The Beginner’s Guide to Fishing

Fishing is one of the world’s greatest pastimes and is enjoyed by a countless number of individuals every year. The sport of fishing is unique, as it often proves to be both relaxing and challenging, in a simultaneous fashion. Anglers are afforded the opportunity to face off with nature while enjoying the majestic beauty of the scenery before them.

Each year, many new anglers dive headlong into the world of fishing and attempt to decipher all that there is to know to find success. While the idea of learning how to fish can seem quite daunting to many, doing so is seldom as difficult as one might think. 

The following guide will present you with the necessary information to jumpstart your fishing career, while also providing numerous pro tips that can be used to take your efforts to the next level.

The Basics of Fishing

Fishing is most simply defined as the practice of using artificial or live bait to catch wild fish that reside in various bodies of water. The sport of fishing is immensely popular and is participated in by anglers from around the world. Perhaps the most wonderful characteristic of fishing, is that no matter where you live, an excellent opportunity is likely no further away than a short drive.

While ancient civilizations used various methods to catch and harvest fish for food, the vast majority of today’s anglers use rods and reels to cast their line to unsuspecting fish. At the end of this line is a hook, which can either be baited or attached to an artificial lure.

When fish react to this offering, an angler sets the hook. With a fish on the line, and angler wages battle in order to bring their catch to the boat or bank. Once caught, a fish can be kept for food, or released back into the water. 

Types of Fishing

Multiple methods of fishing exist, each of which offers its own distinct advantages. Most anglers select their preferred method of fishing, based upon the pursuit at hand, as well as the gear that they have at their disposal.

Bank Fishing

Bank fishing is one of the simplest ways to experience a day on the water, and is characterized as fishing from the shore, in absence of a boat of any type. This type of fishing also tends to be one of the best ways for beginning anglers to jumpstart their fishing careers.

Boat Fishing

As one would likely guess, boat fishing involves fishing out of a water-worthy vessel of one type or another. This form of fishing allows anglers to explore large expanses of water, in search of hot fishing action. The types of watercraft that are used when boat fishing can vary significantly, with kayaks, canoes, aluminum boats, and fiberglass boats being among the most popular options.

Ice Fishing

In northern climates, many lakes freeze beneath solid sheets of ice during the winter months. In order to reach the fish that reside below, a number of seasoned anglers cut holes in the ice, through which their lines can be dropped. While ice fishing can indeed be a chilly affair, it is also ripe with opportunity for the resilient angler.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishermen use specialized rods and reels to cast lightweight “flies”. These flies are typically too light to be cast with standard fishing equipment and provide excellent appeal when fishing for trout, as well as numerous other species of fish.

Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater fishing is conducted in coastal waters, where various ocean-going species of fish reside. Saltwater fishing itself can be divided into multiple subsets, which include deep-sea fishing, pier fishing, and surf fishing.

What Do You Need For First-Time Fishermen?

When fishing for the first time, an angler should have a few key pieces of gear at his or her disposal. These items all serve a specific role as one attempts to land their first fish. 

Fishing Rod

Fishing rods come in a wide variety of lengths and actions. The exact rod which is chosen for use will depend upon the type of fishing that you plan on participating in. Shorter length, ultra-light rods are often used when fishing for bluegill, crappie, or other panfish. On the contrary, lengthy, heavy action rods of 6-8 feet or longer are typically used when fishing for robust species such as catfish.

Fishing Reel

Fishing reels are also available in many different forms, with the most popular being spinning, spincasting, and baitcasting reels. Each of these individual reel types come with their own distinct advantages and limitations. For a beginning angler, it is difficult to beat the simplicity of a spincasting reel.

Small Tackle Box

For the begging angler, the use of a large tackle box is not necessary. A small, compact tackle box will be more than suitable. An angler should stock this tackle box with hooks, sinkers, and a float or two. Artificial lures can also be added to this list, if an angler wishes to forgo the use of live bait.

Pliers

A small pair of needle-nose pliers will prove to be more than helpful when removing a hook from the mouth of any fish that is caught. By simply grasping the hook’s shank, and lightly twisting, your fish will be free in seconds.

Pro Tip: When first getting started fishing, it is not essential to spend exorbitant amounts of money to purchase the latest hi-tech gear. It is important to remember that fishing can be enjoyed on any budget, and an angler can always upgrade their gear at a later date.

Fishing Tips for Beginners

Studious anglers never quit learning, and continually refine their approach as the years pass. In many ways, this knowledge is only gained through experience. However, the following tips will help point you in the right direction.

Know The Species Of Fish That You Are Pursuing

Fish differ in their habits from one species to the next. Therefore, an angler will experience the highest degree of success when laying out their approach in a manner that is suited to the specific species that they are pursuing. Know the preferred habits and food sources of the fish that you wish to catch, and plan accordingly.

Identify Promising Locations

Study the body of water that you intend to fish, in order to locate promising spots that are deserving of further attention. When fishing a lake, key in on shallow water flats adjacent to dropoffs, points, and submerged structure. When fishing rivers, pay special attention to areas of slackwater, as well as secluded creeks.

Know Your Bait

The food sources available to predatory fish often differ from one body of water to the next. To maximize your angling efficiency, check with those at local bait shops, in order to figure out what type of bait is being most heavily fed upon at any given time.

Hire A Guide

Another excellent way of learning to fish is by hiring a guide. Fishing guides are often some of the most knowledgeable anglers on any given body of water. For a fee, a guide will take you out to a number of their best spots, and will teach you how to catch the fish that reside there.

Basic Fishing Knots For Beginners

There are many knots that an angler can use when tying a hook or lure to their line. It does not matter which knot is used, as long as the knot holds the hook or lure securely in place. 

The following are several popular fishing knots that any angler can use.

Improved Clinch Knot

  1. Thread your line through the hook’s eyelet.
  2. Wrap this line around itself 5-7 times.
  3. Pull the tag end of your line through the looped section of the line just above the hook’s eyelet.
  4. Pull the tag end pack through the loop just created when threading the previous loop.
  5. Cinch down your knot by pulling each end of the line, then clip free the remaining line at its tag end.

Palomar Knot

  1. Double the end of your line to make a loop.
  2. Pass this loop through the eyelet of your hook.
  3. Loosely tie an overhand knot, but do not tighten.
  4. Pass your hook through the looped segment of the line made in step #1.
  5. Cinch down your knot, and trim away the line’s tag end.

Uni Knot

  1. Place the end of your line through the hook’s eyelet, pulling each end upward until both line segments are parallel with one another.
  2. While holding each length of line together, loop the tag end around each segment of line 5-6 times, thereby pulling both line ends together.
  3. Pull the tag end of your line back through the loop created with the completion of step #3.
  4. Pull tightly on each segment of the line to cinch your knot in place.

Pro Tip: After tying your hook, be sure to test the integrity of your knot. This can be done by carefully grasping the hook away from its point, and gently pulling on your line. It is better for your knot to fail now, than when a fish is at the end of your line.

What to expect from your first time fishing

It is important to not harbor unrealistic expectations when fishing for the first time. You might, or might not, find success during your initial outing. Regardless of the outcome, you will learn more about the sport with every fishing trip, thereby building proficiency along the way. 

One can expect to encounter minor difficulties when fishing for the first time, such as tangled lines, lost fish, and wayward casts. While this is to be expected, it is important to decide as to the root cause of such difficulties, so that corrective actions can be made.

Pro Tip: Before striking out for your first fishing adventure, make sure to have a couple of possible destinations in mind. This allows you to have a back-up plan at the ready, in the event that other anglers have beat you to your primary spot, or fishing at your initial destination proves unproductive.

What’s the easiest fish to catch?

In most regions, panfish of any type tend to be among the easiest fish to catch. This includes crappie, bluegill, and various species of sunfish. The term panfish is used collectively to describe fish of small size, which can easily fit in a frying pan, hence the term “pan” fish.

Panfish of various types can be in bodies of water across most of North America and are typically far more abundant in number than any other species of fish. This relative abundance makes panfish easily accessible from the bank, or by boat. Fishing for panfish also requires nothing special in the way of gear, as fish of this type can be caught with little more than a basic rod/reel, monofilament line, a small #4 or #6 hook baited with a worm.

Panfish can be especially fun to fish when they are actively spawning, as they will readily strike anything object that nears their beds. This presents a wonderful opportunity for new anglers and children to catch a significant number of fish, with little difficulty.

What About Fishing Licenses?

Prior to heading out in search of success, every angler should ensure that they have secured all applicable fishing licenses and permits for the area in which they will be fishing. Most every state and province requires an angler to purchase a fishing license, and a failure to do so can result in fines, as well as the loss of fishing rights for a predetermined period of time.

It is important to remember that the amount of money saved by not purchasing a fishing license is in no way comparable to the substantially higher fine that one must pay if caught. Additionally, many states mandate the purchase of additional permits, when fishing for certain species, such as trout. An angler must understand any laws that surround license sales in the given area that they intend to fish.

Fishing Etiquette

One should also do their best to adhere to proper fishing etiquette while on the water. Doing so promotes kinship among fellow anglers, and minimizes conflict that can arise when a particular angler oversteps his or her bounds.

The following are several key points of fishing etiquette, that every angler should do their best to abide by.

  • Avoid Setting Up Too Close To Other Anglers: Most bodies of water tend to be rather expansive in size, leaving plenty of room for every angler to fish, without sitting elbow to elbow. When choosing a spot to fish, ensure that you are far enough away from other anglers, as to prevent interference with their efforts.
  • Do Not Cast Across Other’s Lines: In some locations, such as the tailwaters of many lakes, it might be impossible to distance yourself from other anglers. In these situations, you should never cast across another angler’s line. Many will view this as a sign of disrespect.
  • Do Not Leave Trash Behind: We, as anglers, share the waterways that we fish. Therefore, we also share in the responsibility to keep the world’s waterways clean and free of debris. Upon leaving a location, always pick up your garbage, and leave behind no trace of your presence.
  • Do Not Violate Fish and Wildlife Regulations: Federal, state, and local wildlife agencies set strict regulations to prevent the overharvesting of fish from lakes, rivers, and streams. Without these regulations, the sport of fishing would suffer as a whole. An angler should always abide by these regulations, and never keep more fish than allowed.
  • Be Prompt When Launching A Boat: If you intend to fish from a boat, ready all gear in advance, and be ready to launch your boat in as prompt of a manner as possible. Blocking access to a boat ramp while preparing your gear, limits other anglers’ ability to launch and enjoy their day on the water.
  • Be Conscience Of Your Boat’s Wake: When traveling to your favorite fishing hole by boat, be conscious of your boat’s wake. If other anglers are fishing nearby, whether from the bank or by boat, slow down and swing away from their location.

What should you not do while fishing?

The following are some circumstances that should be avoided if an angler wishes to maximize their success while on the water.

Ignoring The Weather

Ignoring the weather when planning a fishing trip is a sure way to find yourself in a less than desirable situation, and can even be dangerous. Always study the day’s weather forecast before heading to the lake.

Making Excess Noise

Fish tend to be quite wary by nature. Unnatural sights and sounds have the potential to spook fish that could otherwise be caught. Take care to avoid dropping items on the bank, splashing in the water, or knocking gear around inside your boat.

Sitting Where Fishing Is Slow

Fish instinctively feed to sustain themselves and are always in search of their next meal. If a spot has proven to be unproductive, move elsewhere to make the most efficient use of your time.

Being Disorganized

In today’s fast-paced society, one does not always have as much time to fish as they would hope. Therefore it is important to be prepared when the opportunity to hit the water presents itself. Being unprepared or forgetful when it comes to packing your gear can lead to less than productive fishing.

Is fishing hard to learn?

While learning to fish certainly presents a learning curve of sorts, any such challenges that are encountered can typically be overcome in short order. Finding success while fishing is not difficult in general, especially when you learn to master basic concepts such as casting, tying hooks, and locating areas that hold potential.

However, many new anglers will find it more difficult to regularly catch one species of fish over another. Fish such as bass, musky, and walleye tend to be harder to catch consistently, even for experienced anglers. Therefore, newcomers to the sport will likely find a greater deal of immediate enjoyment in fishing for more accessible species, such as crappie, bluegill, and sunfish.

Pro Tip: If you find yourself struggling to catch fish, you can always ask for advice from fellow anglers in your local area. Most anglers are more than happy to share advice with those that are new to the sport.

Conclusion

There are likely few better ways to enjoy nature than by sitting on the bank of a lake or river, with a fishing pole in your hands. The sport of fishing continues to grow in popularity with each passing year, as new anglers discover the joys that await them. Armed with the knowledge provided above, you too will be ready to hit the water, in search of a new adventure and top-notch fishing action.