If you’ve never gone fishing before, it can look like to complicated hobby. You may feel like an outsider and worry about all the gear baits and etiquette.
This guide will help you learn the basics of fishing and help you get out there without felling completely lost.
The easiest way to start fishing is to go after freshwater or inshore species with a spinning reel and rod. This will entail heading out to your nearest pond with some lures or bait and finding a nice spot where you can start.
First we’ll go over everything you need to get started.
Do I need A Fishing License?
One of the first things you should get is the proper fishing license. These will be issued by your state DNR. You can usually buy a fishing license different durations. There are usually 1, 3 day and 1 year licenses.
In addition to your basic fishing license, you’ll also want to check and see if there are any species specific requirements.
For example, if you are going to go after trout, you may need a trout stamp on your state license in some states. There are exceptions to the fishing license requirement. Kids under 17 and senior citizens are often exempt from needing a license.
So, check with your state DNR and find out what you need to get started. While you’re on there, make sure to also check the regulations in your area. There may be rules about what types of hooks and baits you can use.
There may also be rules about fishing techniques as well. Fishing citations have become quite expensive so make sure that you’re in compliance.
Beginners Fishing Gear
This is one of the fun parts. If fishing becomes your passion, then getting new fishing gear will be a fun occasion.
To get started, I recommend a basic spinning outfit that will allow you to catch most fish in your local ponds and lakes.
Spin cast reels are also popular for beginners. There’s really nothing wrong with them except that some of them can be rather flimsy. Of course this can happen with any type of setup, but I have seen it more often with spincast reels.
If you like you can also get a small tackle box to start off with. You can use to store hooks, bobbers and other tools.
Spinning Reels For Beginners
The spinning reel will be the easiest type of reel to master. Some may also opt for a spincast reel. However, the spinning reel will give you a more flexible platform that can be used across almost all fishing types. You can even go after big saltwater game with a large spinning outfit.
When you go shopping for a new spinning setup, here is what I would recommend for your first trip.
Regarding the reel size, a 2000 size reel will be a good choice for a beginning angler. It should hold about 120 yards of 8 pound test monofilament line.
A good option is the Daiwa fuego. It has a solid combination of features for less than $100 dollars.
When it comes time to set up your spinning reel, I have created an entire guide on the subject. You can find my spinning rod and reel setup guide here.
Beginner Spinning Rod
A medium light rod and reel should be fine for this type of fishing. To identify this type of setup, you’ll need to look along the length of the rod for the rod specs.
Rod specs will usually be listed on the top side of the rod. They will tell you a few things. The rod model number, the recommended line weight and the lure weight.
To start, you want a rod that is best suited for 6 to 12 pound test line. As for lure weight, go with something in the 1/8th to ¾ ounce range.
Remember that I have created a whole guide on how to set up your spinning outfit here.
Other Gear You’ll Need To Begin Fishing
So after you get your rod and reel, you’ll need a few other items to get started fishing.
Aside from the items described below, you want to also consider your attire. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes. And if you’re going to be out in the sun consider either putting on some sunscreen or wearing long sleeves, pants and a hat.
Will you be fishing from shore? You might want to take a chair and a cooler with some snacks and drinks.
With the spinning setup we mentioned above, some 8 pound test line would be ideal. 8 pound test is flexible enough to use for multiple species of freshwater fish. You should be able to go out for either crappie, bluegill and bass with an 8 pound setup.
Once you start to specialize, you will want to get rod and reel combos with other line sizes too.
But, if you know that you will only be fishing for small panfish like bluegill, you can start off with 6 pound test.
Conversely, if you only plan on going after big bass or catfish, you might want to start off with some 12 pound test line and a stouter rod.
Just like your line, when you’re a beginning angler, you won’t need much. You can easily get away with some number 2 sized short shank hooks.
These can be used for worms and crickets and also for wacky rigging a plastic worm. Yes, they’re a bit on the small size for bass and catfish. They’re a bit on the large size for bluegill.
But they’ll do the job, although not perfectly, for both.
Once you become a fishing aficionado, you may find yourself with a whole tackle box dedicated to just hooks.
As a beginning angler, you’ll probably want to use bobbers when you’re going out for your first few trips. And if you’re into panfish such as bluegill and crappie, then bobbers might be something you always carry.
Even some bass anglers will use them to hang artificial worms like senkos at the perfect depth.
You’ve probably seen them at your local pond too. The red and white spherical bobbers are a common site.
The idea is that you leave the right amount of line below the bobber, so that your bait hangs tantalizingly in the sight line of the fish.
So, if you’re fishing in 4 feet of water, you could leave about 2 feet of line below the bobber and cast it out. You may not know the exact depth you’re going to be fishing in. But 2 or 3 feet is a good rule of thumb.
To put your bobber on, just press down on the plastic end that sticks up. They’re spring loaded, but have a metal hook that you can expose as you press down on the plastic section.
Once the metal hook is exposed, you can route your line into the hook. Then, do the same thing on the bottom. Just press the plastic top button down and you’ll see the bottom hook come out. Once you see the bottom hook, you can route your line down around the outside of the bobber and through the hook.
Once you release all the tension, the line should be attached at both the top and bottom of the bobber.
The bobber is now ready to use.
At first thought, pliers might not seem like an essential piece of fishing equipment. But if you fish long enough, you will realize that they are.
The ability to effectively remove hooks from a fish’s mouth is critical to ensure faster releases.
Even if you’re not practicing catch and release, being able to get a hook out of the mouth of a flopping fish can be challenging. This is especially true without pliers.
You don’t have to buy fishing specific pliers either. If you have some needle nose pliers handy, you can use those for your initial trips.
Make sure you get pliers that are the right size for the fish you’re going after.
If you’re fishing for smaller panfish, you won’t need a large set.
Also, if you will be using treble hooked lures, you want to have a longer set of pliers.
This will keep your hands further away from the hooks. And if the fish flops while you’re trying to unhook it, it may give you enough time to get your hand out of the way.
Polarized glasses can make a huge difference on those ultra sunny days. They can cut down dramatically on the amount of glare you see.
This can help you spot fish that you would otherwise miss. You also don’t have to break the bank to get a good pair for a beginning angler.
You can get some good polarized sunglasses for about $20. Not only will they help you see more fish, but they will also help protect your eyes from UV light.
Where To Go On Your Beginning Fishing Trip?
When you’re a beginning angler, one of the first questions that will pop into your head is: where should I go?
Local lakes, ponds rivers are a great option to get started.
Finding out about local ponds and rivers can be difficult as many anglers can be secretive. But I have a recommendation on how to get some basic info.
Instead of getting your baits from a department store, try your local small tackle shop.
Strike up a conversation with the people there. Tell them that you’re a beginning angler and are looking for some good local spots.
Most store operators will be more than glad to point out some good starter spots.
After all, they want you to be a repeat customer.
Another option for finding local spots is the internet. You can try message boards, facebook will also have local fishing groups. Joining local fishing groups can be a great way to get information on fishing in your area.
There are also fishing map apps like fishbrain that may be able to help you out.
Finally, if you just look at google maps and search for parks, you can most likely find some that have ponds. You’ll want to find out if fishing is allowed before you go.
If you’re a saltwater angler, then starting out may mean finding the nearest fishing pier.
Catching Your First Fish
So, you get to your spot and you have some worms, your rod, reel and a small tackle box. Now what?
Well, it helps to have a few skills down when you’re a beginning angler.
First, you’ll want to be able to tie a knot so you can put a hook on your line. There are various fishing knots you can choose from. But one of my favorites is the uniknot.
I like it because it’s very strong and easy to tie. It’s also very flexible and can be used for many different fishing scenarios.
You can watch a good video on tying the uniknot here.
Casting a spinning reel.
Casting a spinning reel is pretty easy. You should be able to get the basics down on your first day.
And if you practice beforehand, you’ll definitely have an advantage.
To practice casting, I recommend a casting plug or other light weight item that you can tie on to your line.
You can get a casting plug here.
I have an article on how to cast a spinning reel here.
Fishing etiquette is an important skill to acquire. More and more anglers are competing for what can be less available water.
Crowded lakes and shorelines are not uncommon. But common sense can make it easy to navigate the waters with no issues.
Personal space is the key. But the minimum amount can vary depending on the place.
Some places have “community holes” where people are packed in sitting or boating in close proximity to each other.
More remote locations will have places where you can go the whole day without seeing another angler.
A key is to observe what other anglers are doing and take note. If that’s not possible, then err on the side of giving space.
In remote locations, this is especially true. In these scenarios you’ll want to allow 100 yards or more between boats. If you’re shore fishing, then 50 yards may be fine.
Another key to being a good community angler is to make sure you pick up all your trash. And if you find some discarded fishing line, it really helps to pick it up and recycle it. Fishing line can be a hazard to all sorts of wildlife if it’s left in clumps laying on either the ground or in the water.