August 22, 2016
Fishing remains one of the most popular pastimes for those who spend time in the outdoors. In fact, more than 33 million Americans said they went fishing multiple times in 2011, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey released in 2012. And that number is growing all the time. Anyone can take up fishing: kids, senior citizens, and moms and dads seeking more quality time with their children. It doesn’t take great physical skill or elaborate gear to get started, but like any pursuit, the more you learn, the more likely you’ll expand your gear needs. For now, here’s a quick fishing guide for beginners:
Get a license: Check with the local and state agencies that license fishing in your area. Here in Florida, many bait and tackle shops, and some big-box retailers, can issue licenses from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). You can also go online at myfwc.com.
Know the regulations: The FWC enforces the bag limits and size limits for harvesting both saltwater and fresh water game fish in Florida. It is your responsibility to know those regulations. These limits protect the fish by allowing them to reproduce. Of course, you can always practice catch-and-release.
Learn knots: You will need to tie line to the reel (arbor knot), the main line to a leader (Albright knot or double uni knot), and the leader to a hook (clinch knot or non-slip loop knot). There are, of course, many more, so you should learn a few good fishing knots.
Catch-and-release: If you are fishing for pleasure and not to put food on the table, you should release your fish as quickly as possible. Handle the fish as little as possible and follow these catch-and-release guidelines.
Target an area: You can fish just about anywhere: shorelines, around bridges, jetties or piers, and from a kayak, boat or paddleboard. Fishy spots vary when fishing in fresh water and saltwater, but generally fish like shelter and a food source, so look for areas where moving water will present prey to a predator lying in wait. Visit a local bait shop or outfitter and ask for a map that shows the local hot spots. But don’t expect them to give away their “honey holes.”
At a minimum, you’ll need a rod, fishing line, a reel, hooks and bait/lures. Each of these pieces of gear comes in various forms and will depend on what type of fishing you’ll be doing.
Rod: Rods can be a single piece or break down into multiple segments for easy transport and travel. The length and flex of the rod can greatly affect casting performance and fish-fighting capabilities.
Fishing line: Line comes in varying strengths and types. You want to use the right type and size line for the species you are after, so consult a bait shop or outfitter for the best match.
Reel: Your reel holds, releases and recaptures the line. There are many types of reels; spin fishing, bait casting and fly-fishing reels are very different from each other. A reel with an adjustable “drag” system can increase or decrease the resistance on the line when fighting a fish. A reputable outfitter can show you which ones will work best for the type of fishing you’ll be doing.
Hooks: Again, there are many sizes and shapes, and certain ones work best in specific situations. For example, a live bait hook is designed to hold a small baitfish and allow it to swim. A hook for fly-fishing will have feathers tied to it to imitate baitfish.
Bait/lures: This takes many forms. After all, you have to fool the fish into eating something. Bait can be smaller live fish. A lure can be a hand-tied fly, or a hard or soft artificial lure. Talk to the experienced anglers and outfitters about which baits and lures work best for the species you are after.
You don’t need a lot of knowledge or equipment to have fun fishing, but with some patience, perseverance and trial and error, you’ll soon be posing for photos with a big one.
Bill Jackson’s Fishing Shack boasts experienced associates who fish every spare moment and who can give you information on fishing Florida’s fresh and saltwater environments. We specialize in saltwater fly-fishing, and offer free fly-tying classes each week. We also offer instruction on fly-casting with professional instructors for a modest fee.