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The Basics on How To Fish

Besides patience, fishing requires a few things. Here at The FUNdamentals of Fishing you will find out what you need to get out on the water with techniques that can help you catch any kind of fish. This page will help you in deciding which kind of fishing pole or Rod and Reel to get for a beginner including how to string it up. We will teach you how to cast, where to fish, when to fish and everything else a beginner fisherman needs to know to get started.

Purchase a Fishing License   Fishing Pole or Rod and Reel   Fishing Line  
Terminal Tackle
Fishing Hook   Sinkers   Bobbers   Bait
Setting Up Your Pole or Rod and Reel
How to attach the Hook   How to attach the Sinkers or Weights   How to Attach a Bobber   How to fish Using a Cane Pole   How to fish Using a Spincast Reel   Holding The Pole  The Fishing Part  Retrieving   Setting the Hook   Playing the Fish  Landing a Fish  How To Handle A Caught Fish
Change tactics to catch more Fish

Before you can fish you will need to purchase a Fishing License!!!
In most states, licenses aren't required for children 18 and under

You can purchase a fishing license online in your State, find out here.

You may also want to be aware of fishing laws in your state.
Find out what the Fishing Rules and Regulations in your state are. See here

Even before you set out to fish, decide whether you're fishing for fun or fishing for food. This will help you choose gear and get ready to practice good catch-and-release techniques if you're just fishing for fun.

If you're just fishing for fun, learn proper guidelines for handling and releasing fish. If you plan to keep your catch, learn how to clean it and prepare it.

See Guidelines for Handling and Releasing Fish.

See Guidelines on Cleaning and Preparing your Fish.

Next, you are going to need something to catch fish with!

The very basics you will need is an old fashioned cane pole
a fishing rod and reel. If your just starting to fish, I recommend a basic Spincast Reel. It is  typically an inexpensive type of reel and by far the easiest  reel to use!

You will then need some basic terminal tackle which we will discuss in just a moment.

A cane fishing pole is simply a long length of bamboo cane that is cut and fashioned into a fishing pole with the use of some basic terminal tackle. The fishing line is no longer than the length you have put on it. Cane poles do not have a reel. Cane poles are ideally suited for bank fishing, as the bait depth is limited by the line.
To learn more about Cane Poles and How to Fish with them, click here

A fishing rod and reel is simply a long flexible rod or stick which holds a reel at the handle to keep spooled up fishing line. Therefor as opposed to the cane pole and a limited length of fishing line, a rod and reel will allow you to cast (throw as much line into the water) and reel it back in.
Again, if your just starting to fish, I recommend a basic Spincast Reel also called a closed faced reel.  It is  typically an inexpensive type of reel and by far the easiest  reel to use!

You can learn more about different types of Rods and Reels by visiting Our Rods and Reels Page.

Fishing Line

A fishing line is a cord or string that attaches to the end of your pole or rod and in turn holds the hook at the other end.

Important parameters of a fishing line are its length, material, and weight (thicker lines are more visible to fish). Factors that may determine what line an angler chooses for a given fishing environment include breaking strength, knot strength, UV resistance, castability, limpness, stretch, abrasion resistance, and visibility.
If you are interested in learning what the heck all that means you can visit Our Fishing Line Page, but for now a simple 6 to 8 pound test will do you fine.
Fishing line comes in pound-test, (the line size or strength). 
Test is simply a term used in describing the weight capacity of your line. Usually, a 6 to 8 pound test line will hold up a fish weighing six to eight pounds without breaking.

Terminal Tackle

Now all the little things to add to your fishing line, like a hook and bait and other little doodads.

You could get away with simply having a hook and line for your cane pole. For a rod and reel however, you will need some weight to your line in order for it to be casted out into the waters.
There are also other cool gadgets to make your fishing experience a little easier.

It would be wise to purchase more than one of each piece of tackle, for you are bound to lose, snag or break one or all of the pieces you tied to your line.

Fishing Hook

Let's start with the hook. You gotta have a hook in order to catch and secure the fish to your line.

It would be in your best interest to purchase a small bag of hooks ranging from size 2 up to size 3/0 to start off. You can even purchase a container of assorted hooks. You want to purchase more than just one hook as you are bound to lose one or more on your fishing expedition.

rule of thumb 
you can catch a big fish on a small hook but you will be unable to catch a small fish on a large hook.
So I opt to go with caution and use slightly smaller hooks to cover all bases.

You can learn more about the different styles and sizes of hooks and their purpose by visiting Our Hooks Page.


A fishing sinker is a weight used to increase the hook and line's rate of sink, anchoring ability, and/or casting distance.
Fishing sinkers may be as small as 1/32 of an ounce for applications in shallow water, and even smaller for fly fishing applications, or as large as several pounds or considerably more for deep sea fishing. They are formed into nearly innumerable shapes for diverse fishing applications.

All you will need to start off are some BB sized split shot sinkers. A small ball of lead of varying weights that is split open on one side and can be placed by squeezing them directly on the line without tying.

Or you can use Rubber Core Sinkers which are like a split shot, however split shot sinkers are not reusable and may nick or damage your fishing line. If you expect to be swapping out sinkers often, consider a rubber core sinker.

It would be wise to purchase more than one sinker, for you are bound to lose one or more!

If you would like to learn more about the use of sinkers visit Our Sinkers Page.

Also referred to as Floats and Dobbers

A bobber is a small piece of cork or light wood or plastic attached to your fishing line. It maintains bait at a given depth as well as indicates when a fish is biting at your hook

The most commonly employed bobber is the familiar round ball bobber, usually made of plastic. This bobber is often a combination of bright colors, including red, white and/or yellow.

While there are multiple varieties of bobbers, spring bobbers that attach directly to the fishing line are most popular and the one I would suggest you use.

It would be wise to purchase more than one bobber, for you are bound to lose, snag or break one or more of them!

You can learn more about bobber styles and how to use them by visiting Our Bobbers Page.


Bait is food or a food like substance that you will present to the fish by attaching it to the hook.

When the fish see the food which is unknowingly to them attached to a hook, they will attempt to bite at it and get caught on your hook or more often you will have to pull on the hook and bait in order for the hook to get caught into the fishes mouth.
We will discuss more on that procedure in just a moment.

The Oh So Many Types of Bait To Use

Live bait or Artificial bait

  You can buy live bait which would include night crawlers, minnows, or crickets at a bait shop or you can catch your own. 
You can learn all about the different types of live bait and which ones are best for catching a certain species of fish at Our Live Bait Page.


Artificial bait is simply as it indicates - artificial, fake, imitation, etc.

Artificial bait would include Lures, plastic worms, spinners, spoons, etc.

You can learn all about the different types of artificial bait and which ones are best for catching a certain species of fish at Our Artificial Bait Page.

Those are the basic items needed to begin your fishing expedition.
A fishing pole or rod and reel, a small spool of fishing line (6 to 8 pound test), a couple of plastic bobbers, some split shot sinkers (BB size), some hooks (size 2 up to size 3/0) and some bait.
A tackle box with a handle will help keep it all organized.

Setting Up Your Fishing Pole
Rod and Reel

Okay, I am assuming you now have all the items mentioned above and now you're probably wondering where and how they all go on the pole and line.
I will tell you, but first, choose which type of fishing pole you will be using:

Cane Pole     Rod and Reel

How To Setup a Cane pole

There is no "real way" to set up a cane pole however this is the method I was taught by my dad and uncles. This is knowledge that has been passed down from many vacations and weekends spent on The Lake in Evergreens, MO.

To set up a cane pole start by wrapping several turns of line around the base of the pole (the "handle" if you will) and securing it with a good heavy knot, then run the line to the tip of the pole and wrap the line around the pole a few times and tie another good secure knot a few inches from the end. The wrapping around the pole prevents the line from slipping. The reason for tying the line to the base of the pole is in case a fish is hooked and the pole breaks you will still have a chance to land your fish.

Click here to continue setting up your pole

How To Setup a Rod and Reel


I have to say this! If you are new to a Rod and Reel and the fishing world, and you purchased a rod and a pre spooled reel, it will most likely have a plug attached to the end of the line. Cut it off, that is not needed.

Thread the test line up through the ring holes of your fishing rod leaving a couple feet of slack so you can attach the rest of the terminal tackle.
If you purchased a reel with no line already in it, visit Our How To Spool A Reel Page

Let's start with the hook. 
How to Attach a Fish Hook

Start off with a 3/0 hook and attach it to the end of your line opposite of the pole or reel. Now you can simply tie and knot the hook to the line but you would be risking loosing your hook and bait. A lot of people will tell you that one of the most important things to remember is to keep your hooks sharp. All I got to say is "If the hook comes of the line, it doesn't matter how sharp it was."
The best knot to attach a fishing line to a hook for a secure hold would be what is called a Clinch knot or often called a fisherman's knot.

It's very simple and explained below:

1)  Pass the line through the eye of the hook, swivel, or lure.  Double back and make five turns around the standing line.

2)  Holding the coils in place, thread the tag end of the first loop above the eye, then through the big loop

3)  Hold the tag end and standing line while pulling up the coils.  Make sure the coils are in a spiral, not overlapping each other.  Slide against the eye.

4)  Clip the tag end.

See Our Page on Knots for different types of fishing knots.

How To Attach The Sinkers or Weights

If you are using an artificial lure a split shot is generally not required since they are already weighted down and designed to either float or sink as they are reeled in.

As I mentioned above, a Split Shot Sinker is your best bet as you can simply clamp them onto your line, otherwise you will have to remove your hook and tie on any other type of sinker.

Select the right weight of split shot for the situation. 

For more information on weights and sinkers visit Our Different Types of Sinkers Page
To learn how to use different types of weights and sinkers, visit Our Different Types of Fishing Rigs Page

The placement of the sinker can vary. Common arrangements include a single sinker between the hook and bobber for bait fishing, as well as a series of sinkers with different weights to control drift below a float.

Use the lightest sinker possible for a given situation. Excess weight may discourage fish from taking the bait, and it can alter how the line feels as you cast and fish with it. Fishing in strong current may require multiple larger split shots to keep your presentation from going downstream too rapidly, while fishing where the water has no movement permits you to go with a much smaller and lighter split shot.

Find the spot on your fishing line where you wish to attach your split shot. When fishing in rocky, gravel-bottomed streams, a split shot positioned about 18 inches below your hook keeps the hook off the bottom, reducing the number of snags. Fishing on a muddy, soft bottom allows you to put the split shot above the hook on the line, with the distance from the hook usually set at least 12 inches.

Here is how you attach a split shot sinker to your line:

Pinch the two fins on the split shot together using a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Refrain from using your teeth to avoid chipping a tooth. Pinching the ends with the pliers forces open the opposite side of the split shot. Do not pinch the ends so tightly that they meet.

Hold the split shot with your thumb and forefinger so that you have access to both sides of it. Run your fishing line through the opening created by your pinching action on the split shot's opposite side. Hold the line in the crevice created so that it is as close to the center of the split shot as possible.

Wrap the line around the split shot so that it runs between the two fins on the other side and back through the crevice once again. You should have two wraps of line in the crevice now. Pinch the split shot closed with your pliers, keeping the line in the now-shut crevice. By wrapping the line twice around the split shot, you prevent it from being able to slide up and down your line when you cast and retrieve.

Hopefully this gives you an idea on how to utilize sinkers for positioning the hook in water and as weight to cast your line.

Again, if you would like to learn more about the use of the different sizes and styles of sinkers and their purpose, visit Our Sinkers Page.

How to Attach a Bobber

If you are using an artificial lure a bobber is generally not required since the whole principle of a lure is to cast the line out and then lure the line back in to imitate a bait swimming in the water.

Set a bobber above the hook (how far depends on the water depth).

Because the Bobber is lightweight it will float on top of the water while the rest of the line with your hook will stay at a certain depth in the water.

Determine how far into the water you want the bait to go. If you want to hang the bait 3 feet into the water, then the bobber should be set 3 feet above the hook and bait.

To attach a spring bobber, press the piece of plastic on top of the bobber, which will release a small clip on the bottom of the bobber. Thread the line through the clip and release. The bottom of the bobber now is affixed to the line.

Place a finger where the line is attached to the bottom of the bobber, then press down on the outside edge of the plastic piece on top of the bobber. This will reveal a small clip, like the one on the bottom of the bobber. Thread the line through the clip and release. The bobber now is attached to the line.

To change the bobber's placement on the line, detach one end of the bobber from the line. One end still will be attached, but you can slip the bobber up and down. When you're satisfied with the bobber's placement, secure the other end.

Here is an image of the end result of Setting up Your Rod and Reel

Decide on what kind of bait you are going to use. 
The more natural the bait is the better. Night crawlers and minnows work fine most of the time. Whatever natural bait is available on a specific body of water will produce fish. However, sometimes the fish are not actively feeding. These times call for lures that will cause the fish to "strike" just out of instinct.
Some flashy lures are designed to make fish bite even when they're not feeding, due to sound, motion, and color.


Now you are ready to go fishing!


Because fish have an excellent sense of smell there are many things that could affect how your bait, lure, flies or whatever it is you are using smells.
Bug repellent for example has a very strong smell. Getting it on your hands obviously means its also going to get on everything you touch as well. And that stench is going to stick around on your offering for quite a long time. A big way to avoid this problem is to use the bug repellent that comes in the form of a stick. Almost like a deodorant stick, these types of bug repellent allow you to apply it with out actually getting any of it on your hands.

Everyday soap can be another factor. 
If you must wash your hands either before or while you are fishing, find yourself a fragrance free glycerin soap that won't leave any trace of perfume or fruit aromas on your hands.

Cigarette smoke can also be a factor. 

Before you bait your hook, think if there is possibly anything on your hands; be it gasoline from handling the fuel pump, lighter fluid, anything perfumey (I know that's not a real word, but I think you know what I mean), and so on.

A little tip! If you're fishing with another person and they seem to be catching fish and you are not, try having him or her bait your hook a few times and see what happens!  If you begin to catch fish, it could be because you have something on your hands.

If you need help on how to put your bait on your hook you can visit Our How To Bait a Hook Page which will show you how to put specific live baits and artificial baits on your hook.

Which fishing pole did you decide on using?
Choose which one in order to learn how to fish with this typical fishing pole.

The old fashioned cane pole    or    Fishing Rod and Reel
You can also visit Our How To Cast Page to see
How to Cast The Open Face Spinning Reel
How To cast The Bait Casting Reel

How to fish Using a Cane Pole

If you are using a basic cane pole simply lower the hook and line into the water until the bobber floats.  Hold your pole steady.

Now wait for the fish to bite. 
Watch the bobber, if it jumps or shakes, this indicates a fish is nibbling your bait.

When your bobber goes completely under water, set the hook.  This is done by raising the pole quickly.  Reel in the fish with care.

Once the fish is landed, handle it with care.  Most fish don't have sharp teeth but may have spiny fins.  Hold the fish firmly and remove the hook.  Needle-nose pliers may be needed.

Once you have caught a fish there are certain procedures in handling your caught fish.
Move on down the page to learn how.

How to fish Using a Spincast Reel
As I stated above if your just starting to fish, I recommend a basic Spincast Reel. It is  typically an inexpensive type of reel and by far the easiest  reel to use! On this page I will show you how to use such a Rod and reel.
If you have a Spinning Rod and Reel  or a  Bait Casting Rod and Reel you will need to visit either the
Learn how to Cast a Spinning Rod & Reel
Learn how to Cast a Baitcasting Rod & Reel 

How to Cast The Spincast Reel

When learning to cast a fishing rod for the first time, you can first practice casting in your yard by tying on a casting plug or a small non-sharp weighted object without hooks to your line, using knots that you can learn at our Fishing Knots Page.

Get a feel for the equipment . . .

Hold the rod out in front of you to get a feel for how the spincast reel works.

Reel up the line until the bobber is about four inches from the tip of the rod.

Now, press down firmly on the release button and hold it there.


Notice how the bobber stays in the same place.

Now let the release button go. The bobber should fall to the ground. 

If line does not come out, pull line slightly to start. 
Reel the line back to its original position, a few inches from the tip. 
Repeat as necessary.

You have just learned how to release the line from the reel, 
a very important step in casting.

To prevent loops that can become tangles from forming in the line, carefully add tension to the line with your thumb and forefinger while reeling in the line.
You should hear a click when you start to reel-that is the pick-up pin of the reel being activated.
Now you are all set to wind line back onto the spool of the reel.
Remember whenever you are fishing to always reel in enough line after you cast to hear that click.
This will prevent excess line from coming out of the reel, and loose line can mean missed fish.

Final Check

Your line is ready and your hook and bobber are tied on.

Place your bobber 6-12" from your rod tip and make sure your line is not wrapped around your rod.

As safety is an important habit to establish, you should check the immediate area around and above you to be sure you have plenty of space.

Before you cast, look behind you to be sure no one else is there.
Also, check for trees and bushes that can get in your way.


Face the target area with body, with your feet and shoulders square to the target. This is accomplished by pointing the toes of both feet at the target area.

Aim the rod tip toward the target, an object on the horizon with the hands comfortably at the waist. (Some youth may have difficulty holding the pole with one hand, so the rod may be held with one hand or two.)

This is the 3 o'clock position.

Press and hold down the reel's release button with your thumb. 

Swiftly and smoothly, bend your arm at the elbow, raising your hand with the rod until it almost reaches eye level. You should still be holding down the release button with your thumb at this time. When the rod is almost straight up and down, it will be bent back by the weight of the practice plug. As the rod bends, move your forearm forward with a slight wrist movement. You should still be holding down the release button with your thumb at this time.


Next, gently sweep the rod forward, causing the rod to bend with the motion. You should still be holding down the release button with your thumb at this time.

As the rod moves in front of you, reaching eye level, about the 10 o'clock position, release your thumb from the button.


The bend in the rod casts the bobber and bait out.

Stop the fishing rod with it pointed slightly above the original target.

You have just made a cast!

If the lure went high and fell short,
you released the button too soon. 
If the plug went more or less straight up, you released the thumb button too soon.

If the lure went too low and fell short, 
the button was released too late.
If the lure landed close in front of you, you released the thumb button too late.

Holding The Pole

The way you hold your pole will depend on which type of Rod and Reel you have.
If you have the Spincast Reel I suggested for a beginner then you would hold your rod so that the reel is up above the rod.

Holding this type of Rod and Reel in this manner for one, allows you to easily press the release button. Secondly, should you cast it upside down the line will shoot straight to the ground.

Are ya a lefty?

Many reels have the ability to switch the handle of the reel to the other side if you are left handed.

To learn more on how to use this a Spincast (Closed Face) Reel, visit the section on Spincast Reels at Our Page on Rods and Reels.
Click Here To learn how to use A Spinning Rod and Reel
Click Here To learn how to use A Baitcaster Rod and Reel

Every pole has a balance point (fulcrum) with the reel and lure attached.

Picture shown above is a Spinning Rod and Reel

If the angler holds the pole at this point, leverage to fight the fish is greater than when the pole is held behind this point. This also allows the angler to place the end of the pole (butt end) against the belt to fight larger fish.

The Fishing Part

First you have to realize that fish are wary creatures. This is especially true in shallow water near the shore. Anglers must walk carefully because vibrations from their footsteps can be transmitted to the water and sensed by fish, spooking them away.

Vibration is less of a problem when fishing rivers and streams because the water's current conceals most bank vibrations.

When wading, avoid dislodging rocks that might make sounds that scare fish. Vibration isn't a problem when fishing from breakwaters, jetties, and piers.

When you fish still waters, these tips will help you avoid being seen by fish. You should stay as low as possible, stay close to shrubbery, and wear dark or camouflage clothing. These are important since fish near the surface can easily detect movement on shore.

Cast your line into a place where you think the fish might be and reel in the slack. If you're using live bait, let your bobber do the work for you, keeping the worm wiggling where it ought to be. If you've got plastic worms or a lure, reel in ever so slowly, then stop; reel again, and so on. This will attract the attention of the fish.

Hold your rod at about a 45-degree angle to the water, with the tip up. Wait a few minutes, and then reel in. Cast again, here or nearby, until you see your bobber start to bounce on the surface and you feel a tug. You'll know you're feeling a fish (as opposed to just the current pulling on your bobber or a snag on the bottom) if the tugging comes in energetic bursts.

Wait a moment for the fish to take the bait and hook into its mouth!


Understanding the most productive methods of presenting live bait and artificial lures to fish during the seasonal cycle is vitally important. The metabolism & temperature is determined by weather, water clarity, sun penetration & wind direction. The best size, color, speed, & sound of lures are determined by these variables!


Fish eat plankton, larvae, nymphs, fresh water shrimp, insects, perch, smelt, shiners, ciscoes, tulibee, shad, herring, leeches and all types of minnows for survival! In the spring, new bait hatches make "young-of-the-year" forage plentiful and vulnerable. As a rule . . . you want your bait to "match-the-hatch" for size during the seasonal cycle of the year. Therefore, in the spring small lures usually work best. During the summer months, medium sized lures are often preferred. In the fall, a large bait presentation normally triggers the most strikes.


Sound transmitted through "sonic" vibration stimulates a positive response from most gamefish. Fish possess a lateral line which allows them to "home-in" and ambush their prey even though they cannot clearly see it. Rattles and spinner blades on jigs, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, spinner rigs and crankbaits "ring-the-dinner-bell" to attract gamefish . . . and trigger 'em to strike!


The most effective color of any lure varies from one day to another . . . and from one lake to the next. As a rule . . . you want your lure to blend in naturally with the color of water you are fishing in! Therefore, natural baitfish colors blending with black, blue and green are best suite for clear water. For slightly stained water, yellow, gold, orange, chartreuse, green, perch and firetiger are top producers. For stained and muddy water, the high visibility fluorescents like pink, orange and phosphorescent "glow-in-the-dark" colors are unbeatable. If the sun's rays are bright in shallow water, fluorescent yellow and chartreuse are simply the best!


In cold water, fish are dormant and S L O W movement is essential. During the warm summer months, fish become more active and aggressively chase after their prey. Therefore, moving lures at faster speeds will generally trigger more strikes. In the fall, as water cools, fish become less active and slow to moderate speeds are most productive! As rule . . . the shallower the water, the faster you move your bait. Therefore, slow down your speed in deep water.


This is the act of bringing a bait or lure back to the angler. 
After casting, live and prepared bait are often left in one spot until retrieved. 
Some baits however, and most artificial lures are most effectively presented while retrieving. Presenting a display of live bait swimming through the waters
The retrieve can be slow or fast; it can be steady or erratic.

To learn more about different styles of Retrieving Techniques visit our How To Retrieve A Fishing Line Page

Setting the Hook

"Setting the hook" refers to the method of forcing a hook into a fish's mouth. When the fish bites, the fishing rod should be quickly pulled up to set the hook into the fishes mouth.
In most cases, one sharp snap of the rod is all that is needed, provided the hook is sharp. Some situations, however, require more force than others. For example, a single hard strike is needed when using a soft-plastic worm as the hook is concealed inside the worm and because the strike must drive the hook through the worm first and then into the fish's mouth. Striking too hard or repeatedly with a soft-mouthed fish such as a crappie, shad, or sea trout can pull the hook through the mouth.


Learning to fish is easy. 
Catching fish can be hard.

Playing the Fish

When a fish feels the hook, it struggles to get free. This might involve jumping, making a long run, swimming back against the line or swimming around obstacles.

Each species of fish fights differently.
Some experienced anglers can often tell what species of fish is on the end of the line just by the way it fights. 
Carp, bonefish, and Chinook salmon are strong, powerful fish that tend to make long runs. Largemouth bass and steelhead trout both run and jump. Tuna dive for the bottom. Trout and tarpon fight wildly when first hooked. Northern pike and cobia (ling) often come to the boat easily, but fight strongly near the boat. Sunfish zigzag toward cover to take full advantage of their body shape.

After setting the hook, the line should be kept tight so the fish will not shake the hook loose. The fishing rod should be held between a 10 o’clock and a 12 o’clock position.

It's possible to land many small fish just by reeling them in. They'll fight, but this can be easily overcome by the strength of the line and the fishing rod. Much of the enjoyment of fishing, though, is gained by using lighter tackle that allows the fish to fight. Properly adjusted drag will allow the line to release prior to breaking.

Fighting larger fish requires a technique called "pumping the rod." 
To do this, reel in the fishing line quickly to maintain a tight line as you lower the rod until it is horizontal and pointed at the fish. Then stop retrieving line and slowly raise the rod up. When the rod is at about the 11 o'clock position, repeat the process until the fish is near and ready to be landed. Never let the line go slack in the process.

To reduce the risk of injury to a fish you plan to release, don't "play" the fish more than a couple of minutes (it can take a toll on the little creature). Do not fight it so long that it becomes exhausted and later dies.

To learn more techniques in playing a fish visit Our How To Play The Fish Page

Landing a Fish

Fish can be landed by hand or with landing tools such as a net. When you fish from the shore, beaching fish is a popular way to land them. This method, however, should only be used if you plan to keep and eat the fish because it will harm the coating on its body which is not good for survival of the lil' guy if your plans are to release him anyway.

To beach a fish, lead it into increasingly shallower water, gradually sliding the fish on its side onto dry land. In saltwater, time your retrieve with an incoming wave. As the wave recedes, quickly grab your beached fish and pull it ashore.

Landing nets are commonly used for landing fish. Long-handled nets are used for boat or shore fishing and fishing from docks and jetties. Short-handled nets are used for stream fishing. The size of the net depends on the size of the fish you plan to catch. Some people use a circular net with a long rope instead of a handle; this is used for pier and bridge fishing.

To net a fish, you must first have the fish under control as much as possible. Next, lead the fish to the net. Place the net in the water and lead the fish into the net head first. Then if the fish should try to escape, it will swim into the net. Once the fish is completely in the net, raise the net by the handle. If you have a heavy fish, also grasp the net's rim to prevent the handle from bending or breaking.

You can also simply land your fish by hand, Carefully avoiding the hook.

How To Handle A Caught Fish

Once you have caught a fish there are certain procedures in handling your caught fish.

Land fish quickly and handle them as little as possible.

 Get a wet net under the fish while it's still in the water and gently lift it into the holding bucket.

It is always a good idea to attempt to remove the hook once you have landed a fish. Unless the fish has totally swallowed your bait, you can trace the line down to the shank of the hook with some pliers (or a hook-remover tool) and remove the hook manually. If even the shank of the hook is no longer visible, you may have to cut the line as a last resort. Cut as close to the hook on the line as you possibly can, and let the fish go. There is a good chance that the fish will survive. The fish's stomach acids will dissolve the hook.

It is always better to release undersized fish. The law protects them for a reason, and people who ignore wildlife-management laws have little understanding of why they exist: to ensure that we and our children after us are able to fish good waters.

Handling fish properly protects both you and the fish. Some fish have sharp fins or teeth that can cut you if you don't hold them correctly. Thus, different fish species need to be handled in different ways. Hold some fish by the jaw, such as bass or trout, and others along the body, such as a catfish. Learn about Handling certain species of fish at Our How To Handle Fish Page, but in the meantime keep the following rules in mind:

1. Always wet your hands first before handling fish. Wet hands are less likely to damage the protective coating of mucous on the outside of the fish. This slimy layer helps protect the fish's skin from disease and makes it glide easily in the water.

2. Don't allow fish to flop around on the bank, the dock, or the floor of the boat. If keeping fish, put them on ice or in a bucket of cool water.

3. If you are not keeping the fish, take the fish off the hook as soon as possible. Gently lower it into the water until it begins to swim away. If it isn't ready to swim, you may need to slowly swish it in the water first. Remember, no fish is a "junk" or trash" fish. All fish play important roles in the aquatic ecosystem.

4. If your fishing intentions are not to keep any of the fish you catch, using barbless hooks can make it easier to take the fish off the hook.

Keep your fish alive! 
A live box is the best option for keeping fish alive while you continue to enjoy your day of fishing.
If you can't afford a live box, get yourself a stringer so that you can keep your fish alive during the trip. While you are fishing, simply tie the stringer around something secure and let the fish lay in the water.

12' Yellow Twisted Polyester Fish Stringer

How To Use A Stringer

Get the end with the sharp point and slide it behind and under the gills and out the mouth. 

Then slide the sharp point through the ring and pull it until its snug. Tie the loose end to something strong like a rock or branch.

If you catch other keepers just slide the point under the gill and out the mouth again. Slide the fish down to the other fish and tie the stringer again.

Be careful not to damage their gills, because that will usually result in a slow suffocating death. The reason you put fish in a stringer is to keep them alive and fresh, so damaging their gills defeats that point.

DO NOT put large fish on a stringer all facing the same direction. They will team up and fight to swim away and possibly succeed.

This is a cheap piece of gear that is very easy to use, and it should be in every tackle box.
Another option would be to carry along with you a good size bucket, at least two gallons

Kids often develop a powerful attachment to their first fish. Having finally caught one, they don't want to just let it go. They may even want to bring it home to eat. A holding bucket represents a nice middle ground. Fill it with pond water and put in the unhooked fish. This lets kids identify, admire and bond with their catch. When you're ready to go home, gently pour the fish back in the pond.

You can safely keep the fish in a large bucket for as long as an hour.

Why keep your fish alive? 

One: It's the humane thing to do. Especially if your fishing just to release them back into the waters.

Secondly: It avoids spoilage and loss of quality of your fish. 

At the end of the day, toss your keepers into an ice chest and surround them with ice. Freezing the fish will kill them cleanly, with a minimum of thrashing, and they are already prepared for transport back home! Keeping them on ice will make it far easier for you to clean them back home; usually, it is too difficult to bother cleaning them in the field.

Do not stab at the fish prior to cleaning them at home, this is just going to make an awful mess for you to enjoy on your way back (and cause some violent thrashing by the fish) and there is simply no need to "bleed" a fish out before you put it on ice. Cutting its head off is also a bad idea for many of the same reasons, and because - for many fish - this isn't going to be easy to do at all. Why mangle your hard-won catch? You destroy its value as a trophy, and you probably severely detract from its value as a meal.

This is a good time to get a picture of your catch.  

Assure your picture-taking session go as fast as you can. One of the most rewarding things you can do is to photograph your trophy. Make time out of water as short as you can. Obviously, the impact you have on the fish will depend on how long it is not in the water.

Always try to keep a high level of respect for the fish and nature while fishing. 
Only take what you need to provide for yourself and for your family. 
When you catch your first fish you cannot help but feel excited, but I am sure that every veteran fisherman has had to make the decision to keep or throw back. It is at this moment that you are making the decision to respect nature or not. I urge all fisherman to respect nature and only take what is needed for you and your families and not to be wasteful.

I also urge all beginner fisherman to take the time to really understand nature and your surroundings. Do this not to catch more fish, but to experience fishing on a whole new level of enjoyment.
Catching fish is just one small piece of the entire experience.

Now we must decide if we are going to

Catch and Release   or   Prepare Your Catch


There are several scenarios that have to fall in place in order to be successful at catching fish.

The right bait or lure 
The right presentation 
The right location
The right time

. . . and the fish have to actually be there. 


Change tactics to catch more Fish

Fish at night

As lakes heat under the hot summer sun, they get more crowded and fish become less active. Human commotion and lower oxygen levels make fish more nocturnal.

Fish that hide during the day in deep water cruise shallow flats at night. Take advantage of the night feed and don't fish until just before dark when everyone else is going home.

Target unpopular species

Stop fishing where everyone else is fishing.

Try fishing for catfish, carp, buffalo or even suckers. 

Never fish weekends or holidays

Fishing public water on weekends and holidays has been appropriately termed "combat fishing." Anglers are forced aside by pleasure boaters and spend more of their time fending off inconsiderate jet skiers than actually catching fish.

Fish know when the waves above them are caused by constant boat traffic and as a result lay low. Take a day off during the week to fish this summer.

Travel to better water

Save up some money and drive to Ontario, Lake Erie, Minnesota or a bunch of other places where even a bad fisherman on a bad day can catch fish.

Beg your way onto private water

If you can't afford to travel out of state to fish, ask permission to fish someone's private lake or pond. Even if there is a small fee involved, it might be worth the opportunity to consistently catch big fish.

Get to know farmers. They often have ponds hidden on their farms that don't get a lot of fishing pressure.

Fish alone

I enjoy fishing with kids as much as anyone, but when I really want to catch fish, I go alone. Solo anglers are more focused, stay longer and don't give up as easily.

Use live bait

I trust my Husky Jerk to catch fish as much as anything in my tackle box, but a live worm trumps it every time.

When fishing gets tough, a worm is the best bet for walleye, bass, catfish and just about everything else that swims. Even turtles aren't immune to the lure of a lively night crawler dangled on the end of a hook.

Watch the weather

Don't waste time fishing hot, sunny days that are typically dominated by high pressure. Fish can be caught on these days, but will require a lot of hard work. Save vacation days for overcast or even rainy days, especially if the weather has been consistently bad for several days in a row.

Fish hunting season

Because a lot of fishermen are also hunters, the start of deer season signals the official end of open water fishing season for many of them. That's a mistake.

Early fall is one of the most productive times to catch fish. Fish are less pressured in October and start feeding heavily to prepare for winter.

Time your outings with the best bite

Know the peak fishing dates and times for every type of fish. For example, hit white bass hard in April when the dogwoods are blooming, chase blue catfish in February when they are feeding voraciously, in July when steelheads are in close.

All fish have their peak feeding seasons and times. Learn them and be ready to fish at a moment's notice.

There really are better times to fish. And they're affected by sunlight, warming trends, water depth, storm and weather patterns, wind and tidal flows, topography, geography and season differences.

The best times for fishing can also be affected by the type of weather during a particular day and in a particular location. Weather can affect specific locations and bodies of water within a particular geography. So when to fish and where to fish are always interrelated, and are always influenced by changing weather conditions.

You'll soon learn that when it's a bad day for fishing in one location, it could be a good day in another; and the locations may not be that far apart.

Visit Our When To Catch Fish Page to find out the best times to catch certain species of fish.
You can also find the best places to fish for a certain species of fish by visiting Our Where To Fish Page

Keep A Journal

If you plan to make fishing a regular hobby then it would be a good idea to keep a journal.
Keep track of everything that may have affected the bite that day. It could have been the weather, changing air pressure for example. Or there may have been an excellent hatch of mayflies that day while you were out fishing. Moon phases also affect how good or bad the fishing can be. Note all of these things in your fishing diary, and don't forget the date!

Simply following the techniques above will surely put you in the right start to begin fishing, however, catching fish depends on many other factors such as where and when you're fishing, the time of day, the season and weather, your experience level and your equipment. While anyone can wet a line and eventually get a bite, learning some basics about fishing technique will greatly increase your chances. You can have the best fishing rod and reel in your hands, but unless you know how to rig your tackle, how to cast, and work your lure or bait in the specific waters your fishing, at the end of the day, you'll just have a nice rod and reel in your hands.

We'll go into more detail about fishing strategies later in this site, but for now let's move on to what kind of Fishing Gear one will need to get started.
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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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