Humans have been fishing since the beginning of time. Scientists believe that the first deep sea fishing voyages took place around 42,000 years ago, and freshwater fishing has been around much longer than that. The prehistoric practice of fishing is still widely in use today. It’s almost as if it’s in our DNA to enjoy fishing.
There is something relaxing about casting a line and waiting for a fish to bite. The excitement of pulling in a fish and anticipating its size will make you forget any worries you may have from everyday life. This is an experience that everyone should enjoy at least once in their lifetime.
For first time anglers, the prospect of fishing may seem complex and even intimidating. But rest assured, it doesn’t have to be that way. If our prehistoric ancestors can master the art of fishing, so can you.
First things first, you will need to obtain a fishing license before you head out for any fishing trip. Each state has its own requirements in order to obtain a fishing license, but they are typically inexpensive. A day license is usually less than $20. However, the exact price varies depending on your residency-- a license will cost more for nonresidents. Once you go fishing, you will likely be hooked (pun intended) and want to go many more times. So, it is wiser (and a better value) to purchase an annual fishing license. The typical cost for an annual license is between $30 and $150. You can purchase a license online or at fishing shops and sometimes even in convenience stores.
As a beginner, your best bet is to invest in a spinning reel and rod combo-- meaning that the reel and rod are sold together. The reel and rod combo should be rather easy for a first time angler to set up.
Your next step should be to obtain bait. Live worms are great for beginners and can be found at any tackle shop, or even in your own backyard. PowerBait, which is a scented putty-like goop that can easily be formed around a hook, is another option that is great for a first time angler.
You will also want to purchase some bobbers. Bobbers are small and often colorful floating balls that help to indicate when something strikes your bait. Your bobber will “bob” between the surface of the water and below it when you have a fish on the line.
Hooks are a necessity for any fisherman’s tackle box. You’ll want to have varying sizes of hooks. However, unless you know exactly what type of fish you will be looking to catch, you will likely want to use fairly small hooks on your first fishing trip. Big fish can bite small hooks, but small fish cannot bite big hooks. Using a smaller hook will increase your chances of catching anything on your first time out on the water.
You will want a pair of needle-nose pliers to retrieve hooks that become lodged inside of the mouth of any fish. In most cases, the hook will catch the lip of the fish and can easily be removed by hand, but you will want the right tools for when the hook finds its way deeper in the fish’s jaws-- or if the fish has rather toothy jaws.
Last, but not least, you will want to purchase a tackle box to keep all of your supplies in one place. A small tackle box should do just fine for a beginner.
As you become more experienced, you may want to upgrade your gear. Waders and boots could be added to your fishing kit in the future.
Best Strategies for Beginners
You will want to learn how to cast your line properly. After you’ve put your bait on your hook, you will want to follow these steps:
- Face the area where you intend to cast your line, squaring your shoulders and hips with your target. Slightly bend your knees, lowering your center of gravity and establishing a more stable base.
- Set the line up for an ideal casting position by reeling in your line so your bobber is hanging approximately one foot from the rod tip.
- Make sure to securely grip the handle of the rod, placing your thumb just below the reel button on the back of the reel. When you are ready, firmly push and hold that button so that the spooled line is able to go flying once you start the casting motion.
- Raise your rod up until your hand is about level with your face. Once in position, sweep the rod forward quickly in one fluid motion, almost as if throwing a ball. Allow the movement to originate from your elbow rather than your shoulder for a better cast.
- As you make this movement, make sure you are pressing the reel button. The momentum of the rod will propel your bait and bobber forward to your target area. The line will rapidly unspool until the reel button is pressed a second time or the bait hits the water. Make sure to press the reel button again once you have cast your line to your intended area. This action will allow your bait to drift down in a more natural manner, which will attract more bites.
- It is of utmost importance to be aware of your surroundings while casting. You do not want to accidentally hook yourself or anyone else around you while trying to throw your line out into the water. Injuries caused by getting hooked can have extremely painful and devastating consequences-- for example, some fishermen have been blinded by getting hooked in the eye. Be sure to take enough space so that you will not injure anyone.
Catch & Release
If you are out on the water just for fun, the best strategy for fishing is to release your catch back into the wild so that it may help keep the fish population sustainable. Some fishing spots have limits on the number of fish you can catch and keep for this reason. Even if you intend to eat what you catch, always double check the rules of the area you are fishing.
What to Expect
You may have heard of “beginner’s luck,” but don’t expect to experience such luck on your first fishing trip. Although fishing can be exciting, it requires a great deal of patience. There is a chance that you may not catch any fish on your first outing, but don’t let that discourage you. It will just make your first catch that much more thrilling.
When you do catch a fish, you’ll want to act quickly. As soon as you feel a strong bite, you will want to start reeling in your line. The fish may put up a fight. If that’s the case, you may have to exercise more patience and tire the creature out. Reel the fishing line in a bit at a time while being careful not to allow the line to break. You should be able to feel the fish lose its energy while it's hooked on the end of your line, that’s when you should reel it in to complete the catch.
Once you have the fish in hand, you may want to snap a picture to commemorate this memory of your first fishing trip. After the quick photo opt, remove the hook from the fish’s mouth and gently place it back into the water. Be mindful of the way you grab the fish to remove the hook, as many have fins that can easily cut your hand if you are not careful.
Once you’ve placed the fish back in its natural habitat, prepare to do the process all over again.
Beginner’s Fishing Checklist:
- Fishing License
- Rod & Reel Combo
- Needle-nose Pliers
- Small Tackle Box