Today’s post is an introduction to fishing or Fishing 101. We’ll cover all aspects of fishing and it’s a perfect post for someone who has never fished before or is a little rusty… We will cover everything from licensing all the way to advanced concepts such as trolling.
The objective is to give you enough knowledge to get you out there with all the gear and skills you’ll need to start fishing today! It’s really not that difficult. For someone a little more seasoned, you’ll find several useful tips here as well.
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- Before We Begin
- Do You Need a License to Fish?
- Types of Fish
- The Benefits of Eating Wild Fish
- Can you Catch and Release Fish?
- What Fishing Equipment Do I Need?
- What is the Best Fishing Line?
- How to Tie Fishing Knots
- What are the Main Types of Fishing Lures?
- A Basic Set of Lures, On A Budget
- Getting Some Better Lures
- A Basic Tackle Box
- The Main Tackle Box
- Fishing Pliers – Very Important
- Stringer – Very Important
- Fishing Net
- Fishing Techniques
- Where Should I Fish?
- Finding a Good Fishing Spot
- Fishing for Kids
- Wrapping Up
- Purchase the Items in This Post
Before We Begin
My journey with fishing started as a little boy with my Grandfather who taught me everything he knew. We enjoyed decades of fishing together and it was a bonding experience like no other. I also can’t think of a better way to enjoy a lake or river. Since those little boy years, I’ve caught thousands of fish and have been at it for almost 40 years. Hopefully, I can pass down Grandpa’s age old techniques to you as I have to others. So stay with me as we work through the sections.
Yes, that’s me in the photo after a few hours of fishing. Yes again, it was a good day! But skills create a lot more good days than luck so let’s get started.
Do You Need a License to Fish?
The following regulations are for Ontario, Canada. If you reside elsewhere, your province or state will have similar rules in place.
If you already know the licensing or are out of province, you can skip this section.
Yes, unless you are under 18 or 65 and over (in which case you are exempt) you do need a license to fish. There are some exceptions for armed forces members, veterans and members of certain indigenous communities. Unlike hunting, there is no course or knowledge requirements, it’s just a matter of providing your information and payment. More information on this topic can be found on the Fishing License page of the Ontario website.
Just because there are no knowledge requirements for your license, there are several laws and rules regarding fishing that must be strictly adhered to. These laws include things like how many fish you can keep, what size they need to be, what the open seasons for fishing are and so on. This of course is all based on the specific water body you are fishing and the species of fish. The fishing laws are on a different section of that same Ontario website. It’s a short and easy read.
Purchasing Your Fishing License
When purchasing your license, you’ll find there are 2 components. The first being your Outdoors Card which is valid for 3 years. The Outdoors Card is plastic no different than a Health Card or Drivers License. The cost is under $10 and it’s the cheaper part of the deal:) It’s simply your ID to which your fishing or hunting license information is attached.
Once you have your Outdoors Card, you can later add your actual fishing or hunting licenses. For fishing, these are generally purchased as a 1 year or 3 year license. I highly suggest simultaneously purchasing your actual fishing license (3 year version) when you buy your Outdoors Card. This way you only need to carry your Outdoors Card when you go fishing. If you purchase any licenses AFTER your Outdoors Card (Ie. buying fishing licenses annually), you will need to carry a printout of your license summary in addition to your Outdoors Card.
The Outdoors Card and fishing license can be bought in person at many tackle or outdoors stores in addition to Service Ontario outlets. It can also be done online at Hunt and Fish Ontario. This is also where you manage your account or purchase additional licenses such as hunting. If you have been considering hunting, we can help you start hunting as well.
Sport Fishing vs Conservation Fishing License
The fishing license comes in 2 versions: sport and conservation. By example, on my lake the catch limit for bass with a sport license is 6. For conservation it’s 2. The difference between licenses are simply limits and price. I suggest a sports license if you are new and not sure how much fish you intend to keep.
Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary
Every year the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) determines the size, catch limits, open season dates and so on. We know them as the MNR but technically this body of government is now the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. Their regulations and limits are based on research they conduct. This helps prevent overfishing and it’s really there to protect healthy fish populations and conserve natural resources for future generations.
The Ontario Fishing Regulations Summary is always issued free of charge in booklet form. You’ll find it in outdoors stores like Sail or any tackle shops. It is also available for download in pdf.
At first, sorting out all the regs may seem daunting but it’s not. Unlike hunting which is more complicating, fishing is fairly straight forward. You will definitely need a copy of this booklet and note that it changes annually.
You must have your license before you go fishing and I highly, highly suggest reading the pertinent sections of the regulations for the water body you want to fish before you go fishing! The fines and penalties for not following the rules are severe.
Free Family Fishing Opportunities
There are 4 occasions when Ontario and Canadian residents can fish without a license. At time of writing (2022) here are the dates:
- Family Fishing Weekend (Feb 19-21)
- Mother’s Day Weekend (May 7-8)
- Father’s Day Weekend (June 18-19)
- Ontario Family Fishing Week (July 2-10)
You must have government ID and follow conservation fishing limits. More importantly, I bring this all up as it’s a perfect opportunity for someone on the fence to try fishing free of charge and see if it’s for them. This DOES NOT happen in the hunting world.
Types of Fish
I am in the Kawarthas myself. Generally we have sunfish, perch, crappie, bass, walleye (pickerel) and muskie. For this post, I’ll elaborate on these fish types and we can cover some other varieties in later posts. It’s important to learn the various types of fish as you’ll need to know how to identify them, how to fish for them and what lures to use. Let’s consider learning this step 1 after getting your license.
Let’s throw the Bluegill into this category as well and chalk them up as the little guys we don’t target. A very small group of people like fishing for these, I really don’t understand why as they are too little to put up any fight so the sports aspect is out. They also don’t have a lot of meat and is simply not worth keeping. You will catch them inadvertently and probably do exactly what I do and gently put them back in.
An FYI, children love fishing these as they are easy to catch and quite fun for them. We’ll cover that towards the end.
If you fish Lake Erie, you can get some pretty big Perch! In your typical inland lakes, you’ll get small ones. That being said, it’s not something I target as I go for bass and walleye but I do catch the odd Perch. If it’s big enough, I’ll keep it as they are really tasty!
Crappies are interesting, even the name as I can’t imagine who came up with that. These fish are flat, imagine a giant sunfish but dark in colour. When hooked up, they fight insanely and give you the impression you caught something big! The fight does die off fairly quick and a good indicator you have a crappie.
I’ve fished my lake in particular for two decades without ever knowing they exist. Now they are very abundant. The upside with these fish is they taste great and I find them to be very easy to fillet. On my lake, the season is open all year and the catch limit is huge at 30 for a sports fishing license.
Bass are a fun fish to catch. When you hook up, you generally know it’s a bass as they fight good. They have a tendency to come up to the surface and often jump out of the water. It’s no surprise many anglers target this fish and it’s a fairly easy species to catch.
I can’t say I notice a major difference in taste or should I say I’m no connoisseur. But a bass is bass and nothing special… The odd time cleaning them, you’ll find worms in their bellies and that can turn some people off.
The coveted of all fish around here and native to all of Canada. It’s an excellent tasting fish and targeted by many an angler. But it’s a lot harder to catch and always has been. I have my techniques that work amazing on these fish but must admit they are becoming more scarce. To give you an idea in comparisson to crappie, the limit (number of fish you can keep) for walleye on my lake is 4. It used to be 6. There is also a limited open season that runs from some time in May to November.
FYI: If it’s not an open season for a certain fish, you are not allowed to target them let alone keep them. If you catch one by accident, you must immediately release it.
I’ve always known walleye as pickerel. Supposedly the American nomenclature is walleye. You will however find them listed as walleye in the Ontario regulations. The terms have been used interchangeably around here and probably the source of many a fireside debate. I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong but my point is if you speak to someone about pickerel or walleye, you are talking about the same thing:)
Muskellenge, Muskie or Musky
These guys are like the sharks of freshwater. We are talking a 24″ – 48″ fish with big and sharp teeth. To paint a picture, I don’t keep my catch in a live-well on the boat, I chain them and put them in the water right beside the boat. I’ve lost a few bass and walleye over the years to muskies going after the “low hanging fruit” of a captive fish. More importantly though, the muskie is capable of attacking a fish this size.
While I haven’t seen it myself, the story goes that many a lady have been bitten on the toe thanks to some shiny red nail polish. These guys are definitely predators.
The muskie stinks and is often a good indicator that one is in the area. That smell almost always correlates to a lapse in bites on your lure – probably because other fish fled the area. The muskie is not typically targeted for food. What the muskie is however is a trophy fish you catch for fun or stuffing on the wall. You then post the photo on Facebook and brag about it for the next 30 years. That is if you can catch one:) They are a lot harder to catch than all the other fish listed here and rarer in general. I’d save this guy for targetting later if you are just starting out in fishing.
The last item to mention here is it seems like when a water body has muskie, it doesn’t have pike. The opposite is true for water bodies with pike. The pike is also a common fish and a part of the same family as muskie.
I’d like to briefly elaborate on the muskie for food. I always knew it as a not to eat fish and assumed it was based on smell or taste. I learned later in life that several people eat them and the taste isn’t bad at all. Personally, I like to take a quick picture and put them back in. It’s almost a sacred right of passage to catch one and giving it back to the fish gods couldn’t hurt either.
It must be noted that Muskie does carry higher levels of mercury and its consumption is non-advised for children, nursing mothers, or people that want to have children.
If anything, I wouldn’t “target” it specifically for food as you may end up starving to death:) No pun intended.
The Benefits of Eating Wild Fish
Since we are mentioning taste as we cover the fish types, let’s consider what kind of meat fishing provides:
- Wild / Free Range
- Antibiotic Free
- Hormone Free
- Gluten Free
- insert trendy catchphrase here!
I want to cover this quickly before we continue as these benefits simply don’t occur to most people. There is nothing more fresh and tasty than a just caught and cooked, fillet of fish, pan fried in some butter. If you haven’t experienced that, the reward is beyond exceptional and you are in for a treat!
Can you Catch and Release Fish?
Unlike hunting where you can’t recall that bullet or arrow, fishing does tick off one extra box. Catch and release is a very viable and sustainable fishing option. In other words, if you are looking for something fun to do outdoors but don’t want to be a part of the ecosystem or maybe the thought of filleting is not for you, you can safely and sustainably release any fish you catch. Unless of course you caught a very select few of the invasive species that are not permitted back in.
What Fishing Equipment Do I Need?
There is a basic set of equipment that is required and others are wish list items. Let’s look at what you need, how to choose it and why:
Tip: If you do need to purchase fishing equipment, I highly suggest not going overboard and too high end. This is especially true in the beginning as you don’t yet know what you truly want. Try to take the middle ground in price and you’ll get some quality gear that will last.
The most important piece of equipment is the fishing rod and reel so I’ll cover this in greater detail. You’ll need a good rod and reel combination and it should be something that you actually like and feels good to handle and use. This is easily achieved by getting the right rod suited to your style of fishing.
Let’s start with length. Something around the 6 to 8 foot mark is the sweet spot. Too long and the rod is too cumbersome to deal with. Too short and you loose feel and reach in general. I checked my favourite rod for comparison as I honestly don’t know it’s specs off hand. It comes in at 6’6″. In fact, I just realized all my rods are 6’6″. The sections below will elaborate on other big details.
Fishing Rod Action
Next comes stiffness. The action of a fishing rod is the speed with which it returns to a normal straight shape. It also affects how much of the rod bends when applying force to the tip. Faster action = faster return to straight position, bending is closer to tip = stiffer rod. Slow action rods will bend almost all the way. Rods generally come slow, medium, fast and extra fast.
A softer (slow action) rod will cast farther and will handle certain baits better. However, it’s best suited for smaller fish. Fast action rods are much stiffer. This has an advantage during times when you need a quick response in your lure. Ie. when setting the hook. In basic form, the faster the action, the more suited the rod is for bigger fish.
Checked my favourite rod again, action is fast! That suits bass, walleye and so on which is my main target and probably yours as well. It’s also the best of both worlds as that happy sort of medium in between slow and extra fast action. If you haven’t guessed it, I would also say it’s the best place to start for your first fishing rod.
Fishing Rod Action for Trolling
If you like trolling (covered farther below), you’ll want a bit stiffer rod. Even within the action classes, there can be quite the difference in stiffness. You can check this by holding the rod normally and standing 90 degrees right beside a wall. From the side, push the tip (even last 6″ of the rod) against the wall sideways, you can even sort of bounce it a little against the wall (without letting the tip leave the wall). It’s the best way for you to “feel” how much bend you have in general.
I do apologize, I won’t be able to explain what’s correct when doing this test above. Even a video won’t do it as there’s no way to digitally convey feel. It’s an advanced technique you’ll learn with experience and over time. However, even if you compared 2 different rods right now, you’ll see the difference in them by trying this.
Tip: If you already troll and prefer certain rods, check it this way and you may quickly see the commonality amongst your favourite rods. Now you actually know why! The biggest upside is you’ll know what to “feel” and be able to get it right when out buying another trolling rod.
Fishing Rod Power
If action isn’t enough, rods are also measured by power and it’s a major factor. From ultra light to extra heavy, there’s yet another range to contend with. All my rods, at least the ones where the writing is still legible is medium. In a nutshell, power is about how much force is required to bend the rod. More power = suited for bigger fish in general.
Naturally power will also affect stiffness. Between action and power, we have two variables to control: how much bend we allow and where the rod bends.
The Spinning Rod
There are various types of fishing rods but the dominant ones are bait casting vs spinning. Sadly the naming conventions are confusing as “spinning” rods are also meant for casting. They’re just meant typically for lighter lures. They are also not as advanced as bait casting rods and hence much better suited for beginners.
The spinning rod is a great all around rod, the most popular of fishing rods and the easiest to use. It’s also my suggestion for you.
Tip: I like a lighter rod myself and find that quite common. If your going to fish for hours on end, you have to consider fatigue which sets in a lot faster with a heavy rod.
Fishing Rod and Reel Brands
Be warned, there are a ton of awesome brands out there and they are so shiny my wallet goes into hiding as soon as I enter a tackle shop! Frankly, it’s confusing and hard to choose. So I’ll share what I use in case you need an idea. Personally, I use Shimano more than anything as it’s great value for the money. They have no affiliation to the blog, their products just last a long time and are well made. It honestly doesn’t matter to me what you choose, but if you are lost amongst the sea of big brands, maybe give Shimano a try.
On my thirteenth birthday and bless my grandparents’ hearts for what they did, it was time for me to graduate to an adult rod and reel of decent quality. So they bought me a Shimano rod and reel that I used and caught thousands of fish with for the next 25 years. To this day, there’s nothing wrong with it but I retired it as I couldn’t bear losing it. Cost: Around $100 if I remember correctly but that was in 1992…
What about the Fishing Reel?
I suggest starting with an open (not push button) spinning reel.
One of the bigger considerations in reels is gear ratio, Ie. A reel with a ratio of 5.2:1 turns the spool 5.2 times every time you crank the handle 1 time. The higher the ratio, the faster you can reel the line in. However, it makes it physically harder to reel heavy fish as the ratio gets higher. Most spinning reels are between 5.2:1 to 6.2:1 and not a deal breaker either way.
The other main difference comes in the quality and number of bearings a reel has. This determines how “smooth” a reel will be. Quality reels are made with ball bearings and you’ll often see “ball bearing” written right on it somewhere with a number proudly stating how many.
Spool capacity is one other thing to watch for. You don’t want a spool that is too shallow as it holds too little line. It will affect casting, how much line you can let out and limit your fighting ability if you hook a big one and choose to tire the fish out. Too much line and it costs a lot to fill and replace periodically. My favourite spinning reel holds 100 yards of 10 lb line and is a happy balance for the fish types we covered above – other than muskie.
The Shimano Sienna is a budget, entry level reel for Shimano and it will get you out there. Moving up in price is something like the Daiwa Fuego – which we own ourselves and can attest is an outstanding reel for the money. As you climb the ladder you get more options when ordering (affects price) but you can tailor the reel a bit more to your needs. I won’t link anything else as reels can keep going up in price to hundreds of dollars. Other than for avid anglers who know what they want, I don’t see the point of looking at it now.
Final Words on Rod and Reel
Most of my rods are fairly old and rods are so personal that I can’t really suggest a specific one for you. My go to rod these days is another Shimano (approx $100 spinning rod and reel combo) bought 12 years ago. 6’6″ long, 6-14 lb line weight, 1/8 – 5/8 oz lure weight, power is medium and action is fast. Anything of similar specs will cover the fish types listed above except for the muskie of course.
My advice is borrow some rods if you can and see what you prefer. Then run out and spend around the $200 mark or up for a rod and reel that is right for you. You’ll be very happy with the outcome.
What is the Best Fishing Line?
In the old days, there was only monofilament. Today that’s the cheap stuff, well, sort of. The big problem with mono is that it dries out over time and will break. While all lines need replacement eventually, mono is only good for a year and braid can often handle multiple seasons.
A simple test to see if the line is still good: tie a basic knot (with room on both ends so you can grab a decent section) and pull hard to see if it breaks. Especially do this before buying new monofilament line in store! You’ll be shocked at how many fail even when “new” in package. With mono, it’s also a spring chore to check and replace all your lines.
“Newer” to the market is braided line. It’s a lot more money but it hardly ever breaks. It also lasts for years, at least mine does. More importantly, I have not lost fish to broken lines ever since I have made the switch to braid.
When I said mono is cheap and braid is more expensive, once you factor the longevity of braided line it becomes a debate about what is actually more cost effective to run. Of all things though, DO NOT skimp on line as you will regret it when you lose fish after fish!
Braided Fishing Line
Suffix has made a great name for themselves and their 832 line in braid is exactly what I use. As a general rule of thumb, I would sugget 20 pound line for basic bass or walleye fishing. Speaking of which, a main feature of line is weight. Weight of pull that is and is the first thing to look for when comparing line. Basically a 10 lb line means it will hold 10 lbs without breaking.
I’ve always used 12 – 20 lb line. If looking at braided, it will spec a monofilament equivalent. In the line suggested above, its properties (thickness) are similar to that of 8 lb mono but its strength is actually 20 lb. One of the major factors of why braided is so popular.
Bigger isn’t always better so don’t go overboard on line weight. Heavier line won’t cast as far nor will the reel’s spool hold as much line.
How to Tie Fishing Knots
Since we are on line, a quick aside. Quite often a sheet with common fishing knots come with line. Usually slipped inside or part of the packaging. If not, there’s an awesome iPhone app called Knots 3D. For Android folks who don’t have a cool phone, your in luck as well. This app covers all knots, including fishing. It shows them in video format that can be slowed down which will make your life a lot easier!
Don’t have a cell phone, also not a problem! Here’s a YouTube video on the trilene knot from the channel and with credit to FTWQ. This knot is what I’ve used for almost 40 years!
I put this below the video, in case you watch it but here’s an FYI. When he says it’s time to “lubricate” the knot right before cinching, he probably licked it or put it in his mouth to moisten it. And he’s absolutely right, it prevents the line from cutting itself and there is indeed a purpose to it. It also helps seat the knot. This step should not be omitted, but don’t worry it doesn’t taste bad:)
The best news of the day is you only need to know one knot to go fishing! So don’t loose any sleep over all the infamously tricky fishing knots:)
You’ll want some snaps. They go on the end of the line so you can change lures without re-tieing every time. You’ll find an economomical swivel snap pack from Amazon. Your line ties to the round swivel and your lure is attached by using the clasp on the opposite end.
You will also need some weights which are lead to sink certain lures. I prefer the inline types that go on before the swivel. Granted, I don’t change lures often. Some people may prefer the clip on weights for ease of adding and removal.
What are the Main Types of Fishing Lures?
Many people fish with a simple hook and worm or hook and minnow, it’s called bait fishing. I don’t like live bait myself, it’s a PITA and a chore to constantly fetch and store live bait. Worms attract the sunfish and I’m not so charitable in my spare time as to feed little fish all day. Admiteddly, I’ll use minnows in the fall when walleye go deep looking for warmer water and that’s about it.
The alternative to live bait is lures. A good tackle kit in general will have a variety of the following man made lures such as:
- Jerkbaits and crankbaits (generally fake minnows) either jointed or straight including surface & diving plugs
- Jigs (hook and weight combo) which can be fitted with all kinds of plastics or live bait
- Spoons which are basically shiny metal spoon shapes and a hook
- Spinners (anything with a spinner)
Truthfully, most of what I’ve caught comes from a homemade rubber worm rig with beads and a spinner. So I suppose it properly falls in the spinner category. I’ll write an entire post on how to make it one of these days. This rig has served me well for almost 40 years! And I’ve caught everything on the types of fish list above with it, even a muskie. Here it is:
A Basic Set of Lures, On A Budget
The Topconcpt 275 piece Kit is NOT for an established fisherman so please don’t buy it as a gift for one. The seasoned fisherman already has a large assortment of lures, including their favourites. What this kit does do is at around $40, for a beginner with no lures, it’s an opportunity to try an assortment of different lures without much financial risk.
We all start out with something like this but it is one item I can’t speak to as I don’t own it myself – and can’t refer it wholeheartedly. My point here is quality lures range from $5 to $30 a piece and you need enough variety to test the waters and see what actually works for you.
Your other option is to scour the used market like Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace. Your challenge here will be establishing if the value is correct. For that, hopefully you have a friend that likes to fish and you can run it by them.
My final point here is if money is tight but you are dying to go fishing, focus your budget on your rod and reel. It’s easier to add lures later and build a set as you go and over time.
Getting Some Better Lures
You’ll eventually want brands like Megabass, Teckel, 6th Sense, Rapala, Rebel, Berkeley, Heddon, Mepps, and so on. If you’ve confirmed fishing is for you and budget permitting, by all means stop by a tackle shop and get a few of each of the lures on my list above from the better brands. Better yet, ask behind the counter and they’ll be more than happy to help you put together a basic set, perhaps even tailored to your area if you get a good clerk. If they’re not, in all seriousness go to a different store as they don’t deserve your business.
Either route you take, I suggest getting a few of each type of lure in varied colours and sizes. Just get out there and start throwing them to see how they work and what you prefer. Each water body, region, type of fish, time of year and so on is different and only time will tell which lures work best for you.
A Basic Tackle Box
You’ll need something to store your line, weights, swivels, hooks, lures, pliers and so on. This is where the tackle box comes in. A good tackle box will have an assortment of compartments that are correctly sized to organize your tackle.
I’ve had 2 iterations of tackle boxes over the years. For basic fishing or for someone with little tackle, the Flambeau Double Satchel is perfect. I use one myself. If casting offshore or moving around, it’s a lot less to carry yet big enough to give you everything you need for a basic set. When on shore, especially in tight areas, it doesn’t take up a lot of space. With compartments on both sides and simple access, it also gives you quick access to the things you need. Mine is always full and ready to go wherever I go.
The Main Tackle Box
For a more extensive set of fishing gear, I use a bigger box and prefer the Plano Guide Series. These are soft sided and have ample pockets for gear with organizer trays for lures. I keep my lures organized by type in the trays. This way when pulling a tray, all my similar lures are together making an easier and quicker choice of which one to go for.
I generally keep this in my boat so I don’t have to grab it when heading out. I understand that some people may not have that luxury. However, one can pop in a phone or other items needed in these compartments so as to only have to carry 1 bag when heading out.
I can tell you after years of use, I have no issue with my box and love it as much as the day I got it. It is a big step up from the old school, chunky, plastic flip up lid style boxes. God forbid if you ever flip the old school ones over, it becomes a mess and a half. The Plano Guide Series is a winner.
Fishing Pliers – Very Important
Make sure you get yourself a pair of long nose fishing pliers. You’ll need this for when the fish swallows the hook too far. And trust me, it happens. Without the pliers, you’ll be reaching into a fishes mouth (often with teeth) or you won’t be able to reach far enough by hand. That means you’ll be cutting your line, re-tieing, wasting time and losing your lure.
Stringer – Very Important
I did mention earlier that I use a chain and not a live-well. By chain I mean a “stringer”. When keeping your catch, you want to keep your fish alive until you come in. It prevents rot but it posses a minor challenge with handling your keep.
First of all, a live-well is only available on a boat as a built in. And most boats don’t have them. Yes, it keeps the fish alive. But when you come in you need to drain it, catch your fish which are flopping around in a box, transfer your fish to a container, wash your hands and sometimes even wash the well to avoid the smell. Then you bring your fish home and clean your container… By container, usually a bucket. This process is a nuisance.
The stringer on the other hand is tied to the boat or something on shore. All you need to do is keep the fish in the water to keep them alive. If you are you are on a boat, just remember to pull in the stringer before gunning it for home. The Rapala Metal Stringer is quality and one area I highly advise you don’t skimp. The $14.99 stringers are basic metal and will get rusty leaving a mess out of anything you leave it on. Or your hands.
Last but not least in the gear department is a net. Unless you are going after really big fish, you don’t need a net if starting out. It’s something you can deal with later. All I do want to say here is the day you buy a net, get a tangle free one. Sometimes they achieve this by putting a thick coating on the mesh. Either way and I’ll say this out of experience, don’t waste your time with a basic mesh net – it will tangle with your lures (and fish) over and over again.
Let’s cover the basic techniques or methods of fishing and I think you are ready to go!
The oldest method of fishing. In its basic form, live bait goes on a hook and down towards the bottom of the water. You pull it back a given amount so it’s not on the very bottom. Then you put your rod down and watch the tip for movement.
Using this method, you can actually set the depth to anything you want.
Floating bobbers aid in casting this type of rig out and then watching the bobber go under vs watching the tip of your rod. This especially helps when fishing from shore so as to get your bait farther out and into deeper water.
This is basically casting lures. You can cast and pull in evenly such as pulling in a rubber worm rig. You can bounce a weighted lure across the bottom. Big surface plugs are fun, it’s a jerk and reel action – jerk the rod, watch the plug dive, reel in the slack and repeat with pauses in between. That’s the muskie method my grandfather taught me.
A similar concept is “Walking the Dog”. Here’s a YouTube video from Scott Martin I found that demonstrates it nicely. This method with a good lure can drive bass crazy. Not to mention, topwater fishing opens up shallower areas for fishing.
I have my spots, I like to troll them. In fact, I spent 95% of my time fishing time trolling. You basically cast in and drive your boat around very slowly. Generally, I do big circles in my favourite locations. Some spots allow a straight run and you turn around and troll back.
This method is not only fun as the scenery changes, it works and has served me very well all these years. I’ve caught countless bass and walleye trolling with my simple rubber worm rig and it boggles peoples’ minds when I would come in every time with a full chain.
By trolling, your lure spends MORE time in the water. That means MORE chances of catching something. You are moving around constantly which also helps your odds of finding fish.
The big key with trolling is to go slow. Most people use a little electric trolling motor on their boats to achieve their desired speed. I’m just used to sitting behind the wheel like normal and idling my boat motor. It’s far more comfortable! But most boats still go too fast at idle to troll…
I don’t remember who discovered this around 30 years ago but it was like hitting the lottery. My family has had the Happy Troller Trolling Plate on 4 different boats over the last 30 years. I’ve also had countless friends fall in love with it. Simply pull the cord when at your destination and the plate drops. It brings your boat to that tantalizing perfect speed for trolling!
Trolling for Walleye
Tip: The big secret to the catching the coveted walleye is to troll slowly! I’m referring to the prime season during the heat of the summer when the water is warmer. The walleye get lazy this time of year. With a low speed, they will bite and you need to watch for it. When you get a small tug, don’t set the hook – feed it some line and set the hook when you get that secondary strike! This is a game changer for those that can figure it out.
Remember, most people are trolling too fast!
The added bonus when targeting and trolling for walleye: You will pickup a lot of bass, crappie and everything else along the way.
Where Should I Fish?
I don’t know, ask around! All kidding aside, you need to get to know your waters and know where the fish hang out and when. Over time as your fishing skills develop, you’ll even understand why.
Fish have common traits and habits but I do find they respond to different lures in different areas. I really do mean it when I say ask people and don’t be afraid. Some fisherman are really nasty about sharing their spots and others are like an open book. Some will sit down and chat away for ages. You have nothing to lose so keep asking people until you get the ones willing to help. Ask where to fish, what to fish and what lures are working. This will really accelerate your success in fishing with respect to the local area you are in.
One other consideration on location is the time of year. Fall time fishing for example is vastly different than in the summer. As the water temperatures and seasons change, so do fish habits.
Finding a Good Fishing Spot
What I can tell you is I always fish the underwater drop offs. I like to fish close to islands and shoals – generally the depths change here. This strategy doesn’t work with all islands, only time will tell which ones are better. Areas with a lot of channels also seem to yield excellent results. If you have different water bodies, try fishing where they connect.
The other areas I prefer are fishing along weed beds. Don’t fish the weedbeds themselves, you end up catching nothing but salad. Certain fish like the cover of weeds, whether it’s to hide from light, predators or both. Fishing alongside the weedbeds opens up access to these fish without the aggravation of weeds. This is challenging though, you need to know your waters well to pull it off.
One last tip is fish go deeper during colder months. They seek warmer water. In the heat of the summer, I find the main bite is on around 5-9 pm. When night sets, they are also more likely to come to shore.
If you are new to fishing, keep researching the species you are after and their habits so you know what to look for. And just keep trying different spots until you find your favourites. Don’t be discouraged, when you find a good one it’s like gold. Just be mindful that your spots will have to change with seasons as the fish habits change as well.
Fishing for Kids
Super fun for kids are sunfish and bluegill. To introduce a child to fishing, there is no easier way than going after these guys. For little ones, skip the reel altogether, just tie some line to the last ring of the rod (so no issues with tangling) and attach a very small hook to the other end. It only needs to be long enough to get a few feet into the water. Go to the dock, add some small pieces of Kraft Singles (or cheddar cheese) to the hook and drop it in. Magic will happen, almost as fast as it goes in the water a fish will generally come!
When I was little I used to fill a bucket with water, catch these little guys, and fill my bucket with fish. I would proudly celebrate my success, say goodbye and gently pour them back in. Don’t keep them in the bucket for too long, I would go half an hour or so.
Your kids are kids. They don’t need a big monster bass they can’t even reel in to be happy. To them a little sunfish is a treasure, understand that. They also get bored and the amount of action far outweighs the actual catch.
Once your little ones are ready to step up a notch, get them a pushbutton rod and reel combo meant for kids. Don’t spend too much money on it, we lost 5 or 6 in one season alone to the bottom of the lake:)
With Kids, Pick your Battles
Grandma got my little guy an annoying 11′ long telescopic, heavy rod. We struggle to get fish in the boat, it’s too long to net or pull in properly! Did she do the right thing? Yes. It got him excited and he would run towards something that was otherwise becoming boring.
Even if the technique is off or the equipment is wrong, don’t sweat it. They are still outside experiencing. If things aren’t perfect, they’re still learning something. You should be happy they are not indoors playing video games.
Try to teach your kids the right habits, ignore it when they insist on some of the bad ones. They want to throw a foot long lure that won’t work, as long as it’s safe, who cares let them. Remember that kids are just curious – they will eventually see your success and will come around as their patience and maturity develops. Keep fishing fun and someday you’ll have a mature fishing buddy eagerly joining you.
What Do I Need For Kids Fishing?
Kids don’t need a license. Once they outgrow the stick and line, I mentioned the kids pushbutton rod and reel combo – keep it simple. Eventually you’ll work them up to a nice graphite rod.
Child Appropriate Rod Length is as follows:
|Age||Rod Length in Feet|
|3 – 5||2 – 3|
|6 – 9||4 – 5|
|10 – 14||Over 5|
Just a heads up, your child will want their own tackle box. My little one that doesn’t even fish yet wants a box:) Either grab a hand me down, used box or cheap small one made for children. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be their own prize possession of pride and joy.
Fishing Lures for Kids
When it comes to lures, I scoured tackle shops that had used sections and Kijiji. I did very well this way. You can buy used tackle for a fraction of the cost and believe me your child won’t care. Discount bins at tackle shops can be awesome! Same deal here, the size, shape and colour is far more important to little ones than the brand and price. Odds are higher your child will cast into things where the lure is unrecoverable! In other words give them ones you are prepared to lose.
Tip: If your child wants to try their luck at casting lures but isn’t ready for a hook, grab some side cutters and cut them off! Give them the joy of lures without the risks of hooks. You can cut the ring (or detach if detachable) that goes between the hook and lure and save the hook for later. If your lure survives your child, you can buy the rings and reattach the hook when they are ready. Once your child can consistently cast safely and well, they are generally ready for a hook.
The last upside I want to give you is for camping, canoe trips, even survival fishing situations as fishing is a viable source of food! If you have ever seen Jim Baird travel by canoe on YouTube, you’ll know what I mean. He travels weeks at a time and in the middle of nowhere. He’ll portage down rapids and hop from river to river with no one around for hundreds of kilometres. Majority of food: caught fish! Imagine a trip like that and trying to carry that equivalent weight and volume of meals with you. It wouldn’t be possible.
Fishing is fun, it’s a past time and that’s how we consider it in general. But it is also a skill and a very valuable one to learn. We can all be the Jim Bairds of the world if we want to. There’s even a little survival fishing tin in my pack and each skill I layer on myself always makes me feel that much stronger in my adventures to the woods. You can do the same.