You’ve seen videos of people who fish and thought, “that looks like fun.”
When you check out the fish counter at your grocery store you’re discouraged by the rising prices of fish that appears to be getting less and less fresh.
You have time on your hands that you’d like to spend outdoors, but you’re not ready to take up a high-impact or physically demanding sport.
Your family has a boat and you spend nearly every weekend out on the lake as a family, but you’ve noticed those anglers on their boats and found yourself wondering if there could be more to this time on your boat.
That new house you just moved into has a stream just a five-minute walk from your front door. Every time you take the little ones for a walk you see fish in the stream and find yourself wondering if you’d be able to catch one…
Whatever your motivation, you’ve decided to dip your toe into the curious realm of recreational fishing.
But how do you get started fishing?
With these 3 steps, you’re going to set yourself up for a whole new world of entertainment and excitement. The following will give you a starting point. Get the broad picture here. Then check out our other articles that will break down these necessities into manageable details for you.
1. Start with Preparing for your fishing adventure.
If you live in a northern Montana-type climate with shallow, cool creeks filled to the brim with brook trout and northern pike, you’re not going to want to set yourself up for largemouth bass and crappie. When you live in a southern, brackish area like Florida you’re more likely to prepare for sturgeon or bluefish.
These days almost everyone who fishes seems to be on Facebook. Go check out the fishing groups for your state. Sometimes you’ll even be able to find a group dedicated to the specific fishery you live near. Say, for instance, you live in Dallas Texas. There are well over 50 potential groups for you to join. They cover everything from getting the fishing gear you’ll need or want to the waterways and fishing holes that cover the metroplex. Many other areas offer just as many options if not more.
*Don't limit yourself to fishing specific groups. Look into outdoors groups, hiking groups, and kayak or boating groups. You'll find that most anglers are fond of multiple hobbies and will often discuss very useful fishing strategies everywhere they congregate. You'll even find female specific groups that fall into these categories.*
I really can’t stress this enough. When you’re just getting started, don’t limit yourself. Some of the groups will be far more informative and helpful than others. You’ll learn quickly who will be of help to your quest. You’ll also figure out who will be more of a speed bump in your path to knowledge. Don’t be afraid to drop the groups that just don’t sit right with you. But, when you do drop a group or two, consider picking out a couple of different ones to replace those. The more weapons you have in your arsenal, the better prepared you’ll be when you hit the water.
While you’re reading up on other people’s successes and mishaps, intermingle some YouTube videos into your mix. Many of these anglers have incredible tips and tricks they’ve complied over years of learning to fish through trial and error.
You can learn everything from how to choose your setup and lures to tying the correct knot or spooling your reel. They’ll teach you different casting techniques when to choose what type of line and lure pattern, how to find the particular type of fish you’re wanting, and even how to keep your fish till you get home for the day. There is a wealth of knowledge just waiting for you on the internet. Some sources will be exceptionally valuable. Others will be a literal train wreck. Learning to navigate this web can be a bit daunting, so I will try to lead you to some of the resources that helped me learn over the years when possible.
2. Make the right decisions
Once you’re ready to hit the store and pick out your starter pack of fishing gear you’ll need to focus on 7 items for your list. Now, the thing to remember here is that I am going to focus on basic freshwater fishing for this discussion but different styles of fishing will only have minor changes that you’ll easily discover with the research we just discussed.
1) You’ll want a decent rod and reel which is the backbone of your fishing excursion.
Check out “A Woman’s Guide to Picking the Right Fishing Rod” and “Know Your Fishing Gear, Know Your Fishing Reel” for an in-depth look at the options you’ll have when making this decision. My personal preference for a starter setup is to pick a reasonably priced combo. A lot of the guesswork is taken out of your equation with a combo. You can be confident that the reel will be well suited to the rod.
2) Next you’ll need to pick your fishing lines.
Remember, depending on your setup you may need a backing, mainline, and lead line. Your research will tell you what you need. *Make sure to research the specific rod and reel you’ve chosen while you’re researching fishing styles and techniques.* And, as always, remember that the most important factor is to always be willing to experiment. Being able to try new things, new methods, new habits will help you tremendously in learning to build a fishing skills tool kit of your own. “The Golden Rule of Fishing” will break down the benefits of this for you.
3) After you have your rod, reel, and line selected, take a walk through your fishing lure section.
You will have either decided on live bait, soft lures, or hard lures for your setup. I am a huge fan of having options when I hit the water, but I have learned (rather quickly) that I must be realistic in my stockpile. I cant carry 20pounds of gear if I’m hiking 5 miles into the forest for that incredible fishing spot.
So, keep your fishing goals in mind.
I suggest you set yourself up with a budget for your lures because, believe me, you can go starry-eyed very quickly with the options you’ll find. One quick side note, when fishing live bait, remember you’ll need weights, bobbers, hooks, and the bait. I’ve known many newer anglers that have forgotten one of these items and struggled to make the odd setup work.
4) Be prepared for those keepers.
If you want to keep any of your fish you will want a ruler. Trust me, keep the game wardens happy and get a fishing-specific ruler so you are sure your measurements match up to their standards. You’ll also want a way to store your harvest. You can get a live well, a bucket, a fish bag, a stringer. You have tons of options so pick what you think will work well for your needs. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to each option.
*And remember, it doesn't matter if you're keeping your catch or returning it to the depths beyond. You will want a net to safely pull your fish from the mysterious depths beyond.*
5) Save yourself a few headaches while you are preparing.
Get some braid scissors, nail clippers, a pair of pliers, and a pair of forceps. This may feel like a large collection, especially when many companies advertise combo tools as the “only tool you’ll ever need,” but when reality sets in you’ll discover that each tool serves as a very important resource for you.
6) Don't overload your arms...or your back.
No matter how many or how few items you’re carrying with you to that fishing hole, you’re going to need a way to carry everything. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive, or a specific brand. It doesn’t even have to be a fishing container. Pick what feels right for you.
7) Before your first trip, you'll need a fishing license.
Almost every shop that sells fishing gear sells fishing licenses so you shouldn’t have to go to a separate location. Sometimes there’s a counter in the back (usually by the gun counter) but you’ll frequently discover the cashier will be able to set everything up for you.
If you haven’t read “The Three Rules For Becoming a Successful Angler” be sure to check it out. There will be all kinds of information waiting there for you on making sure you’re legal in everything you do.
3) Pick a fishing spot that’s right for you
Based on your research, you should have already decided on a local fishery to start with. Google maps is a common source for anglers looking to pick fishing locations. There are, however, a number of apps available to people also. On X is a great option when studying the terrain, looking for private property boundaries to ensure you’re not facing trespassing issues and other valuable information. Fishbrain is fishing specific and will give you loads of information about recent catches. It’ll also tell you what fish are common for the area you’re looking at. You can even get pointers on what lures are currently working. Now you’re still limited to what people are willing to disclose. You’re not going to get ALL the possible information, but even a little help is a huge advantage when you’re learning.
Some other options to research are Anglr, FishAngler, Fishidy, Fish Track, iAngler, Pro Angler, RiverFlows, or Terrafin. Do a little more research. See what descriptions and reviews look like for the different apps. Pick what looks like a good option for your needs. A lot of the apps these days offer free trials so you shouldn’t even be out of pocket to test out most of your options. I do, however, recommend you pick something. Especially when you are new to the fishing realm, you need every advantage you can give yourself. Having a map program available on your phone while you’re at the water truly helps in those moments of doubt.
With your maps and local recommendations, you should be ready to hit the wild blue. If you’re planning on an early start (many anglers prefer to hit the water before sunrise) have your gear packed and by the door before you head to bed. I can’t tell you how many people I have known that lost all their gear because they packed the car the night before and someone broke into the car while everyone in the house was asleep. Please, keep your gear in the house until you are ready to leave for your fishing trip.
Don't get overwhelmed by the details.
With everything at hand, make sure your setup includes your rod and reel, lure kit, map, and whatever fees you may need for parking or launch fees if you’re taking a boat. I also, strongly recommend you pack your outdoors/emergency kit (water, Band-Aids, snacks, etc.). “15 Musts for your Ideal Outdoors Pack” breaks the whole kit down for you. Oddly enough, you’ll find that most of the kit is already going to be with you so you’re really not having to account for extra weight or bulk.
AJ and I are notorious for last-minute decisions. Deciding to go fishing is no exception. There have been countless times when we decide at 1 in the morning that we are going to go fishing “the next day.” Inevitably, we throw our gear together after 3 or 4 hours of sleep and make a break for the lake or creek we’ve chosen. Without fail, one or both of us will get there and discover we forgot half of what we actually needed for that specific fishery. Learn from our mistakes. Pick your fishing location at least a day in advance. Pack all of your gear the day before and store it near the door. This way, when you get up, you’ll only need a few minutes to load everything in the car and head out.