So, you’ve decided to start fishing and want to learn how to fish? Well done! Fishing is a wonderful outdoor sport to practice with your family or friends and can teach you a lot besides fishing skills. I understand it can seem to be a little too much reeling, casting, rods, lures, trophy prizes.. etc, but don’t worry, all it takes is just some patience and reading. Experience will teach you a lot.
Our team has been working for a couple of days to produce this piece of an article specifically for beginner anglers. We talk about basics, gear, fishing spots, fishing skills, casting, and more. Keep reading to learn more about starting your fishing journey.
Purchase a License
Before learning how to fish, first the paperwork! You should be aware that every state has its own regulations and rules. Having a license is essential unless you want to get some real penalties! It’s not particularly expensive (about 20$) and I recommend going for an annual license as it’s cheaper. Google the fishing license requirements of your state and purchase what is necessary ahead of time. You can buy your fishing license either from:
- Fishing shops
- Occasionally Convenience stores
It is usually more expensive for non-residents and there are some exceptions for children in certain age groups.
It’s vital to learn good fishing etiquette early. Here is some advice that I recommend you follow ethically:
- Respect other anglers.
- Follow the rules of the spot you’re fishing. Always check information signs or a local regulation book.
- Follow the No-trace ethics.
- Don’t crowd a spot fished by another angler. Leave at least 40-60 feet on the crowded spots and a couple hundred yards if it’s not filled with people.
- Keep only the amount of fish you would eat.
Choosing you Fishing Spot
This is a crucial part of making your how-to fish journey successful. Start by identifying your target species, then look for the nearby lakes, ponds, or rivers in which these species live. If you can decide on a specific type and just want to start learning fishing, here are simples tips I recommend to follow to choose a good fishing spot:
- Find a place that you won’t mind staying at for several hours.
- In the spring and autumn, fish are closer to the shore as they prepare for winter. In the summer, they tend to be in deeper waters, so taking a boat out from the shore is a good idea.
- Ask about the species of fish living nearby, so you can use the right gear for it.
- Fish in deep water or moving currents. Fish spend most of its time in deep water and swim around shallow water for feeding only. They also don’t like to swim against strong currents, so placing yourself at the end of one can get you more catches in addition to faster and slower currents.
- Look for spots with reeds,rocks , and logs, especially near sudden drop-offs. They provide fish with plenty of food and it’s likely you will find some there.
You can start your search by googling your area, asking nearby fishing shops, or heading for any governmental departments.
Note: Many municipal parks stock fish in ponds that are open freely for everyone. Ask your local Fish and Wildlife Department about stocking dates. It’s great for beginners, but many people use them.
My advice is to stick to cheaper gear at the beginning, as you won’t need more expensive ones at that stage. Here are the pieces of equipment that you need as a beginner:
- Rod & Reel
- Fishing Line
- Bait or lure
- Hooks, Sinkers and Bobbers
- Tackle box.
Rod & Reel
Spinning rod & reel combos are the preferred ones to start with. I said combo because it’s cheaper to buy them this way. Also, it’s easier to set up for a beginner. Your fishing shop will be able to recommend the right fishing combos for you, but if you need more measures. Get them close to those specifications:
- Length: 6’6″
- Power: Medium-range
- Action: Fast
- Size: 35
- 4-7 Ball Bearings
- Line Capacity: 10Lb./150 Yds, 8Lb./185 Yds, 6Lb./230 Yds.
I recommend buying in the 48$ – 80$ range. It may sound a bit expensive because it’s mid-range, but it will save you the cost of getting cheaper ones and breaking them.
You may want to read:
- Top 5 best saltwater spinning reels under 100$
- The best spinning reel under 50$? A review of 6 reels with a buying guide.
Don’t bother choosing between the million varieties of lines out there. Just stick to the 6-8 lb monofilament line as a beginner. It can handle a largemouth bass while being slender enough to go for Panfish. Braided line will get you frustrated and fluorocarbon line will be an obstacle to completely spool your reel on.
Spooling your reel
- run the line through your rod guides
- Use a double knot to your spool while the bail is open.
- Put your line spool in a pot of water while applying tension with your thumb and index finger while you reel the line on.
Important Note: Don’t over spool your reel, your line will pool out to its original shape when casting, which will cause you trouble if you didn’t leave a little bit less than full. (about 1/8).
Fishing Lures highly depend on what you’re fishing. Generally speaking, you need to get their color matching the watercolor. You never know what color fish prefers, but usually, watercolors are better. For example:
- Clear Water: Go for Pearl or white
- Green water: Lime or Chartreuse.
- Tannin-stained water, root-beer is a good option.
Also, Try to choose shapes and sizes that let you match the hatch. For example, if the predator is looking for small and thin fish, choosing a small spoon can prove its efficiency. Profile and length are also important to check.
Pro Tip: Don’t try to get a one*size-fits-all gear. Every class of fish needs its own size of gear, otherwise, you’re destined to fail. This may be harsh I know, but it’s the truth. You need to get the right gear for the targeted catch. For example, an ultralight rod that’s good for casting micro-jigs to those crappies won’t handle a big largemouth bass and vice versa.
Hooks, Sinkers and Bobbers
Nothing too fancy! Just the normal stuff to start fishing. A collection of split shot sinkers, bait holder hooks, and some small snap bobbers will do the job.
Useful Skills To Learn
Reading water means the ability to identify where the fish is. You will gain this skill with time. For now, look for fish around weeds in lakes or near drop-offs. In rivers, usually in the end of currents or in places that provide good cover.
Remember, They are always chasing food.
Here are some knots that you need to know:
- Palomar knot
- Uni knot
- Improved clinch knot
- FG knot
Let’s Catch Your First Fish
Getting Things together: Split Shot Rig
You need some worm hooks. Types don’t matter.
- Tie the hook with a palomar knot or an improved clinch knot.
- Get yourself some split shot weights – get the easiest to find.
- Go up about 5 or 6 inches and pinch that split shot on.
- Put them on pointy side towards the rod towards and hook
- Get your pliers and pinch it on really well.
- Get some straight tail worms like plasma tails.
- Put the hook in the worm, pull the worm through and twist the hook as you pull through
- Lay the hook in it again low on the side where it’s going back in the worm and now you’re ready to fish.
You may want to check:
- What is the best rod for texas rig? 5 Fishing rods reviews and buying guide
- The 5 Best Fishing Rods for Plastic Worm Fishing: Reviews and Buying Guide
- You Can use a water gremlin (Bull shot) ,instead of split shot.
- Use the lure according to your target. But I highly recommend sticking to Nightcrawler or half of smaller worm types on your first trip. They are usually about 3-5$
Now, you do need to an important aspect of learning how to fish which is learning how to cast, but I can’t explain this by writing, Here is a great video to learn from:
How to Tell if You Have a Bite
Notice if your bobber moves up and down, or drives to one side or the other. To let the fish take the bait you should give the bite a 5-10 second count if your bobber is not completely submerged. Some species like small panfish do not have the strength to completely submerge your bobber as their mouths are smaller than others. If the bobber moves erratically for over 5 seconds, there is a strong chance that you got a bite. Don’t rush and pull it before 5 seconds, you’re risking pulling the bait out of the fish’s mouth while it exhales.
You will develop that sense of motion over time.
Getting Your Catch Up
Slowly reel up your line until taut. Gently, get your rod up a few inches to make it stick to the fish mouth. Don’t overdo it, so you don’t hurt your fish. Guide your rod with the movement of the fish while rising slowly and monitoring the line tension. When you start to see your catch, lift it by your rod above the ground, and congratulations!
Pro Tip: Don’t reel in too much powerfully, unless you want your bobber to get stuck in your rod’s guides. This will break your line making you lose your catch.
What if I got stuck?
Seems like Pros never get stuck, right? Believe they’ve caught more branches, rocks, and trees than fish. Learning to get unstuck will save you lures, time, money, and frustration. Here are some steps to take if you got stuck:
If Cast Over A Tree Branch
- Calm up first and slowly reel your lure until it’s just below whatever you’re stuck on.
- Try giving it a quick pop so it jumps up and over.
Note: Don’t try to muscle it out or it’s going to wrap itself around everything.
If Stuck On Something In The Water
Give those a try:
- Change the angle of where you’re standing if you can’t tug the rod and pull it off. (move a couple yards left or right and try from there).
- Hold the line above where it leaves your pole and give it a strong pull.Grabbing the line from where it leaves your rod will allow you to muscle it out and avoid putting extra strain on your reel’s drag or breaking your rod.
Note: if it’s hurting your hand, try wrapping the line around a stick and pulling it.
- Also try pulling your tight line to the left or right using your reeling hand followed by releasing it quickly. This can sometimes snap your lure off of whatever it’s stuck on.
Final Solution: If you tried everything and it didn’t work, Pull as hard as you can to snap the line of the lure. Your lure is already lost, but you preserved the line.
Keeping or Releasing a Fish
How to hold a fish?
Be careful! Fish are really strong. Grab the fish body firmly, just behind its head. Watch out because the fins can injure you. Hold it horizontally and keep it close to the water to avoid harming it.
Note: To make harm as low as possible after landing a fish, avoid squeezing its stomach or touching its gills while grabbing it.
How to pull the hook out of the fish?
By using needle-nose pliers. Here are the steps:
- Lock the pliers onto the hook piercing the fish’s mouth.
- To unhook it, push it back in the direction of the fish
- Slide it back carefully out of the fish’s mouth, turning it as needed to avoid harming the fish.
If the hook is stuck, don’t rush and harm the fish, try to be patient and try again.
Here is a video to demonstrate it more:
Releasing a Fish
You’ve learned how to fish and successfully got your first fish. What to do now?
If you’re one of the ecosystem supporters, you’re probably going to release it. Keep your fish in the water and once you’re ready just release it. There are usually some problems with stress. The fish is already wounded and taking it out of the water and handling it a lot can increase its chances of dying.
If it doesn’t start to move directly, just try to guide it a little bit until it starts to swim.
Want To keep it?
The most important thing here is to follow the regulations. Every state has its own rules that limit how many and how large fish you can take home. Don’t forget to measure the fish to ensure it’s legally allowed to keep it.
A policeman can stop you and check your catches. Breaking a fishing rule can easily get you a more than 400$ fine and buy you some time in jail.
Now, let’s do the dirty work.
- Start by killing the fish instantly to prevent suffering. Thrust a sharp knife into its brain just behind its eyes.
- Slice out the gills, scales and entrails to clean it.
- Put the fish on ice.
If you want to store fish to fillet them all in your home, get a mesh cage to place them in the water or use a box filled with ice. I recommend filleting them as soon as possible to keep the freshness of the meat.
Beginner Fishing Tips
Feel free to check our latest Beginner Fishing Tips article to get some tips and learn some beginners mistakes that you should avoid.
Q & As
Is Fishing Easy to learn?
Learning how to fish can be overwhelming at first, but actually, it’s one of the simple outdoor hobbies. It doesn’t require too much effort, just patience.
What is the best way to catch a fish?
I can’t say that there’s a single best one. Fishing ways differ from one angler to another. It also depends on the fishing spot and the targeted species. You will learn your style of catching a fish over time. Feel free to start with the way described above.
Can I teach myself to fish?
Of Course, you can. Watch some youtube videos on how to fish, fishing essentials, skills.. etc with some reading and you’re good to go.
Why can’t I catch fish?
This can be for multiple reasons. Check out your lures, casting techniques. Some techniques are harder to learn than others like trolling for example. Also, check the water temperature. If it’s too cold or too hot, fish tend to shut down which decreases your chances of getting bites.
What To Do Next?
Plan your trips and start enjoying fishing. Also, Check out our Latest Fishing tips and tricks.