Fish and Aquatic Conservation

Fishing is Fun for Everyone

Information iconA beautiful thing to watch...the first cast of the evening. (Photo: TakeMeFishing.org)



A Guide to Fishing for the First Time

Fishing is fun – just ask any of the 40+ million people that fish each year. It’s also a great way to spend quality time outdoors with family and friends. Whether a first-timer or someone that has not fished in years, these basics can help get you started.

Checklist for Fishing in Fresh Water:

  • A state fishing license (depending on your age)
  • Your state fishing regulations (make sure you read and understand before fishing)
  • A fishing rod and reel
  • 4- to 12-pound-test monofilament fishing line
  • A package of fishing weights
  • Fish hooks (Number 6–10 size)
  • A plastic or cork bobber
  • A selection of live bait or fishing lures 
    You’ll find everything you need at a fishing tackle or sporting goods store.

image of a largemouth bass

What Tackle Can I use?

With spin casting or spinning tackle, you can put the bait or lure where the fish are. You can cast greater distances with more accuracy, work lures effectively, fish in deeper water, and handle larger fish more easily with this tackle.

Spin-casting outfits use a rod with a pistol-like grip and a reel that’s mounted on the top of the rod’s handle. Line is released using a push button on the reel. This is the easier rod and reel for beginners.

image of fishing rods

How Can I Learn to Cast?

Once you have selected a spin-casting or spinning outfit, use the Improved Clinch Knot demonstrated below to tie on an inexpensive rubber covered weight called a casting plug. Next, find an open area away from other people where you can practice casting.

images on how to cast a rod

Hook, Line, and Sinker

Now you are ready to set up your rod with hook, line, and sinker. Tie on a fish hook. Attach 1 or 2 sinkers, 6 to 12 inches above the hook. This weight will keep your bait or lure down in the water and will help swing it away from shore. A bobber lets you know when fish are biting, because it moves up and down in the water as fish nibble at the bait. Most bobbers attach to fishing line with a spring clip and move up and down the line easily, depending on how deep you want to fish the bait.

image of a worm, bobbers, and lure

The Improved Clinch Knot

Pass line through the hook eye and, with the tag end, make 5 turns around the standing line. Insert the loose end of the line between the eye and the first loop formed. Bring the tag end through the large second loop formed. Wet the line and tighten the knot slowly.

image of a cinch knots

What about Accessories?

A tackle box will store a variety of lures, hooks, snap swivels, weights, and tools like long-nose pliers and other gear you can use. You might also need a live bait container (such as a minnow bucket or a worm box), a stringer or an ice chest to keep your catch fresh, a landing net, and a first-aid kit for minor emergencies.

image of a Channel catfish

Safety First!

  • Fish with a companion who can offer help in an emergency
  • Be careful when handling sharp hooks
  • Don’t cast near other people, and always look around before making a cast.
  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device or life vest when wading or in a boat.

Practice Conservation

A good angler respects our natural resources and wants to conserve them for others to enjoy. Always carry out what you brought in and never leave behind plastic containers or packaging. Fishing line is very dangerous to birds and other wildlife, so pick up and recycle.

image of a bluegill fish

Go Fish!

There are many places to fish and they’re likely closer than you think. Including many national fish hatcheries and national wildlife refuges!

Look for a weedy or rocky area where the water is several feet deep. Look for areas where the bottom changes in some way – from sand to gravel or from sand to mud. Stay quiet and avoid disturbing the water or you may scare fish away. Next, bait your hook. Swing the bait as far from shore as you can and watch the bobber. When a fish bites and the bobber goes underwater, raise the tip of the rod quickly to set the hook and reel your catch in.