How to Fish [Beginners Edition]
Fishing is a great pastime for outdoors lovers who simply cannot resist taking to the waters for hours of endless fun. A successful fishing trip means spending quality time with dear friends or even having some precious time alone at a cool spot. Catching fish is a great way to learn about different species, build a memorabilia of trophies, and even cater for some important nutrients. The great thing about fishing is that it is a game of patience that can be learned at any age. It can be intimidating at first for some beginners and this is why proper guidance is strongly recommended. So here's a step by step guide on how to fish.
Step 01: Picking a Spot - How to pick the best spot [it matters!]
Trouble begins when it gets to picking the right spot. Getting it right in fishing depends on a number of factors and most anglers wouldn’t want to share with you some of the honey holes for obvious reasons.
But this should not shake you in any way as I get to share with you what really matters as far as picking the right fishing hot spots is concerned.
#1. Research is key
A little legwork is important before you decide to hit the road. You’ll be amazed at what you find online as well as offline.
The knowledge from resources such as the Chamber of Commerce or the local fishing guide is a sure way of getting the necessary information that will enable you
to plan ahead.
Different platforms are available where you can land on great information to guide you through your expedition.
Smartphone apps are also there to help you plan a possibly successful fishing trip this summer.
It is important that you do your homework as it will help you get some insight on the proper bait and gear to use.
#2. Get hold of the map
You need to grab the topographic map of your area. Thanks to our longtime tech and ally, Google, today you can access the exact map of your area in a matter of seconds. A quick search and there you are!
Check for places where a topographic line crosses a brook, stream, or river as this would normally indicate a sudden drop in elevation.
Meaning the beginning of a rapid which usually has a pool at the end that makes a potential fishing spot.
Technology further makes it simple as Google Earth provides you the exact coordinates which you can type down into your GPS to find the nearest road and the direction that will lead you to a particular spot.
Here's how to read a topographical map for fishing:
Cool, right? Here's another cool video on how to use Google Earth to find fishing spot!
#3. Find a Local Place
Once you’re done with the techie side of things, it would be wise to try out the orthodox approach by directly talking to people.
Let’s say like the bait shop you find in your area.
They’re the best chance you’ve got as it’s in their best interest to ensure that things work out for you when you decide to purchase bait fish from them.
Always remember to seek guidance from the guy behind the counter, not a random angler hanging around the shop as he may mislead you from potential holes.
It would be better to hire a local guide with fishing experience on your first day, only if you can afford it.
A guide would be the perfect person to unveil the deep secrets of the waters that lead you to the best spot in town.
#4. Find out what you are going to fish at that place
What kind of fish do you want to catch? You need to know the type of fish as this will give you an idea of the right places to search. For example, if you want to fish for bass, a shallow cove is the best target place you’ll find your catch.
This is because at a shallow cove you’ll find a lot of shade which is perfect for fish food and shelter. Sunfish and salmon sometimes can also be found in these shallow coves.
If you’d ask most anglers, more success is witnessed when you are focused on specific species since it is easier to tell where they usually hang out.
You have to at least study the species, the weather, and the spot where the species can be found in water.
#5. Where to look
Sometimes the best fishing spots are defined relative to their positioning in the waters. Low visibility will keep the strike zone limited, so it’s up to you to figure out where this window is located for a successful catch.
Fish love shallow and probably warmer waters where it is easy to spot forage and cage their prey.
When you get to the spot where two water bodies meet like let’s say a stream and a river, these are top-tier targets for fishing.
Cooler waters, baitfish gathering, higher oxygen levels, and of course the current is an instant magnet to several kinds of fish.
There are unusual cases where you’ll have find a high concentration of fish next to the drain pipes. But only the ones with wash food items that get to the lake.
#6. Temperature and weather is a great factor
Changing seasons along with temperature will trigger different reactions from different fish. Carefully study your target species and know how it reacts to these changes to better your chance of making a catch.
Warm water species can handle temperatures of up to 97 degrees Fahrenheit and these include largemouth bass and bluegill.
Great fish to catch during the warm summer months and harder to fish during the cold times. Cold water species can handle up to 73 degrees Fahrenheit and includes species like muskie, trout, and pike.
You should plan for a muskie and pike during the cold months, especially during spring and fall.
#7. Find the feeding spots
Just like most humans, fish think with their stomachs. The only contrasting part is that they don’t feed throughout the day but when they decide to munch they’ll come for your bait. Feeding spots are the areas you should be looking for, and these are the areas you’d normally find them. For example on:
- Shellfish beds
- Rocky reefs
- Seagrass beds
- Rocky foul
Look out for baitfish by keeping your eyes are glued to your sounder as a school of baitfish can attract a bigger fish up to the surface. This happens when the school is trying to escape bigger predacious fish.
#8. Take a walk and check it out
Once you get to your spot, take a moment by walking all the way – if it’s along the shoreline – around the water. Take notice of all that is around you as you’re looking for the signs. You can do this a day before you fish as it will give you plenty of room to pick the right spot. Walking close to the bank is a good thing as you get to see the exact spot where they hide. Most of the time especially during morning hours you’d find fish on the banks. But remember to limit the movements when you come back to fish the next morning. Any noisy or harsh vibration in the waters would scare the fish.
#9. Go with the flow
Water movement, also known as current, is also a key factor in determining whether you’ll come out a zero or a hero in your fishing trip.
Most species enjoy a feed when the currents are low since currents have a reputation of messing with the dynamics of fishing.
They can make or break the moment.
Low water movement will encourage a number of things like attracting more fish because the current transports the scent and pieces of bait downstream.
It also allows for the fish to take their bites without trouble as they feed on floating forages.
Make sure you find some current as this provides a great fishing spot where you get to fish some of the popular catches in your area.
#10. Come on Dude, Don't mess 🙂
If you’re planning to get to a new spot to fish, probably other anglers are thinking the same. It is in this regard you need to be respectful in all your encounters with the locals.
Show them they matter and let them know that you’re following the rules that have been put in place. This includes paying the fishing licenses and not fishing beyond the catch limit.
A catch-and-release policy is mostly recommended as you don’t get to consume your catch which is a responsible exercise.
Young anglers learn a lot from this and practice the ethical way of fishing.
Keep the spots clean by ensuring that you don’t litter and help by picking out the extra trash.
Finding your structure is the perfect strategy to discover the best fishing hole. And as I mentioned earlier, you need to read the signs.
Look for covers and spot the baitfish movement in the waters. These and other signs will lead you to the greatest spots to fish but it is good to know
Don’t be broken if you miss an immediate catch. Patience my friend, that’s the beauty of fishing.
Step 02: Getting The Right Gear - Legitimate Gear Buying Idea and Requirement
Once you’ve picked the right spot, you need to get the right gear for the session. It is important to consider the necessary supplies like official credentials and identification before embarking on a fishing adventure.
Having a list of fishing supplies is recommended especially in a market where there seem to be endless options. For most beginners, it’s hard to know where to start.
Here’s a list of the essential fishing gear to put you on the right path.
#1. Get a fishing license
Adults have to carry a fishing license but the rules are different for teens and children in different states.
Make sure you understand the requirements for your state before heading out to the waters for a catch.
The fishing license you purchase determines how much you can catch, where you are allowed to fish, including the dictated scope of equipment you should use in a certain fishing spot.
Fishing licenses are available at various stores countrywide so you need to find one before heading out.
Fishing without a license means you’ll be engaging in an illegal activity and you could be arrested for it.
An old-fashioned cane pole and a line can work for anyone
This has for centuries been considered the simplest fishing tackle. The line is attached at the end of the pole with a float and a hook, sometimes
a lure. This gear has served me quite well on many occasions and I love it because it is simple and yet very effective when it comes to shallow water fishing.
The pole is made of different materials like bamboo, cane, and a piece of tree branch.
If you feel crafty enough you can come up with some DIY stick and have a line attached at the end. Take a split shot’ (a tiny sinker) and squeeze it on the line just above the hook.
The split shot makes it easier for you when you are swinging the fish bait into the water.
#2. Get the right rod and reels
You can call it the trendy pole and line or whatever you may wish, rods and reels are the most preferred tools of trade especially when you decide to go deep.
They store large amounts of lines and the fact that they let you cast your lure or bait further makes them a favorite among anglers.
You need to at least own one of these as they’ll help you to fish in deep waters, battle larger fish, and retrieve lures correctly.
You should know that for every fishing reel out there, there’s an appropriate rod to match it. The rod is a light and long slender pole where the line and the reel are attached. It is the rod that holds the reel which holds the line.
#3. Get the right line for the job
The advancement in tech matters has enabled us to have lines of different materials and diameters.
As the diameter increases, the line becomes stronger when you are dealing with the same material.
Braided lines are also available and I adore them for their strength and size because they are thinner.
There’re others like fluorocarbon which are abrasion resistant and yet almost unseen underwater, and monofilament which are flexible and stretchy.
Make sure you keep it simple when you’re starting out. Monofilament lines would work great for now, and maybe you could try the rest as you grow in the game.
Remember to get an extra line as the worst could possibly happen where your line gets tangled up or broken during the quest.
#4. A variety of tackle would work for you
If you are a beginner, then there are 3 types of tackle I’d recommend to anyone:
- Floaters/ Bobbers/ Strike Indicators
These are the supplies that will let you know whether or not a fish is getting bites from your bait and this is how they work: as the fish take the bites the bobber sinks indicating that you are about to reel a catch.
There are countless options but the round red and white one are popular. Attaching them is simple and spotting them from afar is much easier.
Slip floaters are also available where you slide to attach although they take a bit longer to rig. Many anglers love them because they are great when you need your hook to go deep.
Corks are also available around you and the old guards would normally go for them. A piece of cork with a stick tied on a line is the traditional
way of attaching bobbers.
Make sure you stock your box with a variety of hooks so that when you encounter different kinds of fish you are not caught unaware. The traditional J-hook rarely lets me down so I have a thing for it. But ask many anglers out there and they would tell you that they’d put their money on the French hook.
For sure, it doesn’t matter which hook you decide to make your favorite. Carry them all! Who knows, you might meet a trout and who would actually think of using a hook meant for a 120-pound catfish. Hooks are available starting from the very smallest at number 32 up until the largest at 19/0
You need weights to be able to cast a good distance as well as keep your bait underwater. Basic split shot weight is a good choice for novice anglers. They are quite affordable and very easy to install.
Weights or sinkers are used with floaters as the hold the line at a certain point in the waters because the hook and worm alone cannot stay underwater. The sinkers are very versatile and also easy to attach or remove. Most weights are made of lead but there are a number of states that have since banned the material for environmental purposes. Brass, steel, and tungsten are some of the healthy options you can use.
#5. Synthetic worms works great!
I love to deal with live baits but also recommend synthetic worms to be part of the gear. Especially when you are planning to fish for bass.
They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, and are easier to use on almost any depth. You should go for the ones with long tails because it is easier dealing with them.
My experience as an angler has made me interact with many of my type and some have actually confessed that there are certain colors that work magic in some spots.
Superstition or not, I am waiting for my time to come and if by chance yours comes before mine does, then you need to maintain the attractive color to increase your score.
#6. Get a line cutter
Anyone who has been out fishing knows that some snags would actually mean cutting the line. Imagine the desperation when you have nothing
to use yet the spot is far from the shoreline. A pocket knife can be a great line cutter but I have realized that nothing works better, faster and more effectively than nail clippers.
Some people simply rely on a pair of scissors to cut a snagged line. Whatever your tool of choice, just make sure it is sharp enough to do the job without a fuss.
#7. Swivels are appropriate
This is a handy piece of tackle if you are using a lure with twisting action. A swivel attached between the bait and line ensures that the lure twists and turns without getting your lines all tangled up. Swivels come in different sizes depending on the lures and hooks you are using. They are not a must-have but swivels are a sure help if you don’t want to keep detangling lines. They simply limit the troubles that come with fishing.
#8. Needle nose pliers make it stress-free
I have learned through my fishing adventures that the needle nose plier is a worthy companion.
Not only do I need this simple tool to get hooks out of the fish I catch but also to get them out of me sometimes.
Make sure the piece is among your supplies as it can be quite handy when dealing with other stuff apart from the hooks.
#9. Carry attractive lures
They are not mandatory but sometimes lures are needed just to spruce up the whole fishing process. Any bait that isn’t live is often called a lure. From minnows to spinners and spoons, there are literally hundreds of types of lures that are designed to attract fish. Medium and large fish like to bite on minnows so if you are targeting them it would be nice to used minnow imitation lure to draw them to your bait. Spinners, as the name suggests, have a spinning blade that should attract fish.
If you decide to choose a lure you prefer and keep a few in your tackle box.
#10. Get a sunscreen
Time spent fishing is time spent under the sun and since water reflects light, chances are you’ll experience skin irritation.
If you want to keep your face from telling the tale of your journeys through burns and scars, better apply sunscreen when you are out there fishing.
Choose a brand that offers ample sun protection and keep it in the tackle box so you will never forget to slather on the much-needed protection from damaging UV rays.
Look for sunscreen bottles with sun protection factor (SPF) 45 or higher to make sure you are well protected while enjoying your spot.
#11. A first aid kit should always be within reach
From hooks catching the thumb to slips and cuts on rocks, there are unlimited reasons why a small first aid kit should always be among your fishing equipment.
Essentials for this kit include band-aids, bandages, pain tablets, disinfectant and some waterproof medical tape.
A first aid kit doesn’t need to be fancy as hopefully, you’ll not be experiencing medical emergencies while on the water. That said, it is always good to have your doctor on speed dial just in case.
Step 03: Ready! Here's How to Catch Your First Fish
The moment you get the hang of it, fishing can become an addictive pastime activity. There are many other methods of catching a fish that are ideal for different types and species but I chose to focus on the pole and line method, which is the simplest.
Decide where you want to go fishing:
Streams, rivers, lakes and even the ocean are great places to fish depending on what you want to catch. All you need is a map of your area for ideal water bodies to fish and make a decision.
Check the licensing and legal requirements for your state:
In some parts, you are only allowed to catch certain types of fish depending on the season. You might not be allowed to take home the catch in some states while for others, there is a limit to what you can keep.
It is easy to purchase a fishing license at a store in your area. Make sure you understand all the requirements to avoid brushes with the authorities
Get your gear and head out to the chosen fishing location:
Remember to use appropriate tackle for the fish you want to catch and it doesn’t hurt to have some extra lines and hooks on hand.
Time to rig your lines and tie the hook:
Fully extend your pole to show the eye and then cut the line to its length. Tie the line to the tip at the top of your pole using a clinch knot.
Use the knot to attach the line to a swivel at the bottom and to the top of the pole.
Once this is done, tie the hook on the line. The knot you tie strongly depends with the type of fishing but for beginners, a clinch knot would be proper.
The weights can be attached once you are done tieing the hook.
Rig a bobber to hold your bait just off the bottom:
This is easy as you simply need to depress the plastic sleeve on the bobber to expose the hook. Slip your line on this and repeat the process with the bottom hook.
This will secure the bobber to the line. You need to adjust to the top of the bobber stays upright for it to be effective.
It’s time to bait your hook.
Just put your bait on the hook and you are good to go!
Carefully hold and swing:
Hold the pole upright and like a pendulum, swing it out until it reaches the spot where you want it. Then lower the tip to allow your line fall into the water.
This part requires some practice to get right.
You have to sit quietly on the river bank watching closely for any movement of the bobber. If you see any movement wait a little bit, then pull up on the tip of your pole to set the hook in the mouth of whatever is eating your bait.
When the fish is properly hooked, you will feel the line tighten and the flexible end of your pole will bend with the weight of your fish.
You need to land your fish:
Do this by raising the pole tip high so that the fish is pulled towards you.
Once you have it close enough, hold the line at least a foot away from the obviously fighting fish.
Once the fish has calmed down, carefully hold its upper lip and gently remove the hook using your needle nose pliers.
Releasing the fish should be done gently to avoid causing injury:
Otherwise, toss your catch into a cooler and get ready to proudly take it home for dinner.
Lastly, I have some tips for you
Cast nets are wide with weights attached to the ends and take quite some practice to use. Amateurs prefer hand nets but these shouldn’t have irregular holes, lest smaller fish wriggle out and spoil the fun.
If you choose to use a net, make sure you are fishing in a place of clear waters where there are no weeds and grass that might interfere.
Summer is the most popular time for fishing but it’s possible to catch some when it is cold. Coldwater fish are more active and fast so you need specialized gear for the job.
Crankbaits, topwater baits, and spinner baits are your best bet for catching these fast swimmers.
When fishing in a river, never introduce foreign bait as this could upset the natural balance of things.
As I mentioned earlier, you need to choose a low current spot in the waters where there’s plenty of covers and forage to better your chances of pausing with a trophy.
Every state has a wildlife and fishing department that regulates and cares for different natural resources.
For anglers, they have a complete rulebook to guide their behavior out in the water. These rules help in conservation and preservation of fish species all over the country.
Depending on the area you choose to fish, some baits are illegal and some species must be released when caught particularly the endangered species.
Following the rules simply makes fishing a better safer experience for everyone.
Do you think it may help your friend catching his first fish? Sharing is caring, help your friend by sharing this guide with him/her. Spread the love.