Top 10 Fishing Tips Every Angler Should Know
Tip 1: Get Your Stuff Together The Day Before
Nothing can spoil a fishing trip more than getting out on the water and realizing you either don’t have something you need, or left it at home. Many times, you need to be on the water when the sun comes up, so if you neglected to buy bait, hooks, or sinkers, etc… the day before, chances are most bait shops will not be open at this time. You’re just out of luck.
You can avoid this by checking out all of your gear the day before. Notice I said day, and not night. If you need to replace or add something, you need to be able to get to the store while they are open. Inspect your gear, and repair or replace anything that needs it. Make sure your gear is orderly (nothing is more irritating than having to fumble around in a tackle-box, or fishing vest for something, and it’s not where it should be…). Make sure you have all the sinkers, hooks and/or lures you think you may need, plus a few extra. Buy your bait, and make sure you have a way to keep it alive. If you need to seine or trap minnows, crawfish, or catch worms, or crickets, do it the night before. Always include at least 32oz. ( 2 good-sized water bottles) of water for each person going. Never go fishing without water to drink, no matter what time of year it is. Dehydration can hit quickly, without warning, especially on the water. And, make sure your licenses and permits are current. Make sure you have good directions to where you are going. Check the weather forecast. Once you have all this together, set it by the door. Do a final checklist just before leaving, including checking the weather forecast one more time for the area you will be fishing in.
Tip 2: Dress For The Weather
Being cold, hot, or wet can be miserable, and ruin any fishing trip, as well as being life-threatening in extreme situations. Always dress appropriately for the current, and forecasted weather for where you will be fishing. It’s best to dress in layers, so as the day warms up, you can shed some clothes, or if it gets colder, you can add some. No matter what the weather is supposed to be, always have a good jacket, rain gear and gloves with you at all times on the water. I don’t care if it is the middle of summer, keep a jacket with you. Cold fronts can come in quickly, anytime of year, without much warning, and it doesn’t have to be very cold for you to get exposure. Rain can appear at any time, with little warning. If you get uncomfortable, don’t be a hero. There will be other fishing trips. Go home before you freeze.
In warm weather, heat exhaustion, heat-stroke, and sunburn are your main concerns. Ladies, leave the sexy bikinis at home. Not only is it distracting to others who may want to concentrate on catching fish, it exposes you doubly to harmful UV radiation reflecting off of the surface of the water. Sunscreens will repel fish. Wear comfortable cut-off shorts and a light cotton T-Shirt (and please don’t forget the bra…when you sweat, cotton become semi transparent… We’re out here to catch fish, not see a floor show..…). Guys, it might seem cool to shed the shirt and show off your pecs, but a severe sunburn is not fun for anyone. You are actually cooler with a light cotton T-Shirt than with bare skin. Comfortable shorts work for guys, too. Always wear some kind of shoe with good traction, and not sandals. Never wade bare-footed, because other people have probably fished there, too, and left broken bottles, old hooks, and other nasty stuff behind in the water. And lastly, always wear sunglasses, because light reflected off of the water can damage your retinas, even in winter. You should also wear some kind of hat with a brim to shade your eyes from the sun.
Tip 3: Keep Your Hooks Sharp
More fish are lost, and more strikes missed, due to dull hooks, than for any other reason. And there is no reason for it. It is very easy and quick to sharpen a hook, using the Triangle Method. Instructions for this are all over the internet, and on YouTube.
To check your hooks for sharpness, run the point over your fingernail. If it sticks, then the hook is sharp enough. If it slides, the hook is dull. Sharpen it and check it again. If it still won’t stick after a few times, throw the hook away (safely) and use another one.
Tip 4: Use The Appropriate Gear
Another thing that results in less fish is not matching your gear to the fish you are trying to catch. Use the correct equipment for the fish your are looking for. It’s not much fun catching bluegills on a Heavy-Action rod, and you will miss out on a lot of fish. Likewise, your chances of landing a catfish on a puny ultra-light trout or bluegill rod are very remote. Strong fish need strong equipment and gear. Delicate fish need finesse. Bluegills often attack bass lures, but are seldom hooked. Many a bass has slurped a bluegill worm on a light #8 wire hook, and promptly straightened it out. Using gear that is too small results in unnecessary pain, suffering and death to the fish, and less fish landed. Using gear that is too large means you will probably be going home empty-handed.
Tip 5: Use A Fish Basket, Keep Net Or Live-Well. Never Use A Stringer
Stringers are bad, for several reasons. First, rope stringers through the gills interfere with the fish’s ability to breathe, causing inhumane and unnecessary suffering. Stringing through the lip with rope, or metal clasp stringers can allow some fish to tear free, especially fish with soft lips like trout, crappie and bluegills. This causes unnecessary pain, death, and wastes fish. Stringers also allow other predators to attack your fish, rightly assuming they are in distress, and easy targets. It’s not a lot of fun to pick up a stringer and see a venomous Water Moccasin snake latched on to your fish, or a grumpy large turtle chowing down on your crappie. In salt water, of course, stringers attract sharks, barracuda, and other unwanted visitors to your location. Fish baskets allow the fish to stay alive in relative comfort until you are ready to release, or process them. Live-wells, and coolers are even better, because they preserve the fish better.
Tip 6: Fish At The Right Times
As a rule, fish bite best in the early morning, and afternoon. Some fish bite better at night. Mid-day is usually somewhat unproductive for all fish. This is true for most of the year. Solunar Tables predict what times fish will likely be feeding each day. They are based on Moon phases. It’s been my experience that Solunar Tables are pretty accurate for determining the best ‘window’ to be on the water. You can find Solunar Tables all over the web.
Tip 7: Rig Your Bait Properly
A poorly-made rig results in lost fish. Make sure your knots are tied correctly, and it is the proper knot for that situation. Instructions for tying fishing knots and making rigs can be found on dozens of websites, and on YouTube. Use the correct rig for what you are trying to accomplish. Using a bottom-rig for surface-feeding trout is not going to do you much good. LIkewise, a still-water rig will be useless in the fast waters below dam tail races.
Tip 8: Take Care Of Your Equipment
The vast majority of equipment failures are caused by not taking proper care of it, rather than age, or design flaws. I am still fishing with a bamboo fly rod that was made almost 100 years ago. There are several things you need to do if you want your equipment to last, and not fail when you need it most:
Rods and reels need to be rinsed with clean fresh water, dried, and lubed after every fishing trip. The best way to dry them is with a hair dryer set on ‘Cool”, as hot air can damage the rod.
Rods and reels need to be stored properly between fishing trips. Reels need to be removed from the rods, and stored in a lint-free bag, or box. Rods should be in a case, or rod-sock. Don’t just prop them up in a corner of the garage.
Rod Guides should be inspected periodically, and any that show signs of rust, discoloration or (gasp) nicks need to be replaced before using the rod again.
Reels need to be oiled frequently. You should replace the line on them every 6-9 months (monofilament deteriorates from UV, and general wear-and-tear rather quickly).
Lures should be cleaned with fresh water and dried after every fishing trip they are used on. Inspect the hooks frequently and replace any that show signs of rust. Sharpen any dull hooks. Replace worn skirts or tails, and/or nicked spinners and blades. Chipped or faded paint can be touched up with enamel or markers.
All terminal tackle should be stored in an orderly fashion, preferably in a good tackle box.
Never, repeat, never leave your gear in your car for more than a few hours, especially in summer. Heat will destroy it.
Inspect trot lines, jug lines, nets, minnow seines and traps, etc… frequently and repair any damages, or replace worn units.
Tip 9: Always Have Proper First Aid And Safety Equipment
You may scoff at this one, but remember: you are going to be using sharp, pointed objects, probably a knife, and exposing yourself to nature’s hazards, including things that bite, stink, stick and sting. You’ll be walking over rough ground, many times in semi-remote places, and help could be along way away. Always have a good First Aid Kit, Snake Bite Kit (if you’re in viper country!), and some sort of signalling device such as a loud whistle, mirror, or flare gun. Make sure you know how to use them, and keep the First Aid and Snake Bite Kits fully stocked by replacing anything you use from them as soon as possible. Keep your cell phone with you, in a water-proof container. And, this is especially important, never go in a boat without having an approved flotation device for every person on-board, or if fishing from shore, always have a throwable floatation device, attached to at least 25 ft of line, handy. More people die from drowning than any other cause, while fishing.
Tip 10: Lastly, Always Be Aware Of Your Surroundings…
Most of us have 5 senses. Three of them are very important when you are out fishing. They are Hearing, Smelling, and Seeing. They can give you valuable insight as to what’s happening around you. Believe it or not, if you pay attention, you can sometimes smell certain species of fish when they are near, and in shallow water. You can hear fish jumping, and slurping food from the surface of the water. You can see fish jumping, tailing, and cruising in shallow water. You can see the currents, and visible structure that may tell you where the fish are.
You can also see snakes. Water Moccasins (Cottonmouths) are territorial and aggressive, as well as venomous, so it’s a good idea to know where they are, and give them a wide berth. You can see turtles when they stick their heads up to breath. Turtles are a sign that there will probably not be many fish in the area. Cruising gars, sharks and barracuda mean the same thing. On the other hand, wheeling and diving birds often mean there are schools of baitfish underneath them, and lots of bigger fish. Looking at the ground as you go, you may see the scat of large animals like bears, or skunks, that may present a problem. Feeling a breeze picking up could mean a cold front, or storm is on the way, as can dark clouds in the distance.
Always maintain situational awareness of your surroundings. If you need to bug-out, it’s better to do it sooner, rather than later……