While at times it can feel like people have moved far away from their hunting, fishing and gathering roots, a simple drive past any river or lake will correct this assumption! Fishing continues to be a time-honored rite of passage for the young and a treasured hobby that inter-generational family members enjoy together.
According to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), fishing is also a vital industry, representing an estimated 800,000+ jobs just to support fishing hobbyists and pros with equipment, supplies, training, licensure, lodging and more.
If you are just now joining in on this popular activity, you may legitimately be wondering where to start! There are so many different types of fishing. Equipment choices span the gamut and seem to require learning a whole new vocabulary just to choose a rod, reel and some tackle and bait. Where should you start and what should you do first? Read on for a step-by-step guide to fishing basics.
Decide What Fish You Want to Catch
From mega-fishing to micro-fishing, freshwater to saltwater, species-specific fishing to catch-all fishing, on-shore versus water craft-aided fishing, as Take Me Fishing illuminates, it is clear the first thing to do is to decide what you want to see dangling on the end of your hook.
For instance, if you are keen to enter the emerging sport of micro-fishing, which focuses on catching small species-specific fish in a similar manner to how birders scan the skies for different species of birds, you will need small gear….very small. NPR explains howsmall lures, small hooks, small bait…if it isn’t small enough, your tiny prey won’t be able to grab on.
Assemble Your Basic Fishing Gear
Once you know what type of fish you aim to catch, this list from Boy’s Life describes the general supplies you will need to acquire:
- Fishing rod.
- Spinning or casting reel.
- Fishing line.
- Needle-nose pliers (to extract hooks).
- Clippers (to cut the fishing line).
- Bait lures (artificial or real or both).
- Tackle box (to store your small items).
- Fishing license.
You may not need the last item depending on where you plan to fish, but it can be a big mistake not to check in advance of a trip only to arrive and discover you can’t fish without one.
Steps to Getting Started Fishing
Assembling all the gear you need to fish can be exciting. It can also feel daunting, like – are you sure you need ALL this gear just to catch a fish? It won’t be until your first actual fishing trip that you really see how essential each item in your toolkit becomes.
Of course, at the most basic level, there is always the tried-and-true “tie some fishing line on the end of a pole” technique. But unless you have access to a local pond or stream where fish are known to gather, this method is unlikely to net you much of a catch.
For some serious fishing how-to, what you need to know is the basic steps in any successful catch. Most beginning fishing enthusiasts start with on-shore fishing. Here, you can focus on learning to cast your fishing line, choosing the right hooks/lures/bait for the fish, reeling in your catch and detaching the fish from the hook.
Here is a list of the basic, general steps to take:
Step 1: Attach a hook to the end of your fishing line and knot it securely.
Step 2: Choose a lure or a live bait (or you can use a combination).
Step 3: Cast your hook and line into the water.
Step 4: Wait very quietly for a bite.
Step 5: When you feel a bite, pull gently on the line to ensure the fish is securely caught.
Step 6: Begin bringing in or reeling in your catch.
Step 7: Gently but firmly grasp the fish, being careful to avoid any sharp spines or (rarely) teeth.
Step 8: Detach the fish from the hook.
So there you have it! These are the basic steps to catch your first fish!
When you are just starting out and practicing these basic techniques, it can be a good choice to enjoy “catch and release” fishing, where you catch the fish and then throw it back so it can continue to grow, breed and multiple its species.
You will want to do this anyway with any fish that is smaller than the legal catch size for your state. Barb-less hooks are the best hooks for catch and release fishing.
Going Beyond Fishing Basics
Of course, beginning and professional fishing enthusiasts alike wish fishing was really that easy. There is so much to learn, the volume of which can take a lifetime. But that is also why fishing is such an alluring sport.
Not only do you get a delicious fish reward when you learn to do everything properly, but since each species of fish requires different fishing tactics to turn a lucky break into a sure catch, when you master one type of fishing, there are still so many other types of fishing to learn!
Once you feel competent and confident practicing the simple fishing basics listed in the previous section, you can advance to an intermediate level. Here, you learn about different types of hooks, which fish likes which types of bait best, the different times of day and seasons when fish are biting and how to fish from a craft as well as from shore.
Hooks come in all shapes and sizes with many different hook types. In general, smaller, lighter hooks are best for small, lightweight fish. The larger and stronger the fish, the more durable the hook should be.
As well, some point types are better for fish with different mouth shapes. And some hooks are designed to work with multiple baits or lures, bobbers or sinkers.
Baits and lures.
The type of bait you use to lure in a small freshwater sunfish is necessarily going to look radically different from the type of bait you use to net a giant deep sea tuna.
Seasonal and time-of-day fishing tactics.
As Field and Stream explains, no tactic is truly off-limit to catch a fish, even in the off-season or at non-optimal times of day or night. Dancing a jig in the mud, submerging yourself in waist-high water, tying big weights onto your line….these are all time-honored strategies to catch different species of fish in pretty much any type of weather or season.
Fishing is not an easy-in-easy-out sport. Rather, it creeps up on you, slowly becoming a passion you can pass along to future generations in turn.