It seems that most newspaper columns, magazine articles and television fishing programs are directed to fairly advanced anglers. Every now and again we should pay more attention to beginning anglers. Everyone has to start sometime. Hopefully the following will help you get started.
What do you need to start fishing?
Basic fishing tackle, enough to actually go fishing, consists of a rod, reel, line, hooks, sinkers and bait. It is not quite this simple, though. You should start with certain kinds of each.
First understand that rods and reels are made for either spinning, spin-casting or casting. Small hands might be best suited to a spin-cast reel. Otherwise I suggest starting with a spinning reel.
In past years spin-cast reels were thought to be the reels for beginning anglers. But in fact, using spinning reels may be easier.
Fishing rods are made to catch virtually any kind of fish, from 6-ounce bluegill to shark that may weigh more than 2,000 pounds. Obviously no single rod is suitable for all. What you should get to start fishing is a rod that will handle most of the local sport fish. This falls into the category of medium-light power, rated for lines in the 6 pound-test to 10 pound-test class and lures that weigh from 1/8 ounce to 3/8 ounce. This will be suitable for catching crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, trout and walleye, maybe even northern pike. It also is just about right for bullhead and sucker, and if they are not too big, for carp.
Look on the rod blank close to the handle and you should see the rating of the rod in these categories. These things will be listed in a catalog if you choose to shop this way.
Reels should match rods. The simplest way to get the proper reel is to buy a rod and reel combination. Otherwise pick a reel that is suggested for line classes that match the rod.
Line should fall within the range suggested for rods and reels. More specifically, 8 pound-test is perhaps the closest thing to a universal line weight for the local variety of fish. Get a monofilament line of good quality, roughly equivalent to cost. Line should either be clear, light blue or light green and translucent. Stay away from braided line for now, and from any other specialty line. I have long used Trilene XL for most fishing purposes.
Now you must learn how to cast. If you have a friend who fishes, then by all means enlist that person to provide some casting instructions. You will need to tie something without hooks to the end of the line that weighs about the same as the weight rating of the rod, about 1/4 ounce. A fishing lure with hooks removed works nicely.
There is no way in this limited space I can adequately explain how to cast with a spinning outfit. If you do not know anyone who fishes, go to a local favorite fishing place and watch others casting. Odds are good that if you ask if you can watch, that person will help you learn how to cast. Anglers tend to be this way.
Special knots are used for fishing. This is another thing that I can not adequately explain here. Like casting instructions, diagrams are next to necessary.
Instructions for casting, tying knots and just about anything to do with fishing can be found on the internet or in books. Start your search by limiting your search to .gov and .edu web sites. They will not be trying to sell you anything.
The basic hooks you need will be bait hooks in sizes ranging from 8 to 4, the latter being the larger end of the size scale.
Sinkers should include a packet of smaller split shot and a packet of larger split shot. There are numerous types of sinkers, but this is enough to get started.
Tie a hook to your line, then pinch a split shot onto the line about a foot from the hook.
Now all you need is bait. The kind of bait you use will depend on the kind of fish you want to catch, and to a lesser degree it will depend on the season. Since it is now summer we will assume you want to start fishing this summer.
Nightcrawlers are excellent bait for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, bullhead or carp. Pinch a nightcrawler in half for trout fishing in the Allegheny River.
Live minnows are very good bait for both bass species, crappie, trout, walleye and northern pike. Use smaller minnows, about 3 inches in length, for stocked trout and crappie, larger minnows for bass, walleye and pike.
That covers the basics of fishing tackle. Next you need to know where to fish. This we will have to get into later. For more help on how to start fishing read the things to do on the Outdoors page for events that teach fishing skills.