This guide provides tips on each step for learning how to fish. You'll learn everything from the legal aspects of fishing to the basics of being an angler.
You wouldn’t toss your napkin on the floor of a restaurant, elbow your way to the front of the line at a grocery store, or bring your own food to dinner with your in-laws, and there are rules of behavior that are just as respected in the world of fishing.
Generally speaking, obey the Golden Rule and all will be well: treat other anglers (and Mother Nature) as you would want to be treated.
Let’s break that down into some specific etiquette tips:
Always help your fishing buddies when they need bait, get thirsty, get hungry, or have a fish on the line!
This may sound like common friendship and courtesy, but you’d be surprised how often these simple kindnesses are neglected. If you’re bringing something cold to drink, pack enough for your fishing buddy. Ditto on lunch, sunscreen, and other basics.
And when your companion hooks a fish, do the right thing: reel your line in and give him a hand with the net.
Always make space for others, and ask before you fish anywhere nearby.
However big the cove, sea wall, beach, or pier, it’s a sign of a well-mannered angler to ask for permission to fish near someone who’s already there. Never crowd other anglers, and if you need to ask if you’re too close, you are!
100 yards or so is a sensible minimum for boats. If you’re close enough to talk, you need to ask permission to be there.
Always slow down for shore anglers, kayaks, and small boats.
You may not notice your wake, but I can promise you that a kayaker will!
Remember, not everyone’s on the water to fish, but their enjoyment is no less important than yours--and they have the same rights to the water as you.
Always be courteous when you pass swimmers, recreational boaters, or shore anglers. It’ll go a long way toward maintaining a good reputation for sportsmen and anglers.
Never leave trash, and pick up any you see, and never leak oil or gasoline into the water--not even a drop!
If you want to see your children and grandchildren enjoying the water, conservation is key.
Never transport water from one location to another.
This isn’t something you might have considered, but that bucket of water from your local pond can bring a host of microorganisms, aquatic invertebrates, and fish fry with it, introducing new species where they don’t belong.
Many localities have hard and fast laws about this, and most bait stores need a license for their water, allowing it to be transported with the baitfish.
As an example, Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources requires a three-step process:
This is a serious issue, and every angler needs to do their part in keeping species where they belong!
Always know the legal limits (and how to determine them!)
It’s not enough to get a fishing license--you need to know the legal limits for each species.
Whether that’s a question of how many fish you can keep or how big they need to be, we recommend that you carry the necessary information and a measuring device with you every time you go out.
It’s also important that you know how to measure each species, and this video from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is a great place to start:
Before you make your first trip, you need to buy a fishing license in the state you live, and study the regulations to know the legal limits on the fish you catch. These vary from state to state and even sometimes season to season, so know what you’re doing!
You have to purchase a license in the state in which you plan to fish.
The best place to purchase a license is online. To buy a fishing license in the state you wish to fish in, visit the state's online fishing license purchasing system. You can pay with a debit or credit card and immediately print your license. Make sure to have the following information on hand:
If you don’t have access to the internet, a quick trip to your local WalMart, wildlife management office, or most sporting goods stores can get you a license in just a few minutes.
We’ve covered how to get a license there before, and it’s a simple process:
You’ve got your new rod unboxed and found that it probably comes in two pieces. Not all rods do, and if your rod is a single piece, you can skip this part.
The section of your rod that allows the two pieces to connect is called the “ferrule,” and it consists of a “male” and “female” side.
Taking each section in hand, carefully slide the male end into the female end, gently rotating them together.
Don’t use as much force as you can!
This is a friction fit, and you only need to use enough pressure to seat the two ends to the full depth of the female side.
Rotate the ferrules until the guides are lined-up.
Your guides may not line up perfectly, but that’s not a real issue. Just get them basically in line by twisting the two sections of rod until they align.
Locate the reel seat on the underside of the rod. It will be on the same side as the guides.
Twisting counter-clockwise (left to loosen), open the reel seat completely.
Its time to attach your reel. Slide the reel foot into the fixed side of the reel seat. Which end moves will vary with your rod.
Slowly tighten the moving end of the real seat, turning it clockwise (right to tighten) until hand-tight.
Don’t try to over-tighten the reel seat! Hand-tight is enough!
At this point, you should have your reel attached to your rod, looking pretty much like this:
This reel seat tightens from the back, so you slide the reel foot into the top of the seat first.
For more, view our in-depth guide: How To Set Up A Fishing Rod
Spinning reels are essential tackle for every angler.
From their wind-busting ability to cast to their simplicity to use, it’s easy to see why. And whether you chase bluegill on your local lake, catfish in a slow-moving river, or specks and reds in the surf, you’ll find that a spinning reel will quickly become a trusted ally.
If you’re new to angling, however, knowing how to set up a spinning reel may be a mystery. And if you’ve just unboxed your new reel, but have no idea what to do next, we’d like to help.
Here , you’ll find an easy to understand, step-by-step guide for setting up any spinning reel
Many new anglers are intimidated by the learning curve associated with baitcasting tackle. And while it’s true that they require a bit more technique and know-how, don’t let that keep you from trying one!
Ideal for everything from bass to tuna, baitcasting tackle is something every angler should learn to use. And while setting up a baitcasting reel is a lot more complicated than simply tying your line to the spool and setting the drag, there’s no high-mystery to it.
We’d like to help you optimize the performance of your baitcasting reel, and whether you’re an old-hand or a new angler, the tips and techniques we’ve assembled will help you get the most from your baitcasting reel.
When it comes to lures and bait, there are key distinctions between natural vs artificial offerings that new anglers should learn. While using bait that is more appropriate to the kind of fishing you are planning to do is important, the great news is that fish like both artificial lures and bait and natural bait.
New anglers might not realize just how important the right knot, tied well, really is. But the strongest line, sharpest hook, and best rod and reel are nothing if your knot can’t hold!
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of popular knots, but you can get by with just three at first.
Let’s take a look at each, explain its uses, and teach you how to tie them.
The Palomar Knot
The Palomar knot works well with any line type, as it creates tremendous friction with itself. With good mono, you can approach (and sometimes exceed) the line’s maximum break strength, which is simply incredible performance from any knot.
The Palomar is a great choice for attaching hooks, sinkers and weights, and any lure that’s small and single-hooked. It’s essential for the drop shot rig, and you’ll find it generally useful as it’s fast and easy to tie well.
You can use it to tie larger, treble-hooked lures, too, but as one step involves passing a loop over the entire thing, that can get tricky.
If you do choose to run braid or a fluorocarbon leader, the Palomar holds well in these lines.
Here’s how to tie it:
The Uni Knot
The Uni is a staple knot that every angler should know. Easy and fast to tie, it’s very strong, and extremely versatile.
Useful for attaching pretty much anything to the end of your line (including your reel), it’s a knot you’ll tie often.
Without modification, the Uni holds well in mono and fluorocarbon, but may come loose in braid.
Here’s how to tie it:
The Double Uni Knot
The Double Uni is the best knot I know for attaching mono to mono or mono to fluoro. If you’re new to angling, you may not realize just how much you’ll be doing that!
When you fish for big fish in challenging conditions, your main line may not be able to take the punishment of rocks, pillings, piers, and other underwater debris. But you don’t want to run super-heavy main line, as this causes problems of its own.
Instead, savvy anglers reach for a 2- to 3-foot length of leader--much higher test line like 50- or 60-pound mono or fluoro. That provides the toughness you need where it counts.
To attach a leader, the Double Uni is king.
Here’s how to tie it:
For more fishing knots check out our guide: Best Fishing Knots
The right rig can make all the difference.
More than just a way to attach terminal tackle, fishing rigs are designed for different purposes and techniques. And the best of them have earned cult-like followings among anglers for the dependable performance.
If you’re new to fishing, or just need a refresher, we’re here to help.
Here, we’ll discuss the seven best fishing rigs, covering pretty much any situation you might find yourself in:
When it comes to finding fish, the ideal time of day, conditions, and location varies from species to species, but there are some rules of thumb that hold true for most fish:
For a more detailed guide visit: How To Find Good Fishing Spots
For weather related tips, visit: Best Weather For Fishing
When you hook live bait, you’re trying to accomplish three things.
That doesn’t sound too complicated, and it’s certainly not as mind-bending as filing a tax return with the IRS. But it isn’t as simple as it might seem, either.
Many of the most common hooking techniques also affect how the bait behaves, causing it to dive, swim head up, or run far and fast. That can make a huge difference in your catch rate, and knowing the ins and outs of hooking live bait is one thing that separates the weekend angler from the pro.
Has that got you interested?
Learn more here: How To Hook Live Bait: Head to Tail
Whichever type of reel you pick, you’ll need to spend time mastering the cast.
The best way is to find a nice open area, tie on a bullet sinker of the appropriate weight for your rod, and give it a go. A lot this art is about timing--releasing the line at just the right moment to send your lure along a shallow, long parabolic arc.
You might start with a few casts just to get a feel for your rod and reel, but very soon, you’ll want to work on accuracy.
Tips I find help new anglers include:
For an in depth guide on casting techniques visit our guide here: Fishing Rod Casting Techniques for Beginners and Advanced Anglers
As an angler new to the sport, you may not know much about setting the hook on a fish, and truth be told, it takes a bit of practice to get it right.
There’s more than one way to do it, depending on the hook you’re using and the specifics of the lure or bait.
That may sound complicated, but it’s not - and we’ll teach you everything you need to know.
If you want to know how to set a hook properly, click here: How to Set a Fishing Hook: Everything You Need to Know
The excitement of the fight is a big part of what keeps anglers coming back to the water, and knowing how to reel in the fish you’ve hooked is an important part of learning the sport.
What you may not realize, though, is that your technique needs to be adjusted to the size and strength of the fish on your line, as well as the tackle you’re using.
And while this isn’t as complicated as it might sound, you need to get a firm grasp of the techniques involved.
If you want to know how to reel in a fish, check out our guide: How to Reel in a Fish: Everything You Need to Know
Believe it or not, the way you handle and release fish is one of the most important things you can do for the future of the sport.
Improper fish handling kills nearly as many fish as gut hooking, and while it’s relatively simple to do, plenty of anglers don’t know how to do it right.
As a new angler, you’ll want to learn why mishandling fish can be lethal to them and how to safely handle and release your catch.
If you want to know how to properly handle and release fish, read our guide: How to Handle and Release Fish: The Right Way Explained
This section covers everything you need to know about fishing gear. It also contains buying guides for purchasing gear that's right for you.
This section covers in-depth details about the most popular fishing techniques, how to fish different environments, and how to use different types of lures and baits.