Learn How to Fish

As with hunting, if you have never been fishing, this whole process may seem like a big mystery. This sport may seem complicated to first-timers but it truly does not have to be that way.  With some basic gear and the information in this guide, you will be out fishing in no time at all.  Just follow these simple steps and you will learn how to fish. 

Different Types of Fishing

There are numerous ways to go fishing. As with hunting, it is a matter of choosing the type of fishing you would like to do and keep things simple in the beginning. Just to emphasize this point, I did a simple search on the different types of fishing and here is what I came up with: 

  • Angling
  • Bank fishing
  • Bottom fishing
  • Casting
  • Drop linning
  • Fly fishing
  • Freshwater versus salt water
  • Hand lining
  • Ice fishing
  • Jigging
  • Long lining
  • Noodling
  • Slabbing
  • Spearfishing
  • Surface casting
  • Trapping
  • Trawling
  • Trolling
  • Trot lining
  • Private charters
  • Commercial fishing
  • Hand gathering
  • Handling
  • Netting

In case you were not counting, that is 24 different ways to enjoy this sport. I am sure there are more than what I’ve listed here.  But, I point this out only to emphasize the importance of keeping things simple. Choose a particular style of fishing that requires basic inexpensive gear and equipment. Then simply expand as you gain experience.  

This article is going to focus on the simple steps that are needed for anyone to learn how to fish.  It is not difficult.  Follow these simple steps and you will be out catching fish in no time at all.

How to Learn to Fish


1) Educate yourself

There are numerous highly experienced personal in outdoor shops that are more than happy to spend some time teaching you all about fishing gear. However,  if you are a beginner, this is the equivalent of trying to communicate with someone in a language you do not understand. 

It is far better to educate yourself a little ahead of time.  For example, get online and compare the different types of fishing poles and reels. Familiarize yourself with some of the basic terminology. Consequently, when you do speak with someone about gear, it will not seem as if they are speaking French.  

2) Purchase your gear 

When you purchase gear, keep it simple. For beginners, it is better to purchase a pole and reel combination.  These are easier to set up so that you can be up and running in a short period of time. Purchase monofilament fishing line.  Start with 6 to 8 pound test for fresh water and 10 to 12 pound test for salt water.  Then get weights (sinkers) and bobbers. Next is hooks, which vary in size depending on the type of bait and size of fish. Lastly, a small tackle box will help to keep things organized. 

3) Understand hook sizes

Hooks come in a variety of sizes depending on their application.  In general, the smaller the fish, the smaller the bait, and the smaller the hook. This is where your self education comes in.  You need to know your fish and the variations in their sizes.  

Fishing hooks have a designated number, which indicates their size. For hook sizes from 32 to 1, the larger the number the smaller the hook. For hook sizes 1/0 (pronounced 1 aught) to 19/0, the larger the number the larger the hook. Additionally, the hooks also have various gauges or thickness, ranging from very fine to heavy duty. 

It is important to match hook size to the size of the bait, not the size of the fish you are trying to catch.  The larger the bait, the larger the hook.  Remember, the tip of the hook needs to extend out the side of the bait in order to actually stick into a fish.  

4) Know your bait

There are various types of bait. These include minnows, red worms, night crawlers, crickets, corn, cheese, crayfish, pieces of liver, fake eggs, lures, spinners, etc. Different types of fish prefer different types of  bait. Again, educate yourself on what works for which fish.  This is where a trip to the bait and tackle shop will pay off.  

5) Know your knots

There are several knots than can be used to tie a hook to a line. These knots are non-slip by design. Whatever knot you choose, be sure to wet it before tightening. Here are several popular knots: 

  • Snell knot
  • Improved clinch
  • Loop knot
  • Palomar knot
  • Uni knot

6) Get a license

Fishing licenses are inexpensive, ranging between $30 and $150 for an annual license. You can purchase a day license, which is typically less that $20.  However the annual license is a far better bang for the buck.  Please do not risk going fishing without a license as the fines are rather steep.  

7) Find out where to go 

It is best to talk to a fisherman who has some experience with local water.  If you are just starting out, lake fishing is the easiest thing to start with.  Find a clear spot on the bank with little interference from trees, brush etc.  

8) Start with bobber fishing 

Bobber fishing on the lake is a very easy way to start.  Pick a nice, calm day.  Set the bobber so that there is about 2 feet of line underneath.  As fish nibble at the bait, you can see the bobber move. When the bobber goes under water, set the hook by abruptly raising the pole straight up.  Then slowly reel him in.  

9) Remove the hook

Once on shore, carefully pick up the fish and watch out for the sharp spines.  Remove the hook with needle nose pliers. Place the fish on a stringer or in a cooler.  Bait the hook and go again.

10) Practice good manners and always be safe

Nothing is worse than looking forward to a fun day outside only to have a run in with someone that is rude, inconsiderate, and decides to set up 10 feet away from you fishing spot.  

Sometimes local fishing locations can be crowded especially on beautiful summer day. If you are in a crowed location, try to maintain a good 20 feet from the next person.  If it is not crowded, stay 60 to 100 feet away if the location allows.  

If you are fishing from a boat, it is imperative to wear a personal flotation device. If you are fishing in cold water and happen to fall in, you will loose muscle control in three minutes.  Be safe even if others are not. Never let someone else’s attitude affect your judgement on safety issues.  

11) Practice Conservation

Above all, be respectful of the environment! Always practice the “leave no trace” principle.  This goes for fishing, hiking, camping, or any other outdoor activity.  Leave each place you visit in the same condition in which you found it. NEVER leave fishing line laying on the ground. There are numerous wildlife deaths each year from getting tangled in monofilament line. Additionally, always take a small trash bag with you to pick up debris and trash if you find it. Be a good example for others! 

12) Valuable Resources

YouTube can be an amazing resource for gear assembly,  knot tying, casting, and other basic skills. You can also find videos on how to clean and fillet a fish. Local fishing organizations may provide free clinics. Even the forestry department may be a good resource.  

Once you are comfortable with some basic skills, if you really want the advice of an expert, hire a guide. They typically have a good knowledge base of the local rivers and lakes and can also give you advice on bait and lure selection.  

Read books. Purchase a guide book for the fish in your area. It is good to know whether or not your catch is actually something good to eat. Also, some fish have more of a tendency to concentrate certain toxins such as Mercury. In which case, your consumption of their meat needs to be limited or not at all.  It is also very important to know which fish are catch and release only.

Additionally, depending on where you are fishing, you need to know which species are poisonous, if they are edible and what special precautions need to be taken.  The lion fish pictured here has numerous poisonous spines. They are also very good to eat. Special precautions need to be taken when handling them.  


There are numerous ways to supplement your diet with fresh organic meat.  Fishing is just one of those ways.  Even if this is something you practice on an occasional basis, it is still a very valuable skill.  In fact, it is a skill that will serve you well in a time of need.  Just as many other outdoor and homestead skills take time to master, the same holds true for providing your own food source.

Other related posts

Learn How to Hunt

How to Get Started With Chickens

Guide to Home Canning


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