Getting Started Fishing

Getting Started

Here’s what you’ll need to fish in freshwater:

  • An inexpensive fishing rod and reel
  • 4- to 8-pound-test monofilament fishing line
  • A package of fishing weights
  • Fish hooks (Number 6–10 size)
  • A plastic or wood bobber
  • A selection of live bait or fishing lures
  • A casting plug
  • A state fishing license (depending on your age)

You’ll find everything you need at a fishing tackle or sporting goods store. Many discount or hardware stores also sell fishing tackle. If you want to fish in saltwater, ask for help in selecting the right equipment.

While you’re in the store, ask about a fishing license. Depending on your age and your state, you may need one to fish legally. Also pick up a copy of your state’s fishing laws (or regulations), which will tell you the types of fish, the minimum size limit, and the number of fish you can catch in one day.

Then, choose a fishing rod that you can hold comfortably in one hand. There are many inexpensive combination packages available that include a rod, reel, and fishing line.

What Tackle Can I Use?

For most beginners, spincasting and spinning are two fishing methods that can be learned quickly. With spincasting or spinning tackle, you can put the bait or lure where the fish are. You can cast greater distances with more accuracy, work lures effectively, fish in deeper water, and handle larger fish more easily with this tackle.

  • Spincasting outfits use a rod with a pistol-like grip and a reel that’s mounted on top of the rod’s handle. Line is released using a push button on the reel.
  • Spinning gear uses a rod with a straight handle and a reel that’s mounted under the handle. Line is released using your index finger.

Both spincast and spinning tackle are available in packages that contain a rod matched with a reel that is already spooled with fishing line. Buy the best equipment that you can afford—all will work well, but look for better quality pieces with more features.

How Can I Learn to Cast?

Find an area away from other people where you can practice casting without breaking a window or hurting someone. Make sure you set your reel’s drag properly by checking the instructions that came with the reel. Now follow the steps for your type of rod that are shown on the next two pages.

Don’t be discouraged if your first casts don’t go exactly where you want them to. No matter what type of fishing tackle you use, the timing of your arm and hand movements is critical for long, accurate casts. You will improve with practice— keep trying!

  • Safety First
  • Fish with a companion who can offer help in an emergency.
  • Be careful when handling sharp hooks.
  • Don’t cast near other people, and always look around before making a cast.
  • Wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device or life vest when wading or in a boat.

Practice Conservation

A good angler respects our natural resources and wants to conserve them for others to enjoy. Always carry out what you brought in, never leave behind plastic containers or packaging. Fishing line is very dangerous to birds and other wildlife, tangling around legs or the mouth. Bring old or tangled fishing line to a fishing tackle store to recycle it.

Catch & Release

Fish should never be wasted. If you catch a fish that is under the legal or minimum size or that you do not want to keep, release it quickly. If possible, keep the fish in the water and handle it carefully, pushing the hook back through the lip. If the fish has swallowed the hook, do not tear the hook out. Simply cut the line as close to the mouth as possible. You can revive a fish by gently moving it back and forth in the water so that water runs through its gills. When it begins to struggle and can swim normally, let it go.


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