An Introduction to Fishing for Complete Beginners

May 07, 2015
An Introduction to Fishing for Complete Beginners

We catch fish for so many reasons. Fishing is one of the oldest known occupations; it's a popular recreational pastime, a competitive sport, and a spiritual, cultural experience.

Fish have probably been a source of food for human beings from very early on in our development as a species. A rich source of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals - fish are not only delicious but a staple part of any balanced diet.

Those who caught fish were often respected in the community as they provided food for the people; a sentiment and appreciation that definitely continues to this day! Fishing has had a major influence on the development of religion and culture in fishing communities around the world.

surf casters

Where can I go fishing?

It has been said that if there is a body of water there is probably fish in it. This may have been the case once upon a time, but in recent years, the increase in commercial fishing has led to a decline in numbers of many fish species in our oceans, rivers, and lakes.

It's not all doom and gloom, however. You can still fish in a multitude of different environments. Fishing in some locations (and for certain species) just might require a permit or license which you can obtain from your local department of fisheries.

Where you fish will most likely dictate to some extent the way in which you catch dinner. Are you fishing from a boat, from the beach, the river bank, the wharf? Are you diving to collect crayfish or abalone (paua)? All of these locations share elements in common, but some might require you to use different tackle or techniques to be successful. For example, fishing from the shore (also known as ‘surf casting’) is possible with a rod and reel combo like the ones you might use on a boat; but keep in mind, you will have more luck with a specially designed surf casting rod. Surf casters are much longer and allow for enormous casting distances so you can get your lure past the breaking waves!

What are the different types of fishing?

It's easy to talk about the various kinds of fishing by first looking at where they are performed. Then we can narrow in on the various techniques you can employ in order to catch fish.

Boat Fishing

You can fish from a boat in either fresh water or on the ocean, but don’t expect to find the same species in both locations.

People fishing from a boat or a kayak have a huge variety of options available to them, mostly due to the fact that they can get close to geographical features such as reefs and islands that someone on foot just can’t reach. Some of the best fishing is done over deep water near underwater structure or over deep ocean trenches. Having a boat opens up a world of fishing so long as you have the right gear for the job.

You can fish from a boat in a number of ways:

  • Bait fishing uses a rod and reel combo along with fishing line of varying densities, a hook (or multiple hooks) and sometimes a sinker. A sinker on the end of your line carries your dead or live bait down to the level at which your chosen target feeds. To fish in deep water you will need heavier sinkers the deeper you intend to fish. Straylining is a form of bait fishing that does away with a weight and allows your bait to float naturally with the current attracting surface dwelling species (or pelagic fish).

  • Trolling is the act of towing your bait behind the boat at a speed relative to the fish you are trying to catch. You will typically use specially designed trolling lures, large overhead reels, and short rods to catch fast moving pelagic fish.

  • Soft Plastics (or soft baits as they are also known) are a relatively new technology that is made from a range of chemical compounds; they move and smell like a bait fish. Soft plastics have a loyal following of enthusiasts who swear by the consistent results they can produce. Soft baits can be fished in a number of ways further adding to their popularity. They can be jigged, cast into narrow areas, and even trolled. However, there is hot debate regarding the environmental impact these lures can have. On the one hand, it can be argued they are less detrimental to fish stocks as you are no longer catching fish with smaller species. The other camp argues that due to their chemical nature, an unreasonable amount of plastic material is being discarded into the ocean. New biodegradable soft plastics have been developed by some companies but it is uncertain whether they will have any long-lasting impact at this stage.

  • Surface or top water fishing where surface lures are used, including poppers, wakebaits, bent minnows and other types of lure. These create turbulence as they are retrieved, imitating injured baitfish and exciting nearby pelagic predators.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing can be performed on both fresh and salt water. Fly fishing has for many years been held in high regard as both a form of sport fishing and a means of catching food. Due to restrictions on the kinds of tackle you can use, fly fishing is considered more difficult than some other forms. Fly fishing in fresh water targets species such as trout, salmon, and pike. In salt water, fisherman target fast moving pelagic fish, and with the development of heavy fly fishing rods and reels powerful sport fish have been caught on fly.

Fly fishing uses a completely different casting technique to other forms. For this very reason a lightweight flexible rod, a nearly weightless fly (lure) and weighted line ar used in order to flick the line back and forth until enough line has been cast. Note we refer to the line being cast, not the lure. Whereas other forms of fishing rely on the bait or sinker to pull line from the reel, in fly fishing, the caster uses the whipping motion of the line to add distance to their cast.

Flies are designed in order to imitate the appearance of bait fish, insects and other prey that fish like to feed on. Experienced anglers will pay attention to what insects are hatching at that time of year in order to entice their target species with flies of the correct shape, size, and colour.

If you’re planning on fishing in your local river or lake, chances are you will need a license or permit to do so. Check out your local department of fisheries for more info.

fishing rod

Do I need a fishing rod to catch fish?

While using a modern fishing rod can increase your chances of catching fish, for thousands of years people have been using a huge range of tricks and techniques to do so. From spearfishing to trapping and netting, even pulling a crayfish from beneath a rock with your bare hands; there is a technique that has been honed by fishing gurus for you to learn. In the Pacific Islands, anglers have mastered the art of catching fish and can use the simplest tools (even a leaf as a lure) to provide food for their families and the wider community.

How does fishing affect the environment?

As Earth’s population grows, so does our consumption of its resources. With the advent of large-scale commercial fishing, the oceans stocks have been heavily depleted in areas all around the world. But, restrictions have now been put in place on what size of fish you can take home in order to encourage growth as young fish have the chance to reproduce. Be sure to measure your fish, mollusc or crustacean before taking it home. If it’s under-size, put it back!

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