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Beginners Guide to Fishing

Fishing is a rewarding activity that offers the opportunity to spend quality time outdoors and connect with nature. So much of our life now is spent with technology and staring at screens. It’s important to take a break, disconnect, get some fresh air and reconnect with nature. Fishing can provide a sense of peace and is great for your mental health.

Learning to fish is not as hard as you might think. Once you learn the basics you will be able to catch some fish even if it’s your first time on the water. Below we will walk you through the basics and everything you will need to fish.

Everything You Need to Start Fishing

Fishing License

A fishing license is required when fishing in the United States for most individuals. Most States offer licenses for just one day or an annual license that are good for the entire year. Additionally, every state has at least one free fishing day every year when a license isn’t required.

Fishing licenses are reasonable priced, ranging from just a few dollars for a day license, and around $25 for annual license. The funds collected from fishing licenses support state fish and wildlife agencies ensure that generations to come can enjoy fishing.

Fishing Rod & Reel Setup

A rod and reel setup with fishing line are vital pieces of equipment for fishing. The rod aids in casting your bait/lure out and fighting a fish in when you hook one. The reel dispenses and retrieves line as you fish.

If you have not purchased a rod & reel yet, I recommend you read our guide on the first 5 rods an angler needs. This guide will explain the best type of rod for beginners and what you might want down the road.

Choosing a Bait or Lure

The final thing you will need before hitting the water is a bait or lure. This can be overwhelming for a new angler as there are countless options. To make it easier we created a beginner’s bait guide that walks you through the different bait styles and which are best for catching fish.

We also have in-depth guides and recommendations for every style of lure to help take your knowledge to the next level.


Chatterbaits are bladed swim jigs that generate reaction strikes.


Hard bodied, billed bait that dives while being retrieved.


Hard-bodied, suspending bait that mimics darting bait fish.


Weighted hook with skirt, often paired with soft plastic trailers.


Soft plastics can be used as main bait or as a trailer.


Wired jig bait with blades that create flash & vibration.


Large bait fish lures designed to draw in huge bass.


Floating lures that generate exciting jumping strikes.

Tips for Finding Places to Fish

  1. Start by searching your “city” + “public fishing access”.
  2. Check your state’s department of fish and wildlife website. Most states will have a list of places that are open for public fishing access. Some will list when they stock fish throughout the year.
  3. Ask around your local tackle shop. Anglers are often happy to help someone new get started fishing. They will be able to give you recommendation which bodies of water near you are best.

Now that you have everything you need and know where to fish, it’s time to hit the water.

5 Steps for Catching Fish

1. Detecting Fish Bites

Detecting a fish bite is not always easy. Fish don’t always strike hard which makes a bite obvious. Sometimes it’s very subtle and can go unnoticed. There are three things to pay attention to that will help with detecting bites:

  1. Watch your line. If your bait is sitting on the bottom and your line starts moving there is a good chance a fish picked it up.
  2. Watch your rod tip. Your rod tip will have a normal bend when reeling in or working your bait. If you notice it bounce or bend in any way that that you haven’t noticed on other casts it could be a fish.
  3. Feel your line. Vibrations will transfer up your line and can give you an idea of what your bait is doing. Focus on recognizing changes in the vibration that is different or you wouldn’t expect. For example, if you hop your bait up off the bottom and if you don’t feel it hit the bottom again then its likely a fish ate it when it popped up.

2. Setting the Hook

Once you detect a bite or think you did, you need to set the hook. To set the hook quickly lift your rod tip up or swing it to your side. This action will remove any slack in the line and drive the hook into the fish’s lip or mouth.

Many beginners make the mistake of waiting too long before setting their hook. They think they feel a subtle bite and wait for more confirmation but it never comes because the fish spits their bait out after a few seconds. Remember there is no penalty for setting your hook when you don’t have a bite. If you think you have one, set your hook!

3. Reeling in Fish

After setting the hook your rod will load up which means it is time to reel the fish in. Use the flex of the rod to absorb direction changes and steer the fish.

When steering the fish try to keep them away from any cover that your line could get damaged by or tangled up in. Keep your line tight, allowing your line to go slack makes it easier for fish to spit out hooks.

When the fish swims towards you reel in. When they are swimming away let your drag tire them out while using your rod to try and steer them.

4. Landing the Fish

Landing a fish basically means getting them out of the water. Smaller fish can be simply lifted out of the water with your rod but larger fish require a little more effort. There are two ways to land a bigger fish safely.

The first one requires that the fish is tired out and not still fighting. If this is the case then you can grab the fish by the lip and lift them out of the water. Be careful not to grab close to the hook especially if they are treble hooks. You don’t want to grab the fish and have them shake the hook into your hand.

The second option is using a net. A net is much safer and can land fish that are still fighting.

5. Unhooking & Releasing Your Catch

After landing the fish it is important to get the fish unhooked and back in the water as quickly as possible if you are not keeping them. For removing hooks I recommend using some pliers. Pliers aren’t required but make it a bit safer and make it a lot easier to get hooks out that are deep in the fish’s mouth.

Once unhooked lower the fish back into the water so they can swim away. Avoid throwing or dropping them from long distances.

Freshwater Species

For a complete guide on popular freshwater fish and how to identify them, view our fish identifier.

Largemouth bass, channel catfish, black crappie, brown trout, bluegill, and common carp lined up on a white background

Bass | Catfish | Crappie | Panfish | Trout

Final Thoughts

As you embark on your fishing journey, remember that patience, perseverance, and a willingness to learn are the keys to a successful and enjoyable experience.

Embrace the opportunity to connect with nature, unwind from the stresses of everyday life, and share memorable moments with friends and family.

As a beginner, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with local regulations, practice responsible fishing techniques, and ensure the conservation of our precious aquatic resources for future generations.

With time and practice, you’ll develop your skills, knowledge, and appreciation for the rewarding world of fishing.

1 thought on “How to Fish”

  1. I am a 74 year old fishaholic and I will fish anywhere fish are likely to be. This past Saturday I took my Great Grandaughter fishing for the first time, and she caught her first fish. She squealed with joy. I really loved the fact that she will have the great highs (sometimes lows) of this great outdoor activity.

    I send this message to remind you that old fishermen can always learn new techniques and sharpen their skills. I thank you for your contribution through this site. All your information is clear and concise. God Bless you for your efforts.


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