while walleye and striped bass are often pursued by trolling expanses of water. Likewise, many trout anglers prefer fly fishing, overfishing with standard tackle.

Most importantly, it is of significant value to select the method of fishing that you feel most comfortable with. Finding success when fishing often comes down to a matter of trial and error. As your skill and experience level grows, you can adapt your method of pursuit, to make efficient use out of each second spent on the water.

Pro Tip: Taking a guided fishing trip can be an excellent way to determine how best to fish a particular body of water. Doing so can also assist you in deciding which method of fishing is suited to your tastes.

Freshwater Fishing Bait


When freshwater fishing, numerous types of bait can be used. The exact type of bait that is used in a particular scenario is often dictated by the species of fish that is being pursued. It is also important to consider the fact that there are two types of bait that anglers have at their disposal, live bait, and artificial lures.

  • Live Bait: The term live bait describes any type of bait that is not artificial or man-made in nature. Some of the most common types of live bait include worms, minnows, shad, crawfish, grasshoppers, grubs, and mealworms. 
  • Artificial Lures: Artificial lures are man-made, and are designed to replicate various forms of prey species that fish typically feed upon. Artificial lures vary greatly in style and configuration, with each type having its own specific merit in various circumstances. Some of the most popular types of artificial lures include crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwater plugs, jigs, and soft plastic lures.
Freshwater fishing

Pro Tip: You can easily determine which type of bait to use, by deciphering the typical diet of fish on a given body of water. If the lake or river that you are fishing is home to a healthy baitfish population, any bait or lure that accurately mimics minnows or shad should produce stellar results. Likewise, grubs and mealworms can be used to much success when fishing around banks that are heavily covered in vegetation, as these areas tend to be rich in insect larvae.

Freshwater Fishing Gear

There are numerous pieces of gear that an angler should have at their disposal before journeying out on the water. Each of these items plays a pivotal role in finding success during any given excursion.

The following are several essential pieces of gear that every freshwater angler should have at the ready.

  • Rod: Fishing rods come in a range of lengths and actions. The characteristics of an individual rod determine which applications it is best suited for. Freshwater fishing rods typically range between 6-8 feet in length and come in ultra-light, light, medium, and heavy actions.
  • Reels: Freshwater fishing reels come in many different forms and actions, which include spinning reels, baitcasters, and spincasters. While selecting the right reel often comes down to a matter of personal preference, each type of reel features its own capabilities and limitations, which an angler is wise to consider.
  • Line: Fishing line can be purchased in several different forms, with the most popular being monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid. Braided line is considered the strongest of these options, though it also tends to be the most expensive. On the other end of the spectrum, monofilament line can be purchased at a highly economical price point, but is larger in profile, which makes it detectable at times to skittish fish, such as trout.
  • Tackle Box: Every angler should have a tackle box at his or her disposal, in order to store essential tackle. A well-stocked tackle box should contain a variety of hooks, sinkers, floats, swivels, and lures. Tackle boxes can be purchased in both hard-plastic and soft-sided forms, allowing anglers to choose the particular option that best suits their needs. Many anglers also keep a pair of pliers or a multi-tool in their tackle box, as a means of assistance when attempting to cut line or crimp sinkers in place.
  • Rain Gear: In many areas, the weather can be highly unpredictable at best. Stray showers can arise out of nowhere, leaving the unprepared among us soaked, and chilled to the bone. Avoid such mishaps by packing a raincoat or poncho along in your vehicle when heading out to the lake, river, or pond. Doing so allows you to make the most out of each trip, no matter what mother nature throws your way.

Conclusion


Freshwater fishing can be one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon, and also serves as an excellent way to spend time with friends and family, while enjoying nature. Even the most inexperienced of anglers can quickly find success when armed with the right gear and a high level of resolve.

With each successive fishing trip, an angler learns from their mistakes and becomes more proficient in their craft. In short order, one will find themselves landing fish with startling regularity.

No matter the number of fish that are caught during a particular outing, relaxation can always be found when watching the sunset over the horizon, while your float dances on the water’s surface. The memories made while on the water are every bit as important as the success of the day and are sure to last a lifetime.