Many people say fishing is not a challenging endeavor, that casting demands little to no skills, and that looking for the right spot for fishing is a piece of cake.
In reality, the process takes a lot of time and effort. The preparation is complex, and it changes depending on different factors. That’s why fishing is not easy, and why you may need some help starting.
If you want to learn how to start fishing effectively and without issues, then this article & OutDooris is for you. We are going to show you every critical step to take before you can begin to fish as a beginner.
The following steps will give come with every essential factor to consider before fishing. Read them carefully and don’t skip any:
A Guide to Fishing For The First Time – 10 Steps To Start Fishing
1. Get Yourself a License
Fishing is an activity anyone can do, but most of the time it needs a certification if you want to prevent issues with the law or any other authority.
These licenses are mostly offered in specific locations, so you’ll have to look for a fishing-gear shop that sells licenses or buy them online depending on the city/town you are going to fish at.
Most states let you buy a license and print it the same day so you can go fishing without having to wait more than just a few hours or minutes. This will help you stay until the last hours of the day for fishing, and sometimes even more.
Remember to read specific rules of the state, city or town you’re fishing at. This will get you out of trouble as well.
2. Check Regulations
Nationwide or specific to the state you’re fishing at, there are always regulations to know when it comes to species & different bodies of water. Some lakes and rivers have specific rules you should know, make sure you are well aware before getting into the water.
The regulations can go from not being able to fish a particular species to the number limit you can take out, and more.
Most of these regulations are made to protect either specific species or the whole habitat. Some waterways may have endangered species so they may be prohibited from fishing. Prevent any issue with authorities by knowing the regulations beforehand.
3. Learn About the Fish
Apart from knowing what to do and what not to do when it comes to laws and regulations, it is essential to know the fish you want to catch.
When you know exactly what fish you are trying to get, you’ll know how easy they are to understand, how aggressive, and how they spawn or eat.
Here we explain a few of the most common fish species;
When it comes to beginners, sunfish is probably the most popular of all. Not only they bite almost anything easily (especially live bait & spinners), they also put up a good fight so you can acquire reeling skills.
Small lures and bait work really well with sunfishes because they aren’t the biggest species out there.
Among the most usual type you can find, they eat almost anything, so you can catch them with a wide array of lures. They are also weak when it comes to fighting, and get tired fast so you won’t have to spend several minutes catching one.
If you are a beginner, this type of fish will be a great idea to catch – look for a place where this species lives for better chances.
Trout comes in many shapes, colors, and sizes, and it all depends on the body of water you fish at. However, they all behave similarly. They usually stick together in large groups, they bite almost every kind of bait but are hard to catch because they are smart and a little strong.
Especially, the large ones can be tough, but nothing a little practice and experience can’t win over.
Among the most aggressive feeders out there, the perches tend to attack all types of baits and bite almost instantly as soon as you throw the hook in the right place. However, the perch is a very strong fish so taking it out can be difficult.
Unless the fish is small and you’re strong enough, you may want someone experienced to help you get this species out of the water.
This fish doesn’t love the surface as other species, but they are still reasonably easy to catch. The best of all is that they eat a wide array of food, so they also bite fast if you have the right bait.
You can tempt catfish with live bait over lures or plastic baits, but their strength can be a little overwhelming. Find the proper spot to catch catfish as you may need to fight for a few minutes.
Crappies, similarly to perch, are invasive fish. This means you can catch them with fewer regulations than other species. But this also means they eat other fish and live bait pretty easily.
The best of all is that they are not the strongest of fighters but still pretty stubborn, so they are ideal for learning. They may not put up a long fight, but they will surely make you reel them in and build your fishing skills.
Probably the most popular among fishermen around the world, bass are not easy to catch, and they are also powerful fighters. You may spend several minutes trying to get a good specimen out of the water, not only because they are strong but because they don’t tire quickly.
Apart from that, you’ll need the right lure and bait, or else they won’t bite. If you want to learn expert skills, this species will be useful.
4. Locate a Perfect Fishing Spot
When it comes to the location for fishing, there are many factors to consider such as nearby shops if you eventually need to get additional gear, potential structures nearby where you can stay or sleep if needed, types of species in the place, and much more.
But even more important than all that is the type of fishing you’ll be doing, especially with specific kinds of fish and their behavior.
As fishing can be done practically anywhere, it can be useful to learn the different ways you can do it to fit the behavior of the fish you want to catch.
Here we explain what you should know;
Freshwater Fishing – Lakes and Rivers
It could be in rivers, ponds, lakes, streams, and more. Make sure the place has a little amount of salt so you can find more numbers. Those waterways with a lot of salt content tend to have small quantities of fish, and it could eventually make it hard.
The largest freshwater places such as big lakes & large rivers will have the biggest fish, but also the strongest ones. They could be ideal if you want to get experience.
Saltwater Fishing – Deep Sea or Shores
In contrast with freshwater fishing, saltwater is done in deep waters, most of the time in the sea. But you could also do it in coral reefs or shores, where you will find many species but not as large as the ones in profound water.
It is important to note that large saltwater fish tend to be a lot stronger and better fighters than freshwater ones, but small species are a piece of cake.
Shore Fishing – Beaches & Coral Reefs
This is what it means to fish in shores, banks or coral reefs close to the coast. It is an excellent way to learn fishing as you won’t find many significant species, so catching them will be easy. However, you’ll learn about the right luring & baiting techniques.
It will also give you a lot of space to learn to cast and to reel freely. We recommend doing shore fishing from the beach. Starting on a boat can be a little tricky.
Kayak Fishing – Large Freshwater Bodies & Saltwater
A kayak is not the most comfortable or easy-to-control type of boat, but it could be an excellent way to get into deep freshwater or saltwater without disturbing swarms of fish.
The problem is that you won’t have much agility, space to maneuver or strong anchor points to use so it could be difficult to fish if you are a beginner. But it could be handy if you are already building your skills.
Fly Fishing – Swamps & Ponds
It is all about using flies as a lure or bait. Most of these flies are plastic but imitate the insect so well that many species bite pretty easily.
However, not all species bite with this lure, so you’ll have to know when to use it. This type of fishing is better in rivers and lakes, especially in swampy places.
Ice Fishing – Frozen Lakes & Rivers
Probably the hardest among all types of fishing and not recommended for beginners. You’ll need to have the ideal tools as well, including those to pick and cut ice, as well as depth and fish finders plus many others.
If you are going to do ice fishing, we recommend having help from someone experienced. This will help you find the right spots and prevent waste of your time. Otherwise, just don’t do it.
5. Gather your Fishing Gear
You don’t need many items to have a great experience when fishing, but you’ll need the basic or otherwise you may regret it, primarily as a beginner.
Here’s what we think is essential for fishing;
Rod & Reel
There’s probably nothing more important when fishing than having your own rod and reel. Here you’ll have the chance to choose long, medium, and short options, as well as strong & flexible, or stiff & fragile, and much more.
It is important to always pick your road & reel combo according to the fish you want to catch and the style of fishing you are going to practice.
But in general, you can do well with a medium action rod with a decent spinning reel (compatible with 8-20 lbs. lines). This type of rod and reel will give you more versatility and make it easier to fish either large or small species.
Stay away from bait-casting reel and rods with lots of sensibilities if you aren’t experienced, they can make it a lot harder eventually.
If you can get a durable rod with carbon fiber build & high-quality spinning reel that last dozens of fishing trips, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time, effort and money.
Fishing lines come in a wide array of materials, diameters or thickness, and overall capacity. Depending on the fish you want to catch and your style of fishing, you’ll find the ideal line for you.
However, at first, you won’t know what you’re looking, so it is recommended to go for simple options such as monofilament lines over complex ones such as fluorocarbon or braided lines.
This will make it easy for you to learn, and will also prevent you from wasting money in something you won’t get the most of. If the line is 10 to 15 lbs, it will be a good choice, primarily as a beginner.
Tackle refers to all the items you place in the point of the line when casting. They are the weights, the hooks, and the floats. Here we explain what each one does;
Also called bobbers, they are like alarms for fishing. They will tell you when a fish bites the hook, as it will move going up and down in the surface. It also helps to prevent the hook from reaching the bottom of the waterway.
If you are a beginner, a float is probably one of the first tackle items you should get. It will help you fish more effectively and prevent you from losing your hook from not reeling fast enough.
If you want to cast the hook really far away, you’ll need something that makes weight in the line. Most of these weights tend to be small & inexpensive. We recommend going for stick-with-shot weights if you are a beginner, they are easy to cast and install.
Hooks are a little more complicated, as they come in a wide array of designs, materials, and purposes. Yet, as a beginner, you can get any hook you want as long as it is not a snelled hook.
These hooks are made so the caster can attach a swivel snap to it. So, as a beginner, you won’t have any idea of what to do with one of these. Stick to the simplest ones if possible. Eventually, you’ll learn more about them.
If you want to have the highest chances of getting fish to bite your hook, you’ll need something to lure them in: bait. This is what they will see at first, and the most it resembles live insects or animals, the more attractive it will be for them. And of course, live bait is the best option you’ll have.
There are many types of live bait though, from nightcrawlers that are very effective for most fish, to live shiners that attract fish-eating species. Choose the ideal one according to your needs, especially the type of fish you want to catch.
Bait fishing is better for those who want to catch something fast and don’t want challenges. But if you are someone looking for something hard and way more stimulating, then you can start fishing with lures. Apart from that, they can be reusable if you don’t lose them, so they end up being cheaper in the long term.
There are hundreds of lure styles to pick, different colors, materials, and designs. Here we are going to tell you all about the most common ones;
- Soft Plastic
Ideal for bass fishing or for similar big predatory fishes, plastics usually resemble large insects, shrimp and small fish in the surface which large predators love to eat. They will attract the attention reasonably quickly and are generally small as a finger.
While soft plastics tend to resemble insects, spinnerbaits look almost like a fish, weed, and insects all at the same time. And of course, they work like wonders for fishing. You can use them really effectively to catch fish in muddy waters where fish don’t see too well.
This happens because not only spinnerbait is more easy to see, but also because it makes vibrations in the water that will attract fish.
- Top Lures
Almost all topwater lures don’t submerge, they instead look precisely like fish food in the surface that is dead or sick. This is an instant dessert for fish that will bite more easily with one of these.
Some of the most common top lures are whopper ploppers & sea knights. If you are fishing in a place with low water levels, a top lure can be a useful idea.
Whether you are at a lake or in the sea, a fish finder is always a great choice to find animals in deep water. Using sonar for detecting bodies underwater, a fish finder will tell you where there’s something worth fishing for.
Some of these devices even tell you with details what kind of angle are under, either with size or by exact shape of the fish. A fish finder is pretty affordable and easy to use.
Many people recommend duffel bags, others recommend hiking backpacks, while some even say that fishing cases are the ones to go for. But for us, there’s nothing more useful than a tackle bag.
Here you can organize your lures and baits, and you can enjoy great mobility and comfort. This way you can fish with your hands-free and without worrying about your items getting wet or lost.
6. Get the Right Clothing
For fishing, it all comes down to preference. But certain clothing items are essential. Among them, you’ll find;
Doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, you can get a very cheap fishing vest, and it will offer excellent benefits still. It works both as a protective layer that keeps cold away, but mostly as storage where you can place lures and baits.
The more pockets the vest has, the better. This way you can also bring your smartphone, fish finder or whatever while having your hands free.
An inflatable fishing vest also works as a life-vest. So if you’re fishing on top of a boat or kayak, this one can be a great choice.
Boots & Waders
The wader is the ideal choice if you’re fishing on shores or in rivers. It will protect you from water, as it is usually a polyester-made product that goes from feet to hip or chest that keeps water out. Most waders go inside the boots, while others come with their own boots.
But if you want the right option for boots, we recommend rubberized boots that are at least as high as your ankle. The stronger the boot is, the better. This combination of boots and waders will keep you free of moisture and ready for fishing for hours.
From pants to shirts, you’ll need to have enough protection against climate conditions & temperature. If you are fishing in a cold place, always bring at least two layers of clothes so you can keep yourself warm even when wet. Still, always remember to bring a waterproof jacket, it will keep you dry and warm.
In hot places, only one layer of clothes is enough, but make sure it is waterproof you don’t get wet and eventually catch flu.
A hat that protects you from the sun can always be a great idea. Fishing hats are useful, as they keep your face off sunlight that can be annoying when fishing. Sunglasses are always beneficial as well, especially in saltwater fishing.
Additional clothing items that add to the experience will always be helpful, don’t overlook them.
7. Learn Fishing Knots
Once you have all the items ready for fishing, it is time to learn fishing knots. You may be thinking “what are knots good for?” Quickly, they are suitable for securing the lure or bait to the hook and the hook to the line. If you don’t this correctly, even the smallest fish can swim away with your bait, lure or even the hook itself.
If you are a beginner, there’s nothing easier than learning the double Uniknot, Palomar and the improved Clinch knot. Learning them with a monofilament line will make it easier, but practice is what eventually tells you how useful the knot is.
8. Prepare Yourself & Cast the Line
Now you are in the final steps. It is time to start getting ready and casting your first hook. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
After you know where you’re fishing at, you need to find the right spot. A place where you can stand freely and without any obstruction when casting is what you should look for.
Remember to get to the area first, then you can start preparing your gear. Remember to piece together your rod, make sure it is tight. Attach the reel, test that it is working correctly. Finally, tie the hook in and the bait/lure.
You are now ready for casting. Just make sure you picked a place where you are alone or with little people around. You won’t like to harm anyone with your hook while shooting.
It is recommended to be with a partner as well, he/she can help you when reeling or casting, especially if the person is more experienced than you are.
Casting the Line
Here you’ll need to consider whether you picked a plastic bobber or any other type of bait. Make sure you placed the thing in the right place on the line. For live bait, there’s nothing better than putting it in the hook, as it will mean an immediate bite at first touch.
Now that you have the hook ready, you’ll need to cast it. While all the previous steps were all about preparing, this one is about doing. But this also means it is slightly more difficult than you think, especially if you have a complete rig with rod and reel.
In summary, here’s what you should do;
- Start by holding the rod with your dominant hand. Keep it in a tight and secure grip, your arm should be ready for shooting.
- Then you place the rod horizontally with the reel facing down. Here you can start reeling the line in until there’s only a foot of line hanging off the rod tip.
- Now hold the line off the roller against the grip. Make sure it is aligned so you can cast it. Then use your other hand to flip the bail of the reel upwards, so it is free for casting.
- Finally, hold the rod vertically or slightly backward-looking up and make a strong throwing motion forward. Don’t let the rod go further down than 45º when throwing.
- Let the line go as far as possible. The line should be unlocked so it can fly away. If the hook didn’t reach your desired distance, you can reel back and try again until the bait can do its job.
9. Wait for a Bite
If you picked the right lure/bait and the cast was successful, fish will start biting the hook. Here’s when you need to reel them in.
But if the lure or bait wasn’t useful or if the casting was not in the right place, you may need to wait several minutes until one fish bites. If nothing bites after 5 or 10 minutes, you can cast once again.
Remember that fishing is more about waiting than casting. The more you wait, the more chances you’ll have to fish something. Unless you are entirely sure fish are biting a lot, and your hook is unsuccessful, then you can start remaking your bait/lure accordingly. Otherwise, just wait for fish to bite.
10. Release or Keep the Fish
This is the last step you’ll need to consider if you want to start fishing. And it is all about what to do with the catch once you have it on your hands.
You have two options, of course, either to keep the fish and store it in a cooler or to let it go by tossing it on the water again. But first, you’ll have to know how with both.
Releasing the Fish
Once you have the fish on your hands and you want to release it, you’ll need to make sure the fish is not hurt dramatically, and that it can still live. Otherwise, it would be better to keep it. If the fish is handled correctly and can continue living, then you’ll do well by releasing it.
When you are fishing, most of the time it is because you want to keep the fish. But let’s say you don’t want to keep them, then you can use a barbless hook. This is the ideal choice to catch a good specimen without harming it.
It will probably leave a scar inside their mouths, but nothing that may eventually damage the livelihood of the animal.
But let’s say you intended to keep the fish, and you used a regular hook, but then you decided not to keep the animal.
Whether it was because the fish was too small, you got a species you didn’t want to, or regulations don’t let you catch that species, or just whatever – you’ll need to get the hook out. And you’ll need to do this trying not to harm the fish.
We recommend trying unhooking the piece from the fish slowly and with care. If you can make someone else grab the fish while you work on the hook and mouth, it can be useful.
Otherwise, many people recommend leaving the hook inside the fish, and it will eventually fall or erode with time. Sometimes, fish grow tissue around the hook, which is not the best outcome but still more human than killing it.
Other ways you can release the fish is by fishing with a net. Just throw the net in a place where there’s lots of fish, and at least one or two will get trapped in it. The advantage is that you can eventually throw the fish out on the water or keep them if you want, but always without doing any damage.
Here are a few additional tips to know if you want to fish and then release the catch;
- Always watch the heads and eyes of the animal. If you harm these parts, you may eventually leave the fish unhealthy and in a very deficient life condition. Make sure not to damage these parts when unhooking the fish.
- Most fish can stay out of the water for more than 5 to 10 seconds. This will eventually harm their breathing system or even suffocate them. We recommend taking the fish out for up to 10 seconds, take any photo or look at it, and then you can release it back to the water.
- Some fish won’t immediately start swimming once you’ve released it. We recommend holding to it until the fish starts swimming. You can face the fish upstream, or where the current is, it will wake up the fish and give it oxygen to swim.
- Don’t throw fish into the water. If you can release the fish back in a gentle manner, it will be better for the animal. Sometimes, a hard impact with water may eventually damage the brain of the fish or make it pass out. This would leave it vulnerable to predators. Make sure you do it softly to prevent any unwanted harm.
Keeping the Fish
Now if you decide to keep the fish, all you need to do is to be assured that every animal will be safe but also fresh. You can keep the fish either dead or alive.
If you are on a boat, most of them come with fishing coolers or tanks, where you can toss the fish in and let them live for a few hours. Another option is a stringer in the water, which allows them to breathe until you finish fishing.
Otherwise, you may want to kill them immediately. Try to do it as fast as possible with either a knife or by choking them. To store them, you can use either an insulated box with ice or in a tank or cooler. This will keep the fish fresh while you keep fishing or traveling for a few hours at least.
Whatever you do, though, just try not to make the fish suffer from physical damage – you will eventually feel better with yourself.
So, are you ready to start your fishing life? You’ll have to take care of several things and probably spend a few hundred dollars preparing.
But if you are excited to take on this type of experience, you’ll have a great time without a doubt, and the spent money will be totally worth it. But don’t skip any step, you may eventually regret it.
Now you can start preparing your stuff today, get familiar with rules, laws, and regulations, research your favorite fish, and find the ideal place – do all you need to start fishing, and you’ll be ready. Don’t waste more of your time!