Whether you’re fishing for the first time or trying it out again after a couple of years of being out of practice, you’ll want to do it right in order to maximize the experience. In this article, we’ll be offering a few fishing tips for beginners to help you get started.
Becoming a Licensed Fisher
Getting licensed is something that probably never crossed your mind when you started planning your fishing trips. After all, it’s not a complicated activity that requires serious skill. Even kids can do it! But depending on your age and the state you’re in, you may have to get a fishing license before anything else.
Don’t worry, fishing licenses can easily be purchased online and the money you spend goes to a few state conservation programs related to fishing and habitat protection. You can check this link for more information on how you can apply for a fishing license, the benefits of getting a license, and your state’s rules on fishing.
Basic Fishing Gear
There’s no shortage of online articles that recommend everything you need for your trip, but here’s a much shorter list that highlights the most basic pieces of fishing equipment that you absolutely can’t do without. (Or, you can check out our extensive list of basic fishing gear.)
Fishing Rod and Reel
The fishing rod and reel set is your main instrument for catching fish. They’re basically poles made of flexible, durable material with a hand grip on one end, so you can easily cast your fishing line several feet away from you and reel in your catch more conveniently.
Some fishing lines are packed individually, so you’ll have to manually spool it onto your fishing reel when you set up your rod before your trip. There’s a wide variety of fishing lines available on the market (and in different colors), but a 4- to 12-pound-test monofilament fishing line is an ideal choice for beginners.
Fishing hooks are basically very thin pieces of curved wire with a sharp edge that’s intended to poke and snatch the fish. Stock up on hooks as they don’t normally last long (they either get lost in the water along with the fish or get bent out of shape) and you’ll want a variety of sizes (number 6-10, to be safe) for catching different types and sizes of fish.
Baits and Lures
Baits are typically live worms and small freshwater fish that you attach to your hook to attract fish. A lure, meanwhile, is an artificial bait that is made of plastic and comes in the form of colorful worms and fish. Live bait and artificial lures are not “universal” fish food, so it’s also best to have a variety of them ready in your fishing box to cater to different types of fish.
You’ll also need a pack of small fishing sinkers that vary in weight and size. These are designed to stabilize your line and lower your hook in the water while you wait for a lucky fish to take the bait.
Bobbers are attached to your fishing line and are designed to keep your hook, bait, and weights from sinking too deep. Aside from that, it sinks and bobs when a fish bites, so you’ll know when it’s time to reel your catch in.
Nose pliers are extremely useful in removing hooks from fish. After all, some hooks are very small and you don’t want to remove them with your fingers (and risk hurting yourself with the sharp edge).
Every fisherman needs a tackle box. It basically looks just like any other sturdy toolbox with small compartments and levels to help you store and organize small pieces of fishing gear.
When you’re ready to start fishing in deeper waters, you may want to invest in an inflatable boat. This keeps you from having to rent boats and allows you to bring it along for fishing trips in other states. You can choose from our list of the best inflatable fishing boats to narrow down your choices.
Finding Good Fishing Spots
There are definitely a lot of fishing spots that you can visit, and you may be surprised at how many are just a short drive away from you. However, seasoned fishers would tell you that it’s unwise to head out to the nearest body of water with your gear and start fishing without first doing some research about it, especially if you’re just starting out.
Your best bet is to look for the nearest local fishing shops that can at least direct you to a good, beginner-friendly spot and give you more information about the specific types of equipment that you’ll need to equip yourself with, since it greatly depends on the types of fish that you will be trying to catch. While you’re at it, consider asking for assistance from a seasoned fisher who would be willing to go fishing with you in exchange for a portion of your combined catch!
If there’s nobody you can ask, start off in a weedy or rocky area with clear, shallow water where you can easily see where the fish are. When you gain more experience, go ahead and fish in bigger ponds, lakes, and even oceans. Going out deeper into the water will give you access to a lot of good spots—but be aware of the risks (such as dangerous predators) before taking your fishing rod to new locations.
Setting Up Your Fishing Rod
Getting your fishing gear ready takes some time and patience, especially with some of the techniques involved (such as knot tying), but every fisherman gets faster at it the more they get used to it. Here’s how you set up your fishing rod:
Spool the Fishing Line Onto the Reel
In case your fishing reel doesn’t have a fishing line wound upon it, all you have to do is unpack your new fishing line, use the simple Arbor Knot or Uni Knot to tie your line to the spool of your fishing reel, and start winding your reel to collect the line.
Check out the tips on how you can manually spool your fishing line onto your fishing reel in this video tutorial:
Tie the Fish Hook
Fishing is partly all about the knots, and you’ll definitely need to do some more (quick and easy) tying for your hook and other accessories. One more knot you’ll also want to learn is the Clinch Knot, which is particularly useful for tying your fish hook to your fishing line.
But if you want to eliminate virtually all chances of losing your fish with this universal knot, we suggest you upgrade to the stronger, “Improved” Clinch Knot, which basically features an added a loop to secure the knot further.
Here’s how you do the Improved Clinch Knot:
Attach Bobbers and Sinkers
The last main step involves attaching your bobbers and sinkers to your line using your choice of fishing knot. Remember that each accessory depends on the fish that you’re hoping to catch (some are bigger, stronger, and live deeper in the water), so you’ll want to do more research and seek expert advice from seasoned fishing enthusiasts about the specific accessories that you may need for specific fish species or a certain fishing location.
Attaching the Hook and Bait
Wait until you’re on the boat or ready to aim before attaching your hook and bait. You’ll want to save this step for last so your worm or fish remains fresh and you don’t accidentally swing your sharp hook where you shouldn’t.
Once you’re all set to fish, it’s important that you stay quiet—right from when you take those steps in shallow water or sail to the middle of the lake. Be stealthy when you read the water and locate your fish, so you don’t end up disturbing and scaring the fish away.
Swing the bait as far as you can into the water and watch out for the bobber’s movement. Once the fish bites and the bobber sinks, don’t wait too long before you raise the rod, set the hook, and reel your fish in—or you may risk losing your catch.
Remove the hook with your nose pliers and store your fish in a spacious bin filled with water where they can swim. You can also fill it with ice, depending on whether or not you want your fish to be alive when you get home. If you want to kill the fish after catching them, do so humanely and quickly with a club (for whacking it over its eyes) or a knife (through the brain) as letting it suffer longer will negatively affect the quality of its meat.
Being a Responsible Fisher
Fishing can truly be a rewarding and exciting experience. The good news is it’s also fairly easy to learn and remember these fishing basics. But to be a good and responsible fisher, you’ll want to allow others to also have a good experience and not put the environment (and its inhabitants) in danger.
Respect your surroundings, conserve fish for others to enjoy, and don’t leave anything that can be harmful to the environment and wildlife—like fishing lines, hooks, plastic containers, and of course, trash—behind.
It’s always best to practice safety whenever you’re in or around bodies of water, especially if you are fishing with children. Here are a few safety guidelines to keep in mind:
- Check weather forecasts before any trip—especially if fishing in a boat.
- Make sure your boat is functional; check for any damage before setting out on the water.
- Pack a first aid kit and other safety gear such as extra life vests, a whistle, visual distress signals, and fire extinguishers (you’ll need at least one hand portable B-1 type Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher aboard any non-outboard vessel under 26 feet).
- Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. Provide a detailed itinerary if you are planning a longer fishing trip.
- Seek advice from local fishermen or someone familiar with the area to find out water conditions, accessibility, and any possible risks or dangers you may encounter.
- Always observe safe boat speeds and NEVER operate a moving watercraft while under the influence of alcohol and other impairing substances.
- Wear lightweight clothing that you can swim in and won’t weigh you down in case you fall in the water.
- Always cast your line and hook carefully and away from people.
- Wear a US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device or life vest.