A recreational fishing trip can be a very simple, inexpensive effort that involves grabbing your favorite rod-and-reel and some lures and walking to a local pond for an hour or two of relaxation. On the other hand, it can be a challenge for someone that has not been fishing before and wants to include the kids in their first fishing venture.
This article is intended to provide some pointers for people with little or no fishing experience, simply scroll through the article and review the issues that apply to you. Links will take you to some great on-line resources that will make planning easier and more successful.
A STEPWISE APPROACH
As you plan the details of your trip, you may want to think about these questions:
- WHERE ARE YOU GOING FISHING?
This is the most fundamental question for planning your trip. Once you know where you are going, issues such as what fishes are available, whether you will need a boat, and the length of your trip will all become clearer.If you know where you are going and what facilities are available great, its a good start. Next, look up local water bodies, or get an idea for a long vacation trip in other states. Once there, look at the type of fishes that are available and the local facilities. Is there bank/shore fishing available, is there a pier, a boat ramp, boat rentals, a local bait-and-tackle shop, restrooms, security lighting, paved roads, restaurants and motels—these issues will let you know what you need to bring and what you can purchase or rent once you get there. You may also want to check out the link to the state fisheries management Web site, which will have additional information you may need including information on licenses, regulations and possibly local fishing tips and forecasts.
- WHAT ARE YOU FISHING FOR?
Now that you know where you are going and what types of fishes are available you should learn just a bit more about the species. Is it a saltwater or freshwater fish? How big do they get? Where in the water body are they most likely to congregate? What types of bait or artificial lure is best for them and how heavy a rod and fishing line should you use? All of this information can be found on-line. Search in google for “Identifying Your Catch” and also check out the “learn to fish” tips on Youtube, if you are new to fishing.
- WHO ARE YOU GOING WITH?
This is an important issue especially if you are going with children or anyone who may be physically challenged. Remember that if you are in a boat everyone will need a life jacket, and if you are going with children that can’t swim it is good to have a life jacket for them even to go bank fishing.The Americans with Disabilities Act is working with the Federal Government, States and Local Communities to make fishing accessible to everyone. Look for the classic handicapped accessibility icon to assure you that it will be easy for not only handicapped individuals, but also youth, seniors and temporarily impaired anglers to use the facilities.
- WHY ARE YOU GOING FISHING?
Think about whether you primarily want to take a young child out and excite her/him with a quick trip and fast action, or are you looking for a meal, a trophy or perhaps most likely, just a nice relaxing trip that lets you enjoy being out on the water, communing with nature and reconnecting with your family and friends.
- WHEN ARE YOU GOING?
Certain fish species are much more likely to be active at certain times of the year and at specific times of day. They may also be affected by weather patterns, tides, or lunar phases. Although none of these items are critical to a fun trip, knowing a little more about these points can make the catching part of the trip more successful. Check out the new “When to Fish” page for some great advice and links. For instance, the Weather Channel can give you current weather conditions and forecasts for anywhere in the country. Its good to know whether a big storm is on the way before you have a trip spoiled, but more than that a steady or rising barometer tends to produce more fish than when the barometer is falling. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides information on tides, shoreline fishing is affected by whether you are fishing an incoming or outgoing tide. An hour before to an hour after a high or low tide is normally best. The US Geological Survey has information on current water levels, which sometimes can be very important to freshwater anglers. The US Navel Observatory lets you calculate the sunrise/sunset and lunar phases for any location in the world. The full moon is often the best time to fish, but generally between a new moon and full moon is better than a waning moon. A site that puts a lot of this information together for you using an on-line calculator is “the best fishing times”.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW THE WHERE, WHAT, WHO, WHY and WHEN, WHAT STEPS ARE THERE TO PLAN THE TRIP?
Okay, now that you’ve run through the questions above in your mind, what is left to do?
- Check and make sure everyone that needs one has a valid fishing license.
- Pack your tackle:
- Rod and Reel—keep in mind the type of fish you are after and the level of expertise of your fishing party. A simple canepole is great for a kid’s first trip. A closed-face spincast reel is simple for anyone to use and will extend your casting range. A open-faced spinning reel is one of the most versatile choices and is a good step up. A baitcasting reel may be the work horse for most tournament and pro-fishermen but takes a little practice before you hit the water for the first time. For many anglers, flyfishing is the ultimate experience—but it is not the tackle you should take to the water for your first uninitiated fishing trip.
- Lures or Bait—make certain you have enough lures of the right size and type for the fish species that are found in your area. Checking with local bait-and-tackle shops immediately before your trip can get you some inside advantage on the right colors and styles. Live bait is more often than not the most productive fishing tool if you match it to the fishes natural food, but make sure you have the right container to keep your bait cool and alive.
- Tackle—check your fishing line to make sure there is enough line left on your spool and that it is of an appropriate weight. It’s a good idea to have a back-up spool or extra line if you are planning an extended trip. Similarly, check your tackle for weights, floats, swivels and hooks to make certain you have what you need.
- Miscellaneous fishing gear—a pair of nail clippers for trimming line, a hook remover or needle nose pliers, a fillet knife, a landing net or small net (to scope bait may be handy), a plastic rain poncho, flashlight and towel are all handy to have. A ruler for measuring fish (especially if there are legal size limits to consider) is nice to have along. If you plan to keep any of your catch, a stringer, live-well, bucket or ice chest will be needed. If you are going to release your catch, consider bringing a camera and scale.
- Personal Needs—sunscreen, insect repellant, perscription medicines, water or other beverages, snacks, and possibly some toilet paper are good items to consider when getting ready.
- Safety Equipment—ensure that you have all the required safety equipment (for example, life jackets, a sound device, a fire extinguisher) if you’ll be boating and it’s not a bad idea to have if you are bank fishing as well. Pack a small first aid kit as well.
- Let Someone Know—tell someone you trust where you’ll be and when to expect you back. If boating, file a float plan.
- Have a great time! Bring your curiosity and a smile along with you, every trip has something new to offer and another opportunity to prove that “Water Works Wonders.”