1 Get a fishing license. Visit the website of the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife or the Department of Natural Resources in which you're planning to fish and obtain a fishing license for information. Typically, there's a fee in the neighborhood of $40 for a resident and twice as much for a non-resident of the state. You'll need to get a license for each state in which you catch fish and can typically do this online, though you might need to visit the office in person in some states.
- Usually, you can obtain a short-term permit to fish if you don't want one for a whole season and want to save a little bit of money. If you live in the area, though, it's usually more cost-effective to buy the full season license.
- In many states, kids under the age of 16 don't need a license to fish. Check the laws in your area to be sure.
- Most states will designate a handful of free fishing days on which anyone can fish, with or without a license. Typically, though, you'll still need to get a note of permission from the DNR.
2 Get a fishing rod and reel. Going to the sporting goods store can be an intimidating experience, but you don't need to break the bank to pick an appropriate rod and reel to get started with. Talk to the guy behind the counter for advice on a rod and pick something in your price range.
- Typically, a medium-length pole will be appropriate for most beginners. Pick a rod that's roughly as long as you are tall and that's a comfortable weight for your casting arm. In terms of flexibility, you'll probably want a fairly "loose" (that is, not rigid) rod to get started with. These rods are less likely to break line and--while not strong enough to fish for big game fish--are plenty strong for the average fish a beginner catches.
- The two basic kinds of reels are baitcast reels, which spool vertically when you're holding the rod, and spinning reels, which spool perpendicular to the rod. Spinning reels are more common for the beginner, and are available in open and closed varieties. Closed varieties are generally operated with a push-button and are great for the beginner.
3 Get an appropriate fishing line and an appropriate variety of hook. The smaller the hook and line, the better the chance of a bite. You want to match the kind of line to the type of pole you've got--if you've got a particularly rigid pole, you'll want fairly strong test line. If you've got a looser pole, get the lightest gauge you can. Smaller line means more fish.
- You need hooks that will fit the kind of fish you're planning to catch. Number 1 hooks work well for many things, but size 8 to 5/0 are more appropriate for some fish. Ask your local tackle shop about the hook sizing system (i.e. 6,4,2,1,1/0, 2/0) and the best tools for the job.
- Making a hook knot is difficult with small hooks and line and can be tricky to get the hang of. Ask a tackle shop owner or your fishing buddy to teach you.
4 Choose the right bait. Synthetic baits like Power Bait are made to resemble and smell like live bait, and pro shops are filled with all manner of elaborate and iridescent plastic lures. But because fish eat insects and aquatic life, there are also lots of effective live baits to choose from if you want a more authentic fishing experience.
- You can either purchase live bait at the local angling shop, or you can gather your own. Many anglers gather worms in a lawn after a rain or late at night with a flashlight. You can find grasshoppers along the banks of a stream, or try catching minnows with a net and bread crumbs or a minnow trap. Keep them in a bucket full of water and keep them alive for as long as possible.
- Each fisherman has a favorite bait, but the old standard are tough to beat. Consider using:
- Salmon eggs
5 Get something to keep the fish in. If you're planning on keeping your fish, you'll want to get a fish cage to keep the fish trapped in water, or a simple bucket to throw them in while you continue fishing. A net is also useful for getting the fish wrangled before you try to grab it off the line.
- If you're going fishing in a boat, bring the necessary gear to be on the water. Life vests are always required, and a boating license is required if the boat has more than 15 horsepower.
- If you're going to be on shore, you might want to bring a lawn chair and some waders to keep your feet dry.
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