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In regard to links throughout this Site, you may see a word that is underlined but NOT highlighted blue like a link, It IS a link and these are words that can be found in our Dictionary. In case  you're unfamiliar with some of the fishing lingo.

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Fighting Fish

DO something with it

Probably the best part of fishing. The fight can be exhilarating and suspenseful, not to mention tiring.
 How do you fight a fish anyway? 
That's what this page is about. When it comes to explaining how to fight the fish, It's been broken down into 3 areas,

Detecting the fish

Setting the hook

Fighting the fish

How can I tell if a fish is on my line?

An expression used by fisherman when they believe something is biting the bait is: Nibble. A nibble can be a couple of things. We call them, "mouthing" or a "nip". Mouthing or chewing the bait is when the fish holds the bait (or part of the bait) in its mouth and is decides whether or not to eat it. It's hard to describe, but when you see the rod tip deliberately moving go up and down, or maybe the line moving around, and you know something is going on but not sure what, go ahead and set the hook. This is one of those areas where you'll learn to develop "feel" over time.

A nip is when a fish takes a quick, small bite from the bait. Perch and Walleye are notorious for this. They will nip at the bait right down to the hook until your bait is gone, wait for you to put out another piece of bait and do it again. You'll notice this nipping because you'll see the rod tip do a quick little bounce or two. Don't try to set the hook on these little "taps" unless the taps are in rapid succession. If a quick succession of "taps" doesn't happen, wait for the rod tip to quickly go down a little farther than normal. Then quickly set the hook.

If the fish keeps taking your bait but you can't get a good hook set, try changing to a smaller hook

When you think you may have a nibble, make sure you're holding the rod in your hand. Don't have it leaning against anything. By doing this you'll not only be able to see the nibble but be able to feel it, this will increase your odds for a better hook set.

When fish get real aggressive, they will strike your bait. There are a couple of different strikes. They may either inhale the bait completely or do what we call a nipping strike. If the fish inhales the bait, set the hook, and the fight is on. If the fish are just hitting the tail, or you feel a strike, but the fish does not inhale the bait they are nipping at it aggressively. That means they're interested but not motivated enough to really take it. You may want to change speed (slow it down) if your casting or trolling. You could also slightly change the color of the bait or the lure.

Once you feel the fish has the bait, do not pass go, do not collect you're $200 and whatever you do, don't panic!

I feel a nibble now what? 
Set the hook!

Setting the hook

Setting the hook has been discussed in the previous section, but what does it really mean? It means to apply the appropriate amount of force to imbed the barb of the hook into the fish's mouth. Please whatever you do, don't set the hook like the pros do. If you set the hook to hard, you could pull that fish out of the water and send him flying into the next county! Seriously, a hookset that's too hard can damage its mouth, and you could kill it trying to get the hook out. Only use the force that's necessary.

A fisherman sets the hook by:

Either jerking the rod up vertically and back, or by jerking the rod to the side (do this only for surface bait, so you don't pull the bait into the air in your direction!)

Once the hook is set, you can fight the fish using the tips below.

Fighting the fish

Below are tips to help you get the fish in the boat:

Keep the line tight and the rod tip up.
Try to keep the rod at about a 45oangle. This forces the head of the fish up and doesn't allow the lure to be spit out

Keep the rod slightly bent.
You do this to transfer the tension from the line to the rod. If this isn't done, you run the risk of breaking your line, or having the fish work its way free.

Use the drag.
Be sure to adjust the drag before you start fishing for the day. You do this by giving your line a pull. You want the drag set with about 1/2 the strength of your line. For example, if you're using 4 lb test line, use your hand to pull off the line using 2 pounds of pressure. You don't want to have the drag let off line when you set the hook. Keep in mind; you may have to adjust the drag during the fight. The reason you want to adjust this because the fish may be heading towards a rock pile or weedbed you don't want him to go. You may have to tighten the drag up at the risk of snapping the line. On the other hand, you may have a lot of line on your reel and if you're not worried about him getting into an area you don't want him to, don't risk the fish breaking your line, lessen the drag and let him tire himself out. Be sure to check the drag periodically throughout the day.

 For more information on drag see the reel page.

Do not try to crank the reel while the fish is taking off line. All you're doing is twisting the line. If you don't want him running with the line, then tighten the drag.

Horsing the fish-DON'T DO IT
 Horsing the fish means, your fighting him too hard. You don't want your drag set too hard. You don't want to pull on the rod too hard. The object is to keep his head up and the line taunt, and let him tire himself out. Tiring him out is "fighting the fish" this is the best part of fishing!

Pump and Reel
Here is a technique that can be used once you have the fish under control. Don't try this if the drag is letting the line out. Pull the rod up slowly to 12' o'clock. Then reel the rod back down to the 10o'clock position. We can't stress this enough, as you lower the rod, keep cranking the handle. It is extremely important to keep the line tight between you and the fish while the rod is being lowered. If you don't, you'll have slack in the line and the fish could spit the lure out. Once the rod is down (to about a 2 o'clock), slowly pull it up again and repeat the process.

Use a Net
This may sound simple, but it's amazing how many people don't use one. You'll want to have your fishing buddy get the net in the water at the last moment after you've gotten the fish up to the boat. Putting the net in the water too early could scare him and he may start thrashing about. Get the net under the fish and scoop him up all in one motion.

Fighting the fish is the best part. Don't rush getting your catch into the boat. Remember, you have all day to tire it out, so enjoy the experience. Just remember, keep the rod tip up, you're line taunt, don't horse him and don't panic! Fighting does take some practice, so don't get flustered if you lose a couple in the beginning.


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It is important that people who fish follow all fishing rules and regulations.
These rules help conserve fish populations and also help anglers be successful.
Regulations may limit the size of, number of, and season that a type of fish may be caught, and may require a license to fish. In some cases, only “catch and release” fishing is allowed, which means the fish must be let go. Some bait is illegal in certain areas.
Contact your state wildlife agency by visiting Our Rules and Regulations Page.

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