Your Free Guide to Angling
The content in this guide is provided for general information only, and is not intended to address specific circumstances of any particular individuals. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.
Your Free Guide to Angling
Introduction to Angling
Whether you think of it as a sport or a leisurely activity, there’s something great about going fishing. The relaxing silence as you wait for a bite, the thrill of trying to figure out exactly what kind of bait you need to catch a certain type of fish, the excitement of reeling in your catch… and let’s not forget the bragging rights and a freshly caught dinner!
Angling, or fishing with a line and a hook, is the most popular type of fishing. Even if you have never been fishing, your first image of fishing probably involves baiting a hook and casting it onto the water.
In addition to a line and a hook, angling usually involves a fishing rod, which is a pole that holds the line, and a reel, a small compartment attached to the fishing rod that holds the fishing line. The only type of angling that does not use a rod and reel is handline fishing.
Simplicity doesn’t always mean easy; angling can be a difficult sport to learn and get to the point where you are catching fish regularly. While you might think there’s only one way to try angling, the reality is that there are dozens of different angling techniques from which to choose. Many of these angling techniques require specific equipment and can only be done in certain regions of the world.
It’s a good idea to learn more about each type of angling technique and how to perform each one before you find yourself ready to fish. Once you’ve chosen an angling technique to try, you’ll want to acquire the right gear. Then, it’s time to try it all out before heading out to the water. Of course, you can have all the best gear and the most experience but still fail to catch anything if you’re not fishing in the right place at the right time.
Fortunately, you don’t have to jump headfirst into angling without any preparation. This guide can help you decide the kind of angling you want to try and how best to do it. You can learn about different techniques, pros and cons of each one and how to get started.It also contains information about the kind of gear you may need for each type of angling, as well as advice for using the gear and tips for finding the right fishing locations to visit.
Types of Angling
There are many angling techniques you can try. For the purposes of this guide, the techniques can be organized into two groups: angling from the shore and angling from a boat.
Angling From Shore
If you’re standing on land or wading in the water as you fish with a rod and line, you’re angling on shore. There is a wide array of shore-angling techniques. Continue reading below to learn more about the most common types of angling from shore.
Ice fishing takes place on a frozen lake by cutting a small hole in the ice and lowering the bait and hook into the hole. It can get pretty cold sitting on a frozen lake, so ice fishers need to be prepared for the weather. When you go ice fishing, you can catch several different species of fish, such as northern pike, trout, largemouth, smallmouth, panfish, and more.
- Ice rod: A small rod between 24 and 36 inches in length and made from graphite or fiberglass to withstand the cold while remaining flexible.
- Ice reel: Reels suitable for ice fishing include spinning reels, fly reels, or even simple spring-tension spools. The weight of the reel should match the weight of the rod. Weight will depend on the kind of fish you are trying to catch.
- Tip-up: This device can be used instead of an ice rod and reel. It lowers the line into the water and sets off a bell or flag to notify the fisherman when he or she has caught something. Tip-ups are usually used to catch larger fish, so they should have a somewhat heavier line.
- Bait: Both lures and live bait can be used for ice fishing. Live bait includes wax worms, maggots, fly larvae, wigglers, mayflies or minnows. For artificial lures, you can try teardrop jigs or banana jigs.
- Ice auger: Ice augers are devices that cut a hole in the ice through which you will drop your line. Some ice augers are manually powered while others are powered by batteries or gas. If you plan to change fishing spots often or need to drill through very thick ice, a battery-powered or gas-powered ice auger is recommended. The size of your hole will depend on the type of fish you are trying to catch; bigger fish require a bigger hole. Check regulations, however, to see the maximum size of ice fishing holes allowable.
- Shanty: Ice fishing shanties, or shelters, are small wooden structures that provide protection from the cold and wind. You can buy them at a store or make them yourself. Some store-bought shanties have insulated walls. Make sure that the shanty is small enough that you can transport it onto the ice and light enough that it will not break the ice in your chosen location.
- Portable chair: When you are ice fishing, you do not want to sit directly on the ice. An ice chair keeps you above the frozen water.
How to Ice Fish
- Find a place on the ice that is thick enough to support you and your gear.
- If using a shanty, bring it out on the ice to the spot you have chosen.
- Use the ice auger to cut a hole in the ice.
- Set up your tip-up or open your chair next to the hole.
- Bait your hook and drop the baited line into the hole.
- Either keep the line stationary in the hole or jig it up and down to attract fish.
- Reel in your line when you feel a fish or your tip-up flag is moving.
Spin casting involves using a lightweight rod and reel. This method is perfect for beginners because it is easy to use and the gear is inexpensive. The reel is enclosed, so the line is less prone to tangling. \
Anglers typically use spincast tackle to fish for crappie, bluegill and other lightweight panfish, although there is specialized spincast tackle that more experienced anglers use to catch bass.
- Spinning rod: These are thin fishing rods, usually between six and ten feet long.
- Spincast reel: The spincast reel encloses the fishing line, which comes out and down the rod through a hole at the end. Close to where the angler holds the rod, the reel has a button that releases the line for casting and then locks in place. The reel is mounted on the top of the rod and usually uses light fishing line, between six and ten pounds.
- Bait: Lightweight finesse lures or small plastic lures are used when spin casting.
How to Spin Cast
- Bait your hook.
- Hold the fishing rod back behind your head.
- While pushing the button on the reel that lets out the line, swing your pole so the line flies over the water. This is known as casting.
- Once your line hits the water, pull the reel’s crank so the line stops feeding out.
Bait casting also involves using a reel, but the specialized reel allows the fisherman to adjust how fast the line feeds out. It is most commonly used in freshwater to catch bass.
- Bait casting rod: These rods are between five and six feet long and tend to be thicker than spinning rods.
- Bait casting reel: The spool of fishing line is exposed in this kind of reel. The reel itself is much more complex than a spincast reel. A button on the right side—called the tension spool—changes the line’s speed, while a switch on the left side—called the brake—keeps the line from getting tangled.
- Bait: Although you can use live bait such as minnows, most bait casters use artificial lures including spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs or worms.
How to Bait Cast
- Bait your hook.
- For the most power, make the tension spool tight enough so that the line doesn’t move, then adjust it slightly right before casting.
- Bring the rod back behind you and fling it forward, controlling the speed of the line with your thumb on the spool or by adjusting the spool control knob on the handle side of the reel. A slower cast will help you avoid spooking any fish in the immediate vicinity. If you cast too quickly, your spool may become tangled. Ideally, your line should be far out from where you are standing and gently drift into the water.
- Avoid tangling by ensuring that the line on the spool is flat. If it is not, keep the spool immobile with your thumb while pulling the line out with your other hand and then reeling it in by turning the handle.
Fly fishing involves using very lightweight artificial bait made to look like flies. Fly fishing is typically done in rivers and streams, but with special equipment, it can also be done in saltwater from shore or on a boat.
- Fly fishing rod: Fly fishing rods have a very short handle and are extremely flexible so you can cast far out. Fly rods come in different weights that are rated by numbers. Beginners should try a rod rated between #4 and #6.
- Fly fishing reel: In general, fly rod reels are very simple and do not have any buttons or switches. Unlike with spin casting or bait casting, the reel is not used to fight the fish once it’s hooked or to cast. Its main purpose is just to hold the line. The reel should feel balanced on the rod weight-wise.
- Fly fishing line: When doing most kinds of fishing, your line will be made of monofilament, a clear thin plastic. There are different types of fly fishing line: floating and sinking. The floating line is recommended for beginners because you can use it for fishing at the surface (dry fly fishing) or under the surface of the water (wet fly fishing). Fly fishing line comes in different weights; the rating for the line should be the same as your rod rating. There are also different tapers. Weight forward line starts thick and then gets thinner to help you cast. Belly tapered line is thin at each end and heavier in the middle and is used for very light flies.
- Fly fishing leader: Since the line is thick, it would be easily detectable in the water. Fly fishermen use a thinner fly fishing leader to attach the fly to in the water. A six pound leader is pretty versatile and is recommended for beginners.
- Flies: These come in all different kinds. There are some well-known patterns that imitate insects that fish eat. It may be a good idea to get an assortment of these as well as dry flies and wet flies.
- Fly fishing vest: Since you are fly fishing while wading in the water, you won’t have access to a tackle box. The fly fishing vest serves the same purpose, storing all your flies and smaller tools.
- Fly fishing waders: This is a one-piece garment that you wear so that you stay mostly dry while you are out standing in the water.
- Fly fishing boots: These come in two types. For rocky bottoms, choose felt-soled boots so you can protect your feet and get a good grip. For muddy or slippery bottoms, rubber-soled boots with stud attachments will give you a secure footing.
- Landing net: Portable hand net that allows you to catch the fish since you won’t be reeling it in with the rod. Most of these have a clip that attaches it to your vest so you have both hands free.
- Nippers: Nippers will make sure that your flies are neat and can also be used to snip the line when needed.
- Pliers: Pliers allow you to quickly and easily remove the hook from the fish, which is essential when you are doing catch and release.
- Floatant: When dry fly fishing, you need your fly to float. Liquid fly floatant will ensure that your fly floats on the water.
How to Fly Fish
- Bait your hook with the fly, nipping at anything that is sticking out or making it off balance.
- If you are dry fly fishing, coat the fly with floatant.
- Pull out some excess line, then cast the line with one hand while the other hand holds the line loosely so the excess flies out.
- Once you have cast, hold the rod with your non-dominant hand facing down so that the tip of the rod is just above the water. With the other hand, gradually pull the line in towards you, letting it gather at your feet. This is called retrieving and it makes the fly look like it is swimming away from the fish.
- Periodically turn the handle on the reel to take up some of the slack line.
- When you feel the fish bite, pull the line in harder with your hand, bringing the fish closer to you.
- Once the fish gets close to you, use your net to scoop it out of the water.
Pole fishing involves using a long pole (usually at least 13 feet long). This is a popular way to fish in lakes in the United Kingdom. Pole fishing is generally used to catch carp and other similar fish.
- Pole: The pole is very long, so it usually comes in three sections for easy transportation. The top two sections are called the top kit.
- Elastic: 12-14 thick elastic will allow you to catch up to a five pound fish.
- Dacron connectors: These go on the end of the elastic and allow you to attach the pole rig.
- Puller beads: Puller beads ensure that the elastic doesn’t get pulled too far inside the pole.
- Pole rig: This consists of the line, float, weights, and hook. You can buy these pre-tied or assemble them yourself.
- Puller tool: This helps you to thread the puller beads on the elastic.
- Scissors: Use these to trim excess elastic.
- Top pot:Used for additional bait.
- Bait: You can use corn kernels for the hook and pellets for the top pot.
- Net with a long handle: This is used to get the fish out of the water.
- A chair: You will probably want to sit while you are pole fishing.
How to Pole Fish
- Thread a puller bead onto the elastic near where it comes out of the pole using the puller tool.
- Make a loop at the end of the elastic and knot it into place.
- Thread the other end of the elastic through the wider opening in the middle part of the pole until it comes out the end. Repeat for the last section of the pole so that the elastic runs all the way from the puller bead to the very end of the pole.
- Thread the dacron connector to the end of the elastic and secure with a knot.
- Slide another puller bead over the dacron connector and trim any excess elastic at the end.
- Attach a pre-tied pole rig to the dacron connector.
- Attach the top pot to the end of the pole, about an inch from the tip.
- Put a piece of corn on the hook and fill the top pot with pellets.
- Slightly dunk the top pot in the water to get the pellets wet so they don’t dump out prematurely.
- Slowly extend the pole out over the water. When you get it all the way out to the spot where you want to fish, lower it and dump the pellets into the water.
- Put the pole right side up and bring it about a foot above the water. Slowly lower it into the water.
- When you feel a fish bite, slowly shift the pole back toward the shore and remove the handle piece so you are left with the top kit.
- The fish will be struggling against the elastic. Let it wear itself out for a while by raising the pole or moving it from side to side.
- When you want to bring the fish closer to you, pull the lower puller bead and hold the excess elastic, shortening the amount that is in the water.
- Use the net to get the fish out of the water. Loosen the elastic so it is in the net.
Handline fishing is one of the oldest ways of catching fish and is the angling technique with the least amount of equipment. Panfish, walleyes, and other freshwater game fish can be caught with a handline. Generally speaking, this method is for small to medium-sized fish that are swimming close to or directly under where you are fishing, such as a dock.
- Monofilament fishing line: The weight line you use depends on the size fish you want to catch, but 20-pound line is a good medium weight.
- Small hooks: You can use one or two hooks at a time.
- Weight: Use one half-ounce sinker weight at the end of the line.
- Bait: Use shrimp or other bait fish.
How to Handline Fish
- Unroll some of the fishing line from the roll and put the roll in your pocket.
- Tie the sinker weight to the end of the fishing line.
- About a foot and a half up from the weight, gather the line and knot it to make a loop that is about the size of your fist. Repeat another foot and a half up from that loop so you have two loops.
- Take the loop and pinch the end. Thread the end of the loop through the hook and knot it in place. Repeat with the second loop so you have two hooks, one on each loop.
- Cut small pieces of bait and put a piece on each hook.
- Take the roll of line out of your pocket and advance it so that about four feet of it is slack.
- Cast the end of the line out into the water and let it sink to the bottom.
- Pull in any slack line and roll the line around the holder so that the line is tight. This will let you feel when a fish is biting.
- When you feel a fish biting, roll up the line and bring it out of the water.
Angling From a Boat
To take your angling to the next level, move away from the shore and into the water by boat. There are many ways to angle from the water.
Trolling involves moving the boat very slowly through the water while letting your line trail behind the boat. This method is used in the open ocean to catch large fish such as kingfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo, marlin, and sailfish. You can troll with a rod and reel or with a handline, although you won’t be able to catch very large fish with a handline.
- Trolling rod: Trolling rods are classified by weight between 12 and 130 pounds. They are usually between five and seven feet long and have a series of rings attached along the rod at intervals. At the handle end of the rod is a slot that fits into a butt pad or fighting chair.
- Reel: The classification of the reel should match the rod you are using. Reels for trolling are large, with plenty of line capacity to let the fish run and tire itself out. They also have a powerful drag mechanism to tighten the line and give the angler resistance.
- Lures: Usually, the lures used for trolling are designed to look like moving fish (such as spinnerbait or jigs). The most common kinds are skirted lures, spoons, plugs and soft-plastic lures.
- Bait: In lieu of lures, you can use dead bait such as ballyhoo, squid, sprats, or flying fish.
- Fishing line: You can use nylon monofilament line, but some anglers prefer a braid line. Braid lines allow the hooks to stay strongly attached, but they require a lot of strength on the part of the angler because they aren’t stretchy like monofilament.
- Speed boat: You will want to be going between two and four knots for offshore fishl, five to eight knots for fish that swim the currents and more than 10 knots for very large ocean fish. If you are fishing for trophy fish, you will probably need a boat with a built-in fighting chair to give you leverage.
How to Troll Fish
- Sitting or standing at the back of the boat while it is in motion, cast your line about fifteen to twenty feet behind the boat with your lure in the stern wave, keeping it at the front of the wave.
- Put the end of the rod in a butt pad (a belt with a holder that goes around your waist), in a holder attached to the side of the boat or hold it in your hands.
- The lure should be one to two feet below the surface of the water, although it can go up and down while trolling.
- Wait until you feel a fish bite. Then tighten the line by reeling it in a little. Hold onto it tightly and let the fish tire itself out. The rod will bend as you do this.
- After a while, quickly reel the line into the boat. Larger fish may require another person (or two) with a net to land the fish in the boat.
Bottom bouncing is similar to trolling in that the boat is moving. It involves drifting the boat along a body of water, baiting your line with a lure and letting the lure drag along the water’s bottom. Bottom bouncing is often used to catch walleye, steelhead, catfish, or salmon because they can be found near the bottom of lakes and rivers.
If you don’t want to catch fish from the bottom, use a shorter line (people refer to this second method as “drift fishing”). You can also use bottom bouncers from shore with a shorter lead line and a longer rod, but it is harder to move them around and they tend to tangle.
- Rod and reel: You can use a bait casting, fly fishing or spin casting rod and reel for bottom bouncing, since the fish will not be as large as those you would typically catch while trolling in the ocean.
- Bottom bouncing rig: This is an L-shaped wire with an oval weight on its long arm, a small round area at the elbow and a snap swivel on the short arm. The main line from the rod is tied to the elbow of the rig and the line with the hook is attached to the snap swivel. The part with the hook is called the leader line. The leader line should be around two and a half to three feet long. Some people also put a spinner on the leader line.
- Bait: Use bucktail jigs or live bait such as nightcrawlers or leeches.
- Long handled net: Since the rig puts the fish fairly far from the end of the rod, you will need a net.
- Motor boat: Since you will do this on a river or lake, you will want a shallow draft boat.
How to Bottom Bounce
- Set up your bottom bouncing rig with the proper weight for the depth. The rule of thumb is to use one ounce of weight for every ten feet of water depth. Attach a small hook to the short arm.
- Tie your main line to the elbow of the rig.
- Bait your hook.
- Lower the line into the water from the back of the boat.
- The boat should be moving slowly, between 1 to 2.5 mph. If the fish aren’t biting, try decreasing your speed, which is called sudden death. As the boat moves, the weight will periodically bounce along the bottom, stimulating the fish to move up to where the hook is. Make sure to keep the line taut to prevent tangling. Check once in a while to make sure the weight is not covered in weeds.
- When you feel a fish biting, reel it in as much as you can and then use a net to get the fish out of the water.
Live lining involves anchoring the boat in a stream or other body of water with a flow and casting your bait (live or lure) into the water so it drifts with the current. Live lining is used to catch rockfish or striped bass. Live lining is easy, and it is one of the first fishing methods taught to children or new anglers.
- Spin casting rod and reel: This lightweight and easy set-up works well for beginners. Or, you can use a bait casting rod and reel if you are going after larger fish.
- Weight: This is optional. If you are using large live bait, you won’t need it.
- Glass beads: These are used with weights to make sure that the weight stays where it should be.
- Circle hooks: These attach to the line.
- Bobber: This floats at the surface and when it moves, alerts you that you have a bite on the line.
- Bait: Use live bait such as mullet, menhaden (large and small), needlefish, anchovies, silversides, and sea herring.
How to Live Line Fish
- Position your boat parallel to the flow of the current.
- Attach your weight, bobber, and hook to the line so that the bait will drift just off the bottom.
- Bait the hook.
- Cast your line into the current and wait for a bite. If using a bobber, look at the bobber to see when it makes a sudden movement.
- When you feel a fish bite, reel it in close to the boat and bring it in. If using a bobber, you will probably need to use a net to get it into the boat.
Dropline fishing uses multiple hooks to fish simultaneously. Most people employ dropline fishing when fishing by underwater cliffs or at multiple depths. It is commonly used to catch catfish in streams, rivers and lakes.
- Buoy: This marks the location of the dropline.
- Mainline: This is the long line attached to the rod and reel. It is dropped vertically into the water and is frequently nylon trot-line cord rather than monofilament for strength.
- Weights: These keep the mainline relatively vertical in the water.
- Snoods: These are additional lines attached to the mainline, each with a hook.
- Bait: Use chicken livers, dough baits, live bluegills and shiners.
How to Dropline Fish
- Sail out to a chosen location.
- Let the main line down with a buoy attached to one end.
- Return a few hours later to see what you’ve caught.
These angling techniques can be used with multiple types of angling methods.
Jigging involves using a jig, which is a lure designed to move up and down in the water. When you cast, let the line sink to the bottom, then reel it back in slightly and manipulate your rod so the line goes up and down and the jig moves like a live creature. You can also attach a live worm to the jig.
Chumming involves throwing bait, otherwise known as “chum,” into the water from a bucket on the boat. Chum can be anything from dead fish to dog food.
Catch and Release
Catch and release angling is fairly self-explanatory. You catch a fish in one of the ways outlined above, but once you catch the fish, you carefully remove the hook from its mouth making sure not to injure it and then release it back into the water.
Many anglers opt to take a quick photo of the fish as a memento before releasing it. In many areas, local fishing regulations require anglers to catch and release all fish, some species of fish or fish of a certain size. Research the fishing regulations in the area you are fishing for details.
Gear You Will Need for Angling
At its most basic, angling requires a fishing rod and line. From there, you can go as crazy as you like, depending on the type of angling you’re doing. Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy all your equipment at once. Some people buy a little gear at a time, once they have the necessary funds to buy the right gear.
Also keep in mind that some angling techniques can be cheaper because you can get away with cutting corners. Chumming, for example, can be as simple as buying the appropriate fishing rod and bait, then adding a bucket and some dog food to your supply list.
Don’t Forget the Basics
Regardless of what kind of angling you’re doing, you should have certain basic supplies. Always have a nail clipper or pliers handy for cutting fishing line and removing hooks from your catch. To protect your skin, remember to bring some sunscreen and insect repellant. Also, don’t forget to bring a basic first aid kit (which can cost as little as $7 on Amazon) in case you cut yourself or have some kind of accident.
You’ll probably lose some fishing line, hooks or lead weights during your trip, so it’s a good idea to have extras. Depending on which kind you get, a package of fishing line can cost anywhere from $5 to $30 (or higher). Hooks generally cost $10 or less per package, although you can get some deluxe sets for upwards of $20.
Lead fishing weights typically cost between $5 and $10 per package. You may also want to get a tackle box (or vest, if you are going to go fly fishing) to hold your hooks, weights, line and other supplies. Tackle boxes cost anywhere between $5 and $65, depending on the size.
Invest in a Quality Fishing Rod and Reel
When it comes to angling, the most important item of all is the fishing rod. It’s not just a case of one rod fits all; the location and type of angling are important when finding a suitable fishing rod. For example, if you’re going ice fishing, you’ll probably pay between $30 and $60 for a good quality ice-fishing rod and reel (such as one made by Fiblink or Frabill).
A quality fishing rod with a reel (such as one made by Shakespeare or Abu Garcia) typically falls into two price ranges. There are rods in the $30 to $50 range, and then there are rods in the $100 to $200 (and higher) range. If you’re going pole fishing, a good quality telescopic pole (such as one made by B’n’m or Uxcell) can cost you between $20 and $40, although the higher quality ones usually cost $100 or more. Decide how much you want to spend based on your level of experience and interest, and then go from there.
Some rods come with reels, while others come separately. A spin casting reel starts at around $30 and goes up to $90, while bait casting reels are a little more expensive, starting at $40 but going up much higher to $300 or more.
Buy the Right Bait
The kind of bait you buy depends on what kind of fish you’re trying to catch and which area you’re fishing in. If you are using worms and other live bait, you can ask locals or bait shop employees about what kind of live bait works best in their area for what you are trying to catch.
A fishing lure is an artificial fishing bait. A good quality lure (such as one made by Rapala or Jackall) will cost you between $5 and $20. Some companies charge this much for an individual lure, while others send you a pack of them for that price.
Before you buy, remember to check fishing forums and product reviews to see what kind of lures you need to catch particular kinds of fish. Generally speaking, use these guidelines:
- Spinnerbait – To catch bass, perch, and pike
- Soft plastics – To catch bass, trout, redfish, tuna, stripers, snook and tarpon
- Flies – To catch trout, salmon, grayling in freshwater and snook and redfish in saltwater
- Spoon lures – To catch larger predators such as northern pike, largemouth bass, muskies, walleye, salmon and trout
- Jigging lure – To catch redfish, speckled trout, bass, flounder, fluke, striped bass, bluefish, pompano and mackerel
Find a Good Boat
If you enjoy angling from a boat and want to do so on a regular basis, you’ll probably want to buy your own watercraft eventually. You can fish from any type of watercraft, be it a canoe, kayak or motorized boat, and of course they vary in cost.
Until you feel certain about your level of enthusiasm for angling from the water, try to get by on rentals as long as possible until you’ve saved enough money to buy your own. Alternatively, look for second-hand models you can repair yourself or see if you can make friends with someone who owns a boat and strike a deal so you can join that person on fishing trips.
A good kayak (from companies such as Hobie or Wilderness Systems) can set you back between $1,000 and $5,000, although you may be able to find a cheaper one on Amazon for around $600. If you’re looking for a good quality canoe (such as one made by Old Town or Sun Dolphin), you’ll find they cost between $600 and $2,000. These are suitable for inland fishing in rivers and lakes as well as fishing close to shore.
There are dozens of different kinds of motorized fishing boats, and finding the right one depends on what you’re fishing for and where you plan to do so. In some cases, you can get a decent motorized fishing boat for as low as $15,000. Generally, though, a good quality motorized fishing boat (such as one made by Mako or Nitro) typically costs between $20,000 and $60,000. Some models may even set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How to Prepare for Angling
Once you’ve decided on the type of angling you want to try and you have the necessary gear, it’s time to get ready for your first angling trip.
Step 1: Practice Using Your Gear
Practice the various techniques for the type of angling you are planning to do. This may include baiting your hook, tying fisherman’s knots and casting a line. If you have experience with a fishing technique similar to angling, this process may be easier.
To get a better idea, you can watch some how-to videos on YouTube or ask a friend to help you. However, like any new hobby or sport, it takes some time to get used to your equipment and new processes.
For example, learning to use a bait-casting reel typically takes between three and four months to truly master. Your best option to practice casting is to find a local pond or other nearby body of water, but you can also practice casting at home as long as you have a reasonably large backyard. Simply set up some buckets, tie a lure (it can be a real lure or something like a metal nut) onto your line and practice casting the line until you can land the lure into the buckets.
Step 2: Seek Experienced Fishing Buddies
Finding an experienced angler willing to talk with you is a great way to get fishing skills you’ll never learn online. If you can find experienced anglers within your state or local area, an even better option would be to accompany them on fishing trips to watch them in action.
You can find other anglers to talk to or go fishing with through online forums or local fishing clubs. You can find information about local chapters of these groups through larger organizations, such as:
- The United States Catfish Association
- The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society
- Trout Unlimited
Another option is to get a fishing charter or hire a fishing guide. These professionals will not only take you to the best fishing spots, but they will walk you through every step. Most guides guarantee you will catch something, and that will give you the incentive to continue angling so you can learn more and get better.
Step 3: Research Your Location
Once you’ve found a destination at which you want to fish, whether it’s a specific region or lake, look for things you’ll need to know before you set off. Here are some factors to consider:
- The kind of bait you’ll need
- The best seasons during which to fish at the location
- Piers, bridges and other manmade features you can take advantage of
- Trees, mangroves and other natural features that make it harder or easier to fish there
If you want to find ideal spots along a particular lake or river, get a topographic map, which tells you how elevations rise or fall across the area. If you can find an area where the elevation drops, you’ve probably found a pool or section where the water’s current moves faster, ideal locations for fishing.
Step 4: Get a License and Know the Rules
In most places, you will need to get a local fishing license to fish. In addition to a license, there may be other regulatory stamps or certifications you need for specific locations or species. If you are fishing in a national or state park or preservation area there will usually be additional restrictions and requirements.
Each state and many local areas have fishing regulations that tell you where, when and how you can legally fish. The regulations will also specify which species you can catch, if you need to do catch and release, how many fish you can keep and the size fish you are allowed to keep.
Step 5: Talk to Locals
Ultimately, nothing replaces the knowledge you can get from local experts. If you can find experienced anglers who live by you or your fishing destination, reach out to them. When you arrive at your destination, drop by the local bait shop and ask the staff about the best local fishing spots, what kind of bait works particularly well and any other tips.
Top 5 Angling Locations in the U.S.
Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
Located on Minnesota’s northern side, not far from the Canadian border, Lake of the Woods is a prime fishing spot year-round. While this area is best-known for walleye fish, you can also find sturgeon and trout on the lake. Lake of the Woods has several major areas in which you can choose to fish, from the open waters of Big Traverse Bay to the reefers and small islands spread throughout the Northwest Angle.
Come at the right time and you can take part in various annual events, such as the annual Sturgeon Tournament in May or the Mardis Gras Party at Sportsman’s Lodge in March. There are various hotels and resorts (such as Rainy River Resort or the Royal Dutchman) along the Lake’s shore, or you can rent a cabin in various places or, if you really want to rough it, set up a tent at the campgrounds in Franz Jevne State Park.
If you want to combine your fishing trip with other activities, there is plenty to do in the area. Depending on when you visit, you can hunt for bear, waterfowl, deer or small game. Cross-country skiing in Zippel Bay Park, golfing at Oak Harbor Golf Course, or birdwatching are also popular activities. If you’re more interested in learning about the local history and culture, you may want to visit historical sites such as the Baudette Depot or Fort St. Charles.
Lake St. Clair, Michigan
This location may not have the reputation of the nearby Great Lakes, but it’s a haven for great sport fishing along the shore or by boat. You can rent a boat or fish from the waterfront boardwalks and piers. This lake is mostly known for smallmouth bass, but you can also find plenty of perch, muskie, crappie and walleye in these waters.
Perhaps the most surprising thing is that Lake St. Clair has all this variety when it isn’t even a very deep lake (the average section is only 11 feet deep). If you come in August, you can watch or take part in fishing contests such as the Bassmasters Elite Tournament.
You may also enjoy annual events such as the Indoor Holiday Market in November. You can stay in various rental locations or hotels in the Lake St. Clair area (such as Swan View Inn) or bring an RV and stay in NorthPointe Shores RV Resort or Mitchell’s Bay Marine Park. If you want to fit in some other activities during your fishing trip, Lake St. Clair has plenty of options. Come during the correct season, and you can go duck hunting. There are also various beaches you can visit, such as Mitchell’s Bay Beach on the Canadian side or Marine City Beach on the American side of the lake. If you want to take in some local culture and history during your stay, check out the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House or Selfridge Air Museum and Air Park.
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Located along the coast of three states (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and District of Columbia), Chesapeake Bay is a great fishing area which many experienced anglers visit each year. While this area is best known for its striped bass (or “rockfish,” as the locals call them), you can also catch flounder, bluefish and speckled trout, among other varieties. If you want to try your hand at competing with other anglers, enter one of the year-round fishing contests such as the Maryland Fishing Challenge or the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.
If you visit at the right time of the year, you just might catch one of the popular annual events, such as the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. or the Cambridge Rotary Oyster Roast in Cambridge, Maryland. There are plenty of hotels and rental locations in and around Chesapeake Bay, such as the Historic Waterfront Estate Home in Maryland or the Chesapeake Bay Luxury Beachfront Retreat in Virginia. If you prefer to get closer to nature, you can set up a tent in Belle Isle State Park, Bay Shore Campground or one of the many other campsites located in Virginia and Maryland.
To turn your fishing trip into a full vacation experience, take advantage of one of Chesapeake Bay’s family-friendly activities, like sailing, swimming or visiting the local farmers’ markets. History buffs will want to immerse themselves in nearby historic towns such as Havre de Grace or Chestertown.
Florida Keys, Florida
Situated along Florida’s southernmost tip, the Keys are a collection of over 100 small islands that are perfect for angling by boat or along shorelines. Depending on which area you visit, you can find bonefish, tarpon, snapper, blackfin tuna and many other fish species to entertain (and feed) you during your stay.
There are several different fishing environments. From reefs to beach shorelines, each area is home to different fish species. If you’re the competitive type, plan your trip so you can take part in fishing contests such as the Poor Boys Tarpon Fly Tournament in July or the Summer Lionfish Derby Series in September.
Local celebrations abound; you may want to try and coordinate your trip so you can enjoy annual events such as the Marathon Seafood Festival in March or the Cuban American Heritage Festival in June. Finding lodging is easy in the Florida Keys area, as various hotels (such as the Key Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort or the Best Western Key Ambassador Resort Inn) and rental homes are perfectly placed throughout the islands. If you’ve been aching to take your RV out for a spin or dust off the old tent, try the campgrounds in Dry Tortugas National Park, Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge and other campground locations.
Be sure to check out the numerous water-related activities, like snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing or combing the local beaches for beautiful shells and sand dollars. You may also enjoy taking an eco-tour or taking a swim with dolphins or manatees. Don’t forget to cross these landmarks off your bucket list; be sure to check out the Hemingway House in Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park or the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon.
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
Located on Hatteras Island, part of the famous Outer Banks region that so many anglers love to visit, Cape Hatteras is a great place to fish from piers, shorelines or boats. Experienced anglers recommend visiting during the spring or fall, although the area is open for fishing year-round (except for January and February). Just remember – you can only keep certain species of fish during any particular fishing season.
There are various kinds of fish up for grabs here, including blue marlin, wahoo, mahi and cobia. If you like watching or taking part in fishing contests, coordinate your visit so you can be a part of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Invitational Surf Fishing Tournament in November or participate in the nearby Kayak Fishing Tournament in September.
There are plenty of other annual events, like the Kona Summer Concert Series in May or the Hatteras Island Christmas Parade in December. It’s easy to find rental homes (such as Cape Point Retreat or Hatteras Dream) and hotels on Hatteras Island. You may even prefer taking advantage of some of the camping areas like Camp Hatteras RV Resort & Campground or Oregon Inlet Campground. You can also enjoy many affordable activities on Hatteras Island, such as relaxing Frisco Beach and serene Canadian Hole, or even take a ride on the North Carolina Ferry. If you want to absorb local culture and history, schedule a visit to the Pea Island Art Gallery or the Frisco Native American Museum.
Top 5 International Angling Locations
Eg-Uur River Basin, Mongolia
The Eg-Uur River Basin sits precisely where Mongolia’s Eg and Uur Rivers intersect. Experienced fly fishermen know this location as one of the few places where you can still fish for taimen, the biggest and one of the most ruthless trout species on Earth. Locals refer to these tough, pack-hunting (and often cannibalistic) fishes as “river wolves,” and they can weigh as much as 90 pounds. There are also lenok, Arctic grayling, and Amur pike.
Remember to only visit from June through November and practice catch-and-release fishing with barbless hooks. Fishing licenses are much more expensive than you are used to in the United States and cost $450.
If you want to take in some cultural events during your stay, schedule your trip during the Nadaam celebrations in early July or the Ice Festival at the nearby Lake Khuvsgul. Mongolia is still developing its tourist and travel industries, so lodging options are limited. Still, travel around and you’ll find some options, such as the Art 88 Resort or the Edelweiss Hotel, both located in Khuvsgul province. You can also camp in a “gher” (the Mongolian equivalent of a yurt) at places such as Toilogt tourist camp or Khuvsgul Lake National Park.
If you want to fit in other activities during your stay, take a hike through the beautiful park or check out some mountain biking paths. Speak with the locals and you can find secluded places to go horseback riding. There are plenty of historical landmarks to be seen, like the displays at the Aimag Museum or the Danzadarjaa Khiid monastery, both located in the town of Mörön. Don’t forget about the Mogoi Mod tree, located near the town of Khatgal.
Umba River, Russia
Located on Russia’s Kola Peninsula, the Umba River is one of the world’s premier locations for catching Atlantic salmon. With an unusually high number of salmon, there are many “hot spots” (such as the area between Lake Poncho and Golden Pool, Little Red Pool and Lohkinka) where the salmon are just waiting for bait. Be sure to visit during the open season June and September to October. During July and August, the river is closed to fishing for salmon.
Like the Eg-Uur River Basin, this is a fairly isolated location, so there aren’t any formal fishing competitions. However, if you want to join up with other fishing enthusiasts and bet on who’s going to catch the most fish in one day, try joining fishing tours through groups such as Kola Travel or WildTour.
There are plenty of great annual events, such as Festival of the North in March and the Murmansk Mile sports event in June, both located in the town of Murmansk. You can find a variety of lodges and hotels in the Kola Peninsula, such as the Khibiny Hotel in Kirovsk, the 69 Parallel Hotel in Murmansk or the Umba Lodge on the Umba River’s shore. If you’re willing to brave Russia’s elements, you can also camp in one of the designated areas, such as Ryabaga Camp. You may also contact travel service agencies to inquire about joining their camping tours. For cultural pursuits, you can visit places like the Sami History & Culture Museum in Lovozero.
Rio Colorado, Costa Rica
Nestled in Costa Rica’s Puntarenas Province, Rio Colorado (translated to “the Colorado River” in English) is part of the larger San Juan River and is a great place for catching tarpon, snook, the occasional catfish, mojarra or guapote.
Anglers can fly fish, baitfish or troll here. When fly fishing for tarpon, you will want to use heavier tackle than you normally would since the tarpon and many of the other fish are so large. In fact, tarpon here average between 80 and 100 pounds. Other fish that can be caught in the area include Atlantic sailfish, wahoo, dorado, great barracuda, jack crevalle and cubera snapper, tripletail, huge king mackerel up to 50 pounds, Spanish mackerel, goliath grouper, pompano, machete fish and various kinds of sharks.
January through May is peak season for tarpon. Keep in mind that while you can fish for tarpon or snook throughout the year in Rio Colorado, other restrictions may apply to various other species. There aren’t many formal fishing contests in the area, but you can always join other anglers for a little friendly competition.
On any given day, you can usually find anglers at fishing lodges such as the Rio Colorado Lodge or the Silver King Lodge, both of which are great places to stay during your trip. You can also find lodging at nearby hotels like the La Posada Hotel, Au Coeur Du Soleil, or Cabinas Coloso Del Mar. If you’re feeling adventurous, head out into the forest for some tropical camping; you can set up a modest tent at the Rio Colorado Tarpon Camp.
You can also explore the surrounding Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge or visit nearby sights like the Banana Bay Marina. You may enjoy some of Peace Trail International’s fun opportunities, such as a weekend camping trip in a hanging tree tent or a guided hiking tour to nearby waterfalls. Many optional activities support the local villagers, including Peace Trail International, which has volunteer projects like tending to a community garden or taking part in an 8-day boat-building course. Have a little extra time? Take a two- or three-day rainforest tour and see tropical plants, beaches, a volcano, exotic birds and monkeys, and more.
Lizard Island, Australia
Lizard Island has a reputation as one of the best places in the world to catch black marlin, which come to these waters between September to December. You can also catch mackerel, queenfish, mahi mahi, sailfish and revally in its pristine waters. Most experienced anglers use jigging or trolling methods when fishing on the Australian coastline. Marlin fishing is only allowed in certain areas and is tag and release. However, you can keep and eat many other species. E
xperienced anglers recommend fishing along the nearby Ribbon Reefs, where you can find not only black marlin but also coral trout, sailfish, red bass and many other types of fish species. Arrive during early October to participate in the Annual Black Marlin Classic.
Lodging is available at the Lizard Island Resort, but if you’re willing to commute, you can find hotels like Cairns Plaza Hotel or Milkwood Lodge in Cooktown. If you’d rather rough it during your stay, set up a tent in Watsons Bay camping area. For more activities, be sure to take a swim in the Blue Lagoon or just relax on one of Lizard Island’s excellent beaches. The Great Barrier Reef is right there, so the snorkeling and scuba diving is unsurpassed.
Adventurous explorers will love visiting Lizard Island National Park for some bird-watching or hiking. For those willing to spend a little more money, the Lizard Island Resort offers options such as relaxing at the day spa, diving off Cod Hole or participating in a guided fishing or snorkeling tour. History enthusiasts will enjoy basking in some of the notorious landmarks, such as the ruins of Mrs. Watson’s Cottage.
Chalk Streams, England
This may be the most unusual entry on this list, since it’s not technically a single location. Southern England has many streams and rivers that run through chalk hill regions throughout the country, all of which are great locations for fly-fishing enthusiasts looking to catch some trout, salmon or grayling. Experienced anglers particularly recommend fishing the River Test, River Itchen and River Avon (also known as the Salisbury Avon), all of which are located in Bristol. Itchen opens for trout fishing in March, while River Test opens in April and Avon opens in May.
In all locations, trout season ends in October. You can fish for grayling any time of the year except mid-March to mid-June. If you want to show off your fly-fishing skills to other anglers, come for the River Test One Fly or the Iron Man Fly Tying Challenge, both of which are held by River Test as part of the One Fly Festival in April.
Affordable lodging is available at places like the King’s Head Inn by River Avon or the Winchester Royal Hotel by River Itchen. Or, for a truly memorable experience, stay at an English country manor house. If you prefer to do some camping, drop by the Bell Camp in Bradford-on-Avon or Itchen Valley Country Park in Southampton. There are countless other activities just waiting to be discovered, like hiking, like the Stratford-Upon-Avon River Festival in July.