Ultimate Guide for Fishing for Beginners
A Beginners Guide to Fishing:
Fishing is an amazing activity that is a livelihood, hobby, and sport enjoyed by millions of people across the globe. While fishing for beginners might seem a bit confusing, it’s not all that hard. It just requires preparation, knowledge, patience, and some fishing gear.
It’s also important to note that the notion that fishing is an expensive activity is entirely wrong. You can bag a nice catch with nothing more than a simple hook tied to an inexpensive line from a small natural pond. That being said, you will have a lot more fun fishing with the right gear.
And unlike other hobbies and activities, the results of fishing can make up for any money you spend on the equipment. You can even save a few bucks by feasting on your catch. Before we start, it’s essential to understand the term ‘angling’ since, in a lot of cases, it’s used interchangeably with fishing.
Fishing is a broad term, which simply means catching fish, by whichever means. Angling is a specific type of fishing that is done with a hook, line, and fishing rod.
It’s in contrast to other methods of catching fish like using a net, spear-fishing, and bow-fishing. Angling is the most common type, and as a beginner, this is what you will be (or should be) doing.
Type of Fishing
The first thing to know about fishing is the types of fishing you can engage in. There are many types, and they vary according to the body of water, fishing techniques, fish species, and your equipment. We will discuss some of the most common types.
The most common type of recreational fishing is freshwater fishing. Especially for people who don’t live in or near a coastal area.
There are about 250 large lakes and over 250,000 rivers in the USA, as well as a vast number of ponds and streams. These water bodies help millions of Americans engage in freshwater fishing.
Freshwater fishing is the easiest to learn, and a fisher may learn and perfect several fishing techniques and methods when learning to fish in freshwater bodies. Despite the smaller size, lakes, rivers, and ponds can hold a wide variety of fish species and sizes.
For fishing beginners, freshwater might prove a better starting point, especially if you are starting on your own. Usually, recreational fishing in freshwater isn’t done using fishnets.
You will need simple enough gear for freshwater fishing: a fishing rod, reel, line, baits, lures, and hooks. Most of these are a one-time purchase, and for baits, you can use worms and small insects found in your backyard or around the lake you are fishing in.
There are certain things you can do to make your freshwater fishing more successful.
- Fish at the right time of the year and the day. In summers, you may want to fish in the early morning and late evening, which are low-light times. Dusk is the best time in spring and fall. Winter is still an excellent time to fish if you live in a warmer region; otherwise, it may provide an opportunity for ice fishing.
- Find out about the species of fish in the freshwater body you are fishing in. You will need to use different bait and lure combinations for different species, so make sure you keep a selection with you. They aren’t very expensive.
- Fish love to stay around covers. If there are weeds, a log, or any vegetation in a body of fresh water, your chances of hooking up a sizeable catch around it are high.
The most common type of commercial fishing is saltwater fishing. 97.5% of the water in the world is saltwater, so naturally, the bulk of fishing is done in seas. But the coastlines see a lot of recreational fishing activity as well.
It’s a common misunderstanding that you need a boat to fish in the sea. You do need a vessel for deep-sea fishing, where you may find the largest and most challenging fish, but deep-sea fishing is not an activity we would encourage a beginner to take on alone.
If you are new to fishing, it would be better if you start with pier-fishing or surf-fishing. These two types of saltwater fishing require a minimum amount of gear and experience.
Pier fishing can usually be done all year-round, but you have to research the tidal activity. Your local fishing forums will have information and suggestions about when you should go for pier fishing to increase your chances of getting the most fish hooked.
Surf-fishing also requires a bit of knowledge about tidal activity, currents, and the best time of the day to fish. If you are new to the fishing activity or the area, it’s always a good idea to ask the local fishers.
One of the differences in freshwater and saltwater practices is that you should always wash your rod after returning from a saltwater fishing trip. Saltwater is much more potent at rusting metals than freshwater.
Always plan your trip according to tidal activity. Hitting the beach at the wrong time might earn you nothing more than an empty fish basket. It’s also preferred to use live baits over plastic lures. If you need to through a small fish back into the ocean, make sure to do it fast. Marine fish usually aren’t as hardy as freshwater fish.
Stillwater vs. Running water Fishing
When it comes to freshwater fishing, the two basic types of bodies of water are still or running water. Still, waters are your lakes, ponds, and dams. Whereas running water bodies are rivers, streams, lakes, and canals.
Stillwater fish tend to be calmer, especially in smaller lakes and ponds where there aren’t any currents or significant water movement. Therefore, stillwater fishing tends to be a more peaceful activity. You need to find the right spot and figure out the best combination of lures, baits, and fishing line, and you are good to go.
Understanding tidal activity is vital in saltwater fishing. Similarly, temperature and lighting are important for Stillwater fishing.
In the middle of the day, the deep waters of a pond or lake will be more populated with fish, since it would be colder than the shallow water. But in the early morning and evening, fishing from the bank might be more fruitful.
There is a lot of activity in the running water. Fish are moving way faster, and you have to stay safely out of the harsh river flows. Fishing in running water can be a lot more challenging and dynamic. Even in running water fishing, you might find some good catches in the slow and stagnant backwaters.
Using live bait and bouncing it with the current of the river will help you hook hungry river fish. Feeling a bite in the fast-moving currents of running waters will be a bit harder than it is in still water.
For both running and still water, you will have more chances of finding fish around vegetations and covers. In running water, the currents are usually calm on the front ends of the rocks. Chances of finding fish are higher in these areas.
Fly Fishing vs. Spin Fishing
These two fishing types refer to two different fishing techniques. As a novice angler, you should understand that ‘casting’ plays a significant role in fishing.
Casting is how you throw the bait (or lure) into the water using your line and fishing rod. Apart from this, the species you are fishing for, your bait, and most importantly, your intent of fishing can help define two conventional fishing techniques.
Spin fishing is the best and most straightforward method to start fishing. It uses simple sinning rods, and spin fishing intends to catch a wide variety of fish, with minimal effort.
If we compare it to fly fishing, spin fishing is relatively less challenging. But in most cases, it yields better results, helps you catch a wide variety of fish, and is relatively cheap to start.
Fly fishing is the prime technique for catching trout. For fly fishing, hand-tied, lightweight baits are used, which are called ‘artificial fly.’ They are made using feathers and animal furs, anything that the specific fish might be attracted to.
Since the bait is almost weightless, the actual casting element in fly fishing is the line itself. The fly line is more substantial than the lines used in spin fishing. Fly rods are also different; they are lightweight and more flexible.
Due to these differences, fishing gear cannot be used interchangeably in fly fishing and spin fishing. Fly fishing provides a much more challenging activity to the anglers.
It’s primarily suited for trout, but experienced anglers, using the right fly can catch a wide variety of fish with it. It’s relatively tricky to get the hang of. Spin fishing, on the other side, is relatively simple to master and focuses on catching more fish.
Bait Fishing vs. Lure Fishing
Another difference between fishing methods come with what you are putting on the hook, bait, or lure.
The simple difference between the two is that baits are real, live food to tempt the fish. While lures are artificial ‘baits’ in the form of worms, colorful plastic fish, and insects. There is not a universal answer to which is better. Different fish can be tempted with different approaches.
You can find simple bait around the lake or river itself. Worms, insects, or small fish, all of these make great live baits.
Since these baits usually are or imitate what the fish naturally feeds on, baits prove better in certain situations. It’s better to use live, dead, cut, or smelly bait when there is a moderate fish activity, low water clarity, colder temperature, and low-light times.
But in warmer temperature, when the fish are more active, the water is clear and bright, you might be luckier with colorful baits and jigs.
The simplest and most economical way is to have a small collection of inexpensive lures and collect live baits from the site or on the way from natural sources, like collecting nightcrawlers in low-light times of the day.
What Fishing Gear Do You Need for First-Time Fishermen?
Now that you have gone through the main fishing types, and hopefully, have a good idea about what kind of fishing you will be engaging in first, let’s prepare a list of what you’ll need.
The first thing you will need is a fishing rod. This is what you will use to cast your bait and reel in your catch. When looking for a fishing rod, you want to familiarize yourself with a few basic parameters. Like the material the rod is made from, it’s length, power, and action.
The materials are usually graphite and ceramic. Graphite rods are flexible and relatively inexpensive, whereas ceramic rods are rigid, long-lasting, and relatively costly.
The length of the rod dictates how far you can cast. For ponds and lakes, rods around 6-feet are usually preferred. Longer rods give you more control over the fish.
The power of a rod is used to define how much pressure you would have to apply before the rod is bent. It starts from Ultra-light (good for small baitfish) to Extra-Heavy (Suitable for deep-sea fishing).
Action is ranked from slow to ultra-fast. The action defines where the rod will bend. Slow rods bend almost at the middle, while ultra-fast bent just a few inches from the tip.
Whether the rod is in a single piece or two is also an important consideration. A single-piece rod has better integrity, but it’s costly and hard to store.
The price of the good rod may vary from Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod, a decent rod under $40, to an excellent selection of St Croix Premier Spinning Rods costing around $200.
In reels, you have two primary choices: Baitcasters and Spinning reels. Spinning reels are more comfortable and simpler to operate for novices.
They are great for lighter lines and bait applications. Structurally, they are open-faced. Compared to bait-casters, which are close-faced.
Baitcasters take a bit of time to get used to it. They are more accurate, and they can be used for heavy lines and baits.
Baitcasters have a relatively more complex mechanism; they have a gearing system that lets you control the drag of the line. With a bait-caster, you can almost pinpoint your bait delivery.
With spinning reels, the chances of your line tangling are high when you are reeling it back in. This isn’t an issue with the bait-casters. Instead, they are prone to something called a backlash, a different kind of tangling that results from slowing down of lures after casting.
Bait-casters are relatively expensive, with high-end ones, like Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R Baitcast costing somewhere $150 and $200.
Your fishing rod cannot be completed without a proper line. The three most common types are monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid.
Monofilament is the most commonly used type. It’s cheap, stretchable, easy to tie, and it floats. This makes it great for topwater fishing. Fluorocarbon is almost invisible in the water, so even though it sinks inside the water, it doesn’t alert the fish.
Braid is a relatively new type of line. It’s very tough to a braid of smaller diameter will be equivalent to a monofilament of a larger diameter in strength. This allows more of it to be stored in less space. It also sinks and is visible underwater. But it’s less prone to tangling. Braid lines are also relatively costly. If you need something tougher, there are always leaders.
Apart from the type, the strength of the line should also be considered. It dictates how much weight the line can bear without snapping.
Lures and Baits
Now that the fishing rod is complete, you have to decide what you will hook the fish with. One of the simplest places to start with is lures.
You can go with floating lures for topwater fishing, simple spinners that are great for beginners, or plastic worms that imitate the natural feed of the fish.
Other options are inexpensive jigs. They are suitable for a variety of fish. For freshwater fish, spinners are also a great option. Plastic insects and frogs also fare better in many situations.
There are many different types of baits; some are good for saltwater fish, some are better for freshwater fish. Live baits include worms (like nightcrawlers and red worms), smaller fish like minnows, leeches, and insects.
Dead bait includes white suckers, smelts, and ale whites. Depending on where and what you are fishing, you can choose the bait accordingly.
A Fishfinder is basically a radar that helps you find fish. They are simple devices that can be attached to a line and thrown in the water.
As per its range, it will give you a display and location of fish all around it. It helps you find the right fishing spots, with the highest density fish. A higher fish density significantly increases the chance of them biting.
This might not be necessary for many seasoned anglers who are familiar with the bodies of water in which they fish and understand the weather patterns and their impact on fishing. But it can be an excellent tool for beginners.
A high-end Fishfinder like Humminbird HELIX 5 might cost you around $250, whereas you can get a decent one like Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5″ GPS Fishfinder, for about hundred bucks.
Fishing For Beginners – Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
There are a few other things that can make your first fishing trips fruitful and memorable, like a fishing backpack.
They can be convenient when you have to move from spot to spot. An organized backpack can help you carry your fishing gear easily, from one place to another. It’s also very desirable if you are fishing on a boat.
Decent fishing backpacks like Wild River by CLC WT3604 Tackle Tek Nomad can help you store your fishing tackle boxes, pliers, glasses, reels, fish scalers and much more.
Having an organized backpack like this always lying around means that you will not be caught unprepared for any fishing trip.
Sunglasses are another element of your fishing gear. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked, especially by fishing beginners. They help you protect your eyes in glaring sunlight.
They also help you see through the reflective water surfaces. Polarized glasses are even more helpful since they increase your beneath-the-surface visibility. Different color shades are better for different weather and water visibility conditions.
They have a broader spread in the price range. Good-quality, low-end sunglasses can range from around $20 (Duduma Polarized Sports Sunglasses for Running Cycling Fishing Golf Tr90) to the high-end versions (Oakley Men’s OO9102 Holbrook Square) for about $150.
A set of nose pliers is imperative to get the hooks out of the fish quickly. A good range of hooks should always be the part of your fishing tackle box, especially if you are working solely with bait.
Most lures come with their own hooks. Split-shot weights are the easiest for beginners to handle. They are used to weigh the hook down and make sinking the lure easy.
Where to Catch Fish?
The ideal answer to that would be, wherever you want to, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Still, the best place for a beginner to start fishing will be in a freshwater body.
Saltwater fishing is an exciting activity, but it takes some time and guidance to safely and successfully fish in the sea. It’s prudent to start from the more comfortable freshwater fishing, lakes, and ponds ideally.
If you want to go for saltwater fishing, make sure you start off easy, like fishing from piers. And do your homework before setting out on a fishing trip.
Your first trip can do a lot of either cement your liking for fishing or brush it off as a tiring and unrewarding hobby. If you choose the right spot, in the proper weather conditions, and you use the appropriate gear, your first-ever saltwater fishing trip can be great fun as well.
Another thing to consider is how much a particular place is fished. In a pond that is fished frequently, you might be hard-pressed to make a good catch because the fish there might be wary, even if there are a lot of them in there.
In contrast, a smaller pond with much less fish might prove a much more fruitful (or fish-full) fishing spot simply because the fish in there aren’t as wary.
And you may not want to travel too much, solely for your first fishing trip. Find a body of water near your place, find out if it’s privately owned or not (because you might have to ask for permission if it is), and do a little research about it.
What kind of fish are there? What’s the best season for fishing? Do I have all the appropriate gear?
With answers to a few questions like these, you will have a good idea of where to fish.
What to Expect From Your First Time Fishing?
Realistically, just the fun of a well-planned activity that might not go as well as you hoped. Having high expectations from something you have zero experience with might not be very prudent.
What you can expect, though, is the fantastic thrill of your first catch. Even if it’s a tiny little fish, you experience an amazing sense of accomplishment and reward.
You should also expect to repeat cast several times before you get it right. You might lose hooks because you didn’t tie them properly, you might lose bait without catching the fish, or your favorite lure might get lost (which is why it’s better to start with more cheap ones than less good ones).
You should be ready to change your spot when you are sure the fish aren’t biting there, but that doesn’t mean you should spot-hop every fifteen minutes. Patience is a virtue in everything, especially in fishing.
Be ready to change your lures often. The more lures you try, the more you will have an idea about which fish is biting what bait and at what place in the water.
A fish finder can help you find out whether there isn’t any fish in the places you are throwing the lure in, or they aren’t biting because you haven’t chosen the right lure or bait. You should also expect to learn a lot from your first fishing trip, both success and failure.
You have to understand that no matter how much you prepare and how much you know, there is luck involved in fishing. If you are lucky, and you prepared really well, your first fishing trip might result in plenty of good-sized fish. But it might also end without a single bite or a few tiny fish. Whatever the result is, with good preparation, hope, and patience, you are bound to enjoy your first time fishing.
What’s the Easiest Fish to Catch?
Few of the easiest fish you can catch are:
This is the most common freshwater prize. It’s found in abundance in ponds and lakes, all over North America. It’s an aggressive biter, so it usually gets hooked on the bait, but largemouth bass are also smart. If a pond is repeatedly fished, like multiple times within a week, the bass there will get smart and wary. They are also heavy enough to make a good meal, which makes bass fishing a good choice.
They aren’t too bright and don’t keep up with fishing patterns. It means they can be caught with the same lure multiple times. They are also prone to overpopulation. Thanks to their size, they are classified as Panfish. The average weight of Bluegills is about 2.6 pounds (this number is based on the fish that anglers catch, and it’s not considering the smaller fish they release back).
Burbot is a highly predatory fish that resembles eels and catfish. They are aggressive, and they attack the bait relentlessly, making them an easy catch. Burbots weighing 6-8 pounds are very common.
These social fish tend to move towards other fish. This is why they are usually tempted with minnow fish bait, and their presence means a good variety of fish on the same spot. They are very widespread, and they are preferred over some other Pan Fish (like perches) for their better taste.
There is fly rod fishing for freshwater trout, but they are also very quickly caught on a lot of piers. They taste amazing, and they usually have a decent weight.
Another easy saltwater fish is flounder. It’s readily available around some piers, but people also take boats to the sea to find some good catches.
The freshwater fish on this list are very easily found in ponds and lakes all around the US. Their numbers also don’t fluctuate much with the weather. For saltwater fish, there are usually seasons in which certain fish species are readily available, but you will have a hard time catching one when it’s off-season.
What About Fishing Licenses?
You will need a fishing license in almost every state in the country.
The terms, fees, and limitations of the license may vary from state to state. In some states, you might need only one license to fish in lakes and seas.
In others, you might need separate licenses for both. Even with the license, there is a creel limit in some cases. It limits the total number of a certain fish species you can take out of a body of water in one day.
Fishing licenses are a great way to regulate and conserve fish in the US. They also pay for many of the fish conservation measures taken by the government.
Basic Fishing Knots for Beginners
It also never hurts to brush up on or learn a few of the more basic fishing knots for beginners.
- Clinch Knot. This is a trusted and reliable knot known by anglers everywhere. It is especially helpful to know for fly fishing, and it is a knot that can be tied relatively quickly. First, feed the line through the eye of the hook, lure, or fly. You then double back parallel to the standing line and then pinch the two together. Insert your index finger and twist about seven times in the line below the hook. You then feed the tag through the opening behind the fly or hook. Finally, moisten the lines and pull the knot tight.
- Improved Clinch Knot. The improved clinch knot is a new alternative to the standard clinch knot. It is most often used for tying terminal tackle to a monofilament line. Start by threading the end of the fishing line through the eye of the hook. Double back by making five turns around your standing line. Bring the end through the first loop you created behind the eye and then again through the big loop. Moisten the knot, pull on the tag to tighten the coils and then slide it tightly against the eyes and close.
- Arbor Knot. This knot is used to tie your fishing line to the spool of any kind of fishing reel you have; this includes a fly reel, spinning reel, or baitcasting reel. Begin by wrapping your line around the arbor of the spool with the tag end of your fishing line. You can then tie an overhand know around the standing part. Tie a second knot in the tag end about an inch from the first knot. Pull the standing part of your fishing line to the first knot and down the spool to your second knot against the first. Complete the knot by trimming the tag end closed.
Fishing Tips for Beginners
As a beginner, there is a lot of uncertainty that you will want to clear up, but remember, you can also learn as you go. However, keep in mind that there are few things to remember when going out.
Safety Is Always First
Angler safety is always going to be a top priority. Before going out, make sure you have all the essentials at hand, including your sunscreen, rain gear, and a first aid kit. You should also make sure you pack with you plenty of drinking water for the duration of your trip. Staying hydrated is important for every fishing trip.
You should also have a PFD (personal flotation device) that is properly rated. It doesn’t matter what size the boat it; you should always have a well-fitted and proper PFD at hand. You should also make sure to have a rod’s worth of line out when it comes time to reel in your catch. This extra line helps keep your rod from reacting to the movement of the fish while you remove the hook.
Must Have Patience
People often say to fish in the areas where you can catch more fish. However, for this to work, you first need to find where those fish are, to begin with. Patience is key for any angler because fishing is definitely a process, and it takes some time. The more you practice and refine your technique, and the more time you spend out there, the better your catch will ultimately be.
Don’t Be Afraid To Change Tactics
Another big tip for beginners is to know when it is time to change tactics because it just isn’t working out. If you are bait fishing, you can add and subtract weight. You can also vary the lures you use as well as the depths to see if it helps at all. If none of this works, it is probably a good idea to go ahead and change locations. To catch fish, you have to find them, right?
When you are a beginner learning how to fish, you need to keep in mind proper fishing etiquette. Always be respectful of the other anglers around you, as well as the environment you are fishing in. If you see someone else fishing close by, don’t crowd them. Instead, move to another location a bit further away to give them their space. A good 50 to 60 feet between each angler should suffice.
Also, when it comes to reeling in your catch of the day, don’t keep any more fish than you are going to be able to eat. This is where leave no trace ethics comes into play. You also need to know if the area in which you are fishing is catch and release or if you are limited to using artificial lures over live bait. Some spots are for fly fishing only as well.
Check your local regulation books or the forestry department’s website to be sure. You should never count on seeing signs posted with this kind of information. It is always best to do a little research and know ahead of time.
Fishing is a very rewarding hobby.
It might take a bit of time for you to start bagging nice catches, but the chances are that you will start having fun the moment you put the bait in the water.
Preparing the bait, making an adequate cast, patiently waiting for the bite, and then reeling in the catch.
All of these combined constitute an amazing activity which beginners and seasons anglers can enjoy alike. If you are still doubtful about fishing, don’t invest any money in it, just time. Borrow a rod from someone, or tag along to someone else’s fishing trip.
One trip might be all you need to know if fishing is really for you. Chances are, you will be back with a few fish and a lot of plans for your next trip.