How to Catch a Fish
How To Catch A Fish
A successful fishing trip begins long before you get to your favorite fishing hole. Having the proper gear can be the difference between catching one fish after another and spending an entire day waiting for that first bite. Proper planning can go a long way toward preventing the latter.
Your rod and reel selection may not make a big difference in how many fish you catch, but it can affect your level of enjoyment when you do catch fish. I use an ultralight combination whenever possible. This setup makes even the smallest fish feel like a lunker. For stronger fish, such as bass, I would use a medium action rod and reel. This gives me a little bit more strength so I donít have to worry about my fishing pole breaking and I still get plenty of feel. If I am fishing for larger fish, salmon and steelhead for example, I would move up to a heavier action setup. Using a rod and reel combination that is too heavy for the fish you are trying to catch can take the enjoyment out of fighting them.
You should always choose a fishing line that matches your reel. This means that you should make sure that the strength (test) of the line should fit in with the weight of your rod and reel. For example, you should use 2, 4 or 6 pound test line with an ultralight reel. If you are unsure about the line that your reel is designed for, check the side of the spool. Most reels have the recommended line weights and the capacity for each weight printed here. You do not have to spend a lot of money to get the most expensive fishing line, but it is a good idea to get a high quality line. Cheaper line will not be as strong as a 6 or 8 dollar spool of line even though they are listed as the same strength. The last thing you want is to lose a trophy because your line broke.
Before leaving on your trip, be sure to check your equipment one last time. Take your rod and bend it around in all directions. Look to make sure that there are no cracks. If there are, your rod might break if you hook into a larger fish. Take apart the spool on your reel and check to make sure that the gears are well greased and that they are free of dirt and sand. Doing so will ensure that you are able to reel smoothly. This will also prolong the life of your reel. Always check to make sure your line is good. Old line will break very easily and make your fishing trip very frustrating. Always change the line before your first trip of the year. It is also a good idea to change it after every few trips just to be safe.
There are many options available to you when you are choosing your tackle. It can be very confusing. Do you want to use bait, artificial flies or lures? The best thing for you to do is to call a local tackle shop near your fishing spot. Most of the time, they will be able to tell you what techniques have been successful. You should always try to take a good variety of tackle so you can try different things and find something that works for you.
Bait fishing is probably the most widely used method for catching fish. The most successful bait is the one that naturally exists in the area that you are fishing. If a lake has a large crawdad population, then a crawdad can be very effective. A fishís favorite food by far is the worm. No matter what lake youíre at, worms will catch fish. Bait is most effective during the fishesí feeding times which tend to be early in the morning and late in the evening. Non-feeding times can be very slow and bites can be few and far between. Powerbait is a recent addition to the bait fishing arsenal that can be very effective even in the mid-afternoon hours when fish arenít hungry.
One of the most successful methods, especially for trout, is a spinner. A spinner usually consists of a spinning blade followed by a tubular body that is connected to a hook which is generally covered by colored feather or hair. When you reel, the blade flashes light in all directions and can attract fish from great distances when the water is clear. Spinners are designed to look like minnows flashing in the water. Larger fish become aggravated and strike the spinner.
When fishing for species other than trout, such as bass or walleye, other lures can be very effective. When fish are active and in an aggressive mood, a crankbait can yield great results, provided you fish it at the right depth and you retrieve it at the right speed. When fish arenít very active, cold weather for example, you will have more luck using soft plastic baits such as artificial worms, grubs, and minnows. There are many different ways to rig and fish a soft plastic bait, choosing which one you will use is more of a matter of personal preference than anything else. As long as you get the bait to the fish and make it look real (or as close to real as possible) you have a good chance at catching fish.
Another method of fishing whose popularity has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade is fly-fishing. Most fly-fishing is done in rivers and streams, but you can also be very successful in lakes, especially alpine lakes and other lakes that donít see very many fishermen. Once you get the hang of casting with a fly rod (which is no small feat I might add as I know from experience) the most difficult thing is choosing the correct flies to use. This is where local knowledge really helps out because most areas have certain fly patterns that work well and others that donít work at all. Knowing which flies fall into each category can save you a lot of time on the river. It will also allow you to take less gear so you donít have to pack 20 pounds worth of fly boxes when you are fishing. If you know which flies work you can fish an entire day with 6 or 7 flies. If you are heading to a place you have never fished before, you can find out what flies work by calling and asking a local tackle shop or guide service. Find out what bugs are common and when they hatch. If you have the right fly tied on in the middle of a hatch you can catch 20 or 30 fish in an hour. If you have the wrong fly, you might catch 1 or 2, if any.
Fishing in a River or Stream
Some of the best trout fishing can be found in rivers and streams. Most rivers support healthy populations of rainbow trout as well as some brooke trout, wild cutthroat trout, and the granddaddy of them all, the brown trout. Stream fish are generally smaller than those in lakes, but they also tend to be stronger and more aggressive because they are constantly fighting current to swim and they donít have the luxury of examining potential food before it is swept away.
There is a number of places where fish commonly hold up in streams. Tired fish commonly stop to rest in slow moving pools. However, fish commonly move away from these areas on hot, sunny days because rising water temperatures in these areas causes the oxygen level in the water to drop. In areas where there is a strong current, fish usually stay behind larger rocks and wait for food to float past them. Fish will also stay around overhanging trees and shrubs as well as places where the current has eroded underneath the bank. These areas provide shade and protection from birds and other predators. They also provide food because bugs commonly falls from the bushes into the water.
The best way to fish a river is to float downstream and fish as you go. Whether you use a riverboat, a raft, or a float tube, floating will allow you to fish the entire river. It is best to park near where you wish to stop fishing and hitch a ride up to where you want to start. That way you donít have to walk all the way back to your car when you are tired from fishing. Also, be sure to remember to bring an anchor of some sort so you can stop and fish areas where you believe there are lots of fish. Without an anchor, you may only get 2 or 3 casts in these areas and you wonít catch as many fish.
Wading can also be an effective way to fish a river, especially in the summer months when the water level is lower and you have more area where it is shallow enough to walk through. Wading will allow you to fish at your own pace instead of being at the mercy of the current as you are when floating. However, it does limit your fishing area to places where the water is not too deep and the current is not too strong. Wading is the most dangerous way to fish, so there is a couple of things to remember when you are out there. First, before you get in the water, check the area that you wish to fish in. Make sure there are no areas that you will be unable to walk through and that there are plenty of places to get out of the water should anything happen. Second, when you are walking through the water, feel around with your front foot before stepping forward. Make sure that you have a good place to plant your foot. Never pick up your back foot until you are confident that your other foot is planted and that you wonít fall. Avoid stepping on top of large rocks, especially flat ones. Wet river rocks tend to be very slippery. Once you lose your balance in the water, you probably wonít get it back.
Bank fishing can be a difficult way to fish a river, especially if the bank is covered by bushes, trees, and tall weeds, etc.. You are severely limited to areas where you find an opening in the bushes or the weeds are thinned out enough to allow you to walk through them. In the event that you are able to get to the water, casting (especially fly casting) can be nearly impossible.
Once you have figured out how you want to attack a river, you will need to choose your weapon. Do you want to use bait, a lure, or flies? You canít go wrong with any of these as they are all very effective. However, a lot of rivers have regulations against using bait, so this is often not an option to consider. Flies and lures (particularly spinners as these are the most common lures used in rivers as well as the most effective) should both be fished in the same areas. Find a place where fish would normally hide, a big rock in the middle of the current for example. If you are fly-fishing, cast your fly a few feet above the target and let it drift down past the fish by about ten feet. This will allow the fish to chase the fly if it doesnít hit right away. It will also help you avoid spooking the fish when you pull the fly back as this can sometimes make a little bit of noise. If your first cast doesnít work, cast again and again until you catch the fish or until you are satisfied that you arenít going to catch it (as hard as that is to admit). You have to be very alert and always ready to set the hook because fish can be very subtle about taking a fly. They donít normally make a big splash on top of the water or run up and slam a fly below the surface. If you arenít paying attention you will miss the fish because they only hold the fly in their mouth for a second before they realize it isnít food and spit it out.
Fishing with a spinner is essentially the same. Cast just past and above the target by a few feet in each direction. You want the current to push the lure right over the top or right in front of the fish as you reel it in. You wonít have to worry about missing a fish because they usually hit the lure very hard and hook themselves.
Fishing in a Lake
Lake fishing offers many options. Virtually every freshwater fish species can be found and caught in a lake. Some of the most popular include trout, bass, walleye, panfish (crappie, perch, bluegill, etc.) and catfish. In northern lakes, you can also find lake trout, pike and musky. In many lakes, it is possible to catch several different species. Sometimes, you can hook into a fish and not know what it is until you get it up to the boat (or bank, depending on where you are fishing from).
Finding fish in a lake can be very challenging, especially in a large lake as there are many places for them to go. Trout like to migrate around constantly. They usually travel in circles moving between several spots where they look for food. You will want to find one of these spots or one of their ďchannelsĒ that they use to travel in between these spots. Bass and panfish are different. Instead of moving around looking for food, they like to sit and wait for food to come to them. They like to hold up in weed beds, near drop-offs in the bottom, near points, and around submerged structures such as logs, tree trunks and anything else that they can hide in. It can be hard to find these places visually, especially in deep or muddy water. Having a topographical map of the lake bottom can help locate drop-offs and ledges. If you have a boat, a fish finder or other sonar device can help locate structure on the bottom.
Lakes can be fished much more easily from a boat, especially big lakes and reservoirs where the fish are more spread out over large areas. Boats offer you the ability to move around quickly so you can fish more areas in less time. They also give you a chance to fish areas that canít be reached from the bank. You are able to search the lake much more effectively for good places to fish. When you do find a spot where you want to fish, donít park your boat directly above the spot. Fish can see shadows, so you might spook them by parking on top of them. Maneuver your boat 20 or 30 feet to the side and cast to the spot.
Bank fishing can be very successful on any lake, but it is more difficult on large lakes where fish have more places to hide. In these lakes, there will be a smaller percentage of the fish within casting distance of the shore. On smaller lakes, you can fish the whole lake from the bank. The most important thing to remember when bank fishing is to fish the entire area around your spot on the bank. Cast everywhere from 10 feet all the way out to as far as you can cast and go as far right and as far left as you can reach. If you donít catch a fish in one spot, move over a few feet and try again. If you do catch a fish, cast in the same spot. Fish are normally in a group.
Once you find a spot to fish, whether by boat or from the bank, you now have to decide what you want to use to catch them. Fishing with a lure is fairly straightforward. Cast them out and reel them back in. Cover the entire area, varying your reel speed and retrieval pattern. When you find a retrieve that works, stick with it. If one lure doesnít work, change to a different lure and repeat the process. This process can be very exciting if you are catching fish, but it can also be very monotonous if you arenít.
Bait fishing is a waiting game. Two types of bait fishing are very successful. One is bottom fishing and the other is using a bobber or float. Bottom fishing uses a weight attached to the line just above the hook to make your bait sink to the bottom. Once you have cast out and your bait has sunk to the bottom, reel up the slack in the line so your line is tight. You want your line to be just tight enough to eliminate the bow but not so tight that the tip of your pole is bent. If the line is too tight the fish will be able to feel the resistance and it will know something is wrong and it will leave. If you have your line at the right tension, your rod tip will remain straight and you will be able to see it move when a fish hits your bait and the fish will not suspect anything is wrong. Never set the hook the first time a fish hits your bait unless it picks up the hook and runs with it. A lot of the time a fish will not pick up the bait as soon as it sees it, instead it will swim by and slap the bait with itís tail as it passes by. This is what causes the first twitch in the rod tip. When you see the fish pull on the line again, set the hook when the rod tip is still bent, this is when you know the hook is still in the fishes mouth. If the rod tip straightens out before you can set the hook, you have to wait. If the tip isnít bent, the fish doesnít have the hook.
Fishing with powerbait is a little different than regular bait. Instead of keeping the line completely tight, leave about 6 inches of slack. Fish generally approach powerbait a little bit differently. They tend to pick it up and move it a few inches to see what it is and then they drop it. If your line it tight, they will feel you and leave. You can tell when a fish picks up your bait because the line will either pull tight suddenly or it will go slack. When this happens, carefully reel in any slack in your line. When you feel the fish, set the hook.
You would fish with a bobber or float when there are fish suspended near the surface. A float is either a piece of foam, wood or a hollow plastic ball that is placed at varying distances up the line to dangle your bait below the surface of the water. Your goal is to match the depth of your bait to the depth of the fish by moving the bobber up and down the line. There are several different sizes or bobbers, each is designed to hold up a different amount of weight. Try to use the smallest size possible. If you use one that is too big, you will miss fish because smaller fish will not be able to pull it under and you wonít see it. Bobbers are used by casting them out and letting them sit until a fish comes along. When you get a bite, the bobber will bounce up and down on the surface of the water. As soon as the fish takes the bait, the bobber will be pulled under. When this happens, quickly reel in the slack line and set the hook.
Written by Brian Franklin
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