Fishing is one of the tastiest sports around, and there is a lot more to it than you might realize. I have tips and tricks prepared for each step of the fishing process, from preparing your tackle box to tackling your fryer.
Before You Cast…
Even before you get in the truck, there are steps you need to take to make sure you’re prepared for a fishing trip.
Of course, before you ever throw a line in the water, you’re going to need to have your fishing license (unless it’s a private pond). Each state has their own regulations and licensing, but fishing licenses are very easy to pick up from any of our Rural King stores. Find the closest store to you HERE.
Or, purchase online by following the link HERE to select your state and get a fishing license.
What I mean by tackle box is the equipment you should have with you before you head out to the lake. The basics are always going to just be a fishing pole and hook, but the list below, from ArtofManliness, contains the top ten things you should bring on every fishing trip.
- Fishing Rod and Reel: Fishing rods come in many varieties, but no matter if you have a telescopic rod or a 2-piece, you’re going to need something to actually fish with.
- Extra Fishing Line: Fishing line comes in different colors and durability, so consider where you are fishing and what fish you are trying to catch when it comes to buying the line.
- Extra Hooks: Hook sizes range from 32 (smallest) to 19/0 (largest), and the most popular style is the traditional J-hook. Just be sure you have a small range of sizes in case you want to go for the largest fish in the lake.
- Bait/Lures: Some folks love live bait and others swear by lures, but the honest truth is that it comes down to what you’re comfortable with. I like to gather my own bait personally, but you can read a list of 7 lures that are reliable year-round by MysteryTackeBox here.
- Sinkers: Your worm and hook won’t sink deep enough for some fish, so you’re going to need sinkers to weigh them down.
- Bobbers: When a fish bites, bobbers let you know when it’s time to start reeling in the fish. Again, you have a few choices when it comes to bobbers, but most go with the round red and white plastic ones because they’re easy to attach. Slip bobbers are also very popular because they allow you to move the bobber up and down on the line to get your hook deeper in the water, but they are slightly more difficult to rig up. In the end, the choice is yours.
- Stringer or Fish Basket: Fish meat can spoil very quickly, so if you’re planning to eat your catch, you’ll want a stringer or fish basket to keep your fish alive in the water.
- Needle Nose Pliers & Pocket Knife: Needle nose pliers are perfect for reaching in a grabbing a hook out of your fish, and a pocket knife is great if you should need to cut your fishing line.
- Bug Spray & Sun Screen: When you’re out by the lake or pond there is going to be a lot of sun and a ton of bugs. Make sure that your skin is protected with some bug spray and sunscreen.
- Small First Aid Kit: You shouldn’t need anything too extensive, but having a small first aid kit out on the water or on the shore is always a good plan.
Anytime is a great time to fish, but fish are going to bite a lot more during early morning or early evening because the water temperature is cooler. The absolute best time to fish is in the evening because the fish continue to become more active as the temperature drops, so the fishing just gets better and better throughout the evening.
Great Fishing Locations
Whether you want to take your fishing gear out in a boat or just fish on the shore, there are plenty of locations to choose from. TakeMeFishing.org has a great map of fishing and boating locations all over the United States, which you can find HERE.
Basics of Fishing
After you have your license, gear, and fishing spot, it’s time to start catching some fish. For those of you that have never fished before, the list below is a quick list of steps to take to get from your first cast to your first catch:
- Attach your hook to your line by tying a clinch knot: Start by threading the end of the line through your hook, then wrap it 4-6 times around itself. After that, feed the end of the line through the loop you’ve created in the line, and pull it tight.
- Put bobbers and weights on your line: If the water is moving quickly, be sure to put a sinker on your line about 12″ above the bait.
- Bait your hook: Assuming you are using a basic Nightcrawler bait, work the hook through your bait as many times as you can by weaving the worm up the hook.
- Cast: Casting sidearm is the easiest for beginners, which uses a similar motion as skipping a stone across the water. Bring your fishing rod back to your side, and in a smooth motion, swing the tip of the rod forward, release the line, and point in the direction you want to cast (releasing the line is different depending on what reel you have. Most basic reels have a simple push-button mechanism that you push to release the line and letting go stops it.)
- Wait for a fish to bite and hook it: Be patient, your first bite could be in minutes or hours of getting your hook in the water. When a fish bites, your bobber will be pulled under the water a bit, and you will want to “set” your hook, which means giving the line a quick jerk up and back. If a fish is hooked you will know, because it will start fighting back as soon as you do this.
- Reel it in: Don’t try to pull the fish in with your reel. Instead, pull the fish back by lifting the rod and reel in right after. Keep the line tight and reel the fish close enough so you can scoop it up with a net.
- Remove your hook and store your fish: Grab your fish right below the gills (being careful around the sharp fins), and back the hook out the way it came in. After the hook has been removed, you can keep your fish on a stringer or in a fishing basket to keep your catch fresh.
It is our job as fishermen and women to make sure that each fish is treated humanely. Before cleaning or icing fish, you should perform a method known as percussive stunning, which involves striking the fish, just behind the eyes, in a quick, hard motion. The blow to the brain immediately kills or renders the fish unconscious.
Cleaning and Prepping Fish
Fishing isn’t all about eating what you catch, but it’s a pretty nice bonus after a long day out on the lake or pond. Now that you’ve caught your fish, it’s time to learn how to get them prepped for your fish fry.
To prepare your fish for cooking, first, you need to clean up the fish and discard the parts you aren’t going to eat, one fish at a time. Some fishing areas will provide fish cleaning areas, but in case you are fishing at a more rural location, here are some tools you should have on hand:
- Multi-Use Outdoor Folding Camping Table or Other Cleaning Surface
- Newspaper (A layer between the fish and your table makes clean up easier)
- Fillet Knife
- Scaling Tool (pliers for peeling skin off some fish, like catfish)
- Bucket or Other Container for Discarded Parts
- Water Source to Keep the Fish and Work Surface Clean
- Zip Top Plastic Bags to Store the Fish in (if necessary)
Fish fry the best when you’ve removed the skin (for bottom feeders like Catfish), and nobody wants to eat scales, so before you cut into your catch, you’ll want to get rid of this part of your fish.
Using a scaling tool or a dull knife, move from the tail toward the head, in short, raking motions, being extra careful around the fins and gills. After scaling both sides of your fish, give it a quick rinse.
Skinning is made much easier by cutting off the sharp spines of the fish. Once the spines are removed, make a cut behind the head and along the belly fins. Hold the fish by its head with one hand, pinch the skin with the other, and pull toward the tail. You can use pliers to make this a bit easier for you, but once the fish is skinned, rinse it off with cool water.
Your fish is now ready to be cleaned, so turn your fish so the belly side is up and insert a knife into the anus, near the tail. Slide the knife up to the base of the gills and open the belly of the fish. Pull the entrails out and discard them in the bucket.
Some fish have a couple of extra steps to the cleaning process. For example, some fish have a kidney by the spine that can be removed with a spoon, and some have a darkened inner membrane, which should be scraped away because it can give the fish an oily flavor.
Once your fish is cleaned out, rinse it with a cool, gentle stream of water, and cut off the head and tail of the fish if you wish. Make sure you clean your fish-cleaning station as soon as you’re finished – collect the guts, heads, and scales, and discard them.
Lay the fish on its side on a flat surface. Then, without cutting through the backbone, cut the fish behind the gills and pectoral fin down to the spine. Without removing your knife, use the backbone as a guide to cut through the ribs toward the tail. Then, repeat this process on the other side of the fish.
Close to the rib bones, insert the knife and slice the whole rib section of the fillet away. With the skin side down, insert the knife about 1/2″ away from the tail. While gripping the tail, put the knife between the skin and the meat at an angle, and begin using a little pressure to cut against (not through) the skin. If you’ve done this part correctly, the fillet will be removed completely from the skin.
Wash each fillet in cool water, pat them dry, and store them. Your fillets are now ready to be cooked!
Cooking Your Catch
Time for every fish lover’s favorite part of the fishing process: cooking and eating your catch. As with all cooking, the seasoning and cooking process is totally up to you and your tastes. Below is a simple fish frying recipe that I’ve used a boatload of times, and it has always been a big hit with my friends and family. If you give it a shot, let me know how it turns out in the comment section.
What you need:
- Andy’s Red Fish Breading
- All-Purpose Flour
- Medium to Large Bowl (to mix the breading in)
- Pan or Plate (for serving)
- Paper Towels (to soak up some of the leftover oil)
- Any Sized Fryer (some are made specifically for fish frying but any fryer will do)
- Your Freshly-Caught, Fish Fillets
- In your bowl, make a breading mixture of 2/3 Andy’s Breading and 1/3 flour.
- Take each fillet and bread both sides thoroughly with the breading.
- Heat up the oil in your fryer to medium/high heat.
- Carefully, drop your fillets into the fryer until they are a golden brown.
- Put a layer of paper towels down on the serving plate or pan. Then, pull your fillets out of the fryer using a fry basket or other tool, and set each down on the plate so they can cool. Be safe and watch for the hot oil!
- Let your fish sit for a minute or two until it’s cool enough to eat.
Fishing can be a lot of fun, and filling! If you have a fishing tip/trick or have a great fried fish recipe, drop us a “line” in the comments.