6 Freshwater Fishing Tips for Beginners

Fishing has come a long way from the humble cane pole with a string attached. If you’re new to the sport, don’t be intimidated by high-tech bite alarms and smart apps for finding fish. Those are nice, but you can get by with a rod, reel, tackle box and bug spray. Check out some of our top fishing for beginners tips and you’ll be casting lines in no time. 

Getting Started

Our first tip is an easy one: Plan.

Planning saves time, money and energy. Planning can mean the difference between a great family experience or the silent treatment.

We’ve anticipated some of your questions to help you get started:

What kind of fish can I catch?

Louisiana waterways are teeming with diverse species. Trout, redfish, bass, perch and bream are plentiful and easy to catch.

The type of fish you’re after determines where you fish, when you fish and what equipment you need. Consult a species guide that describes appearance, size, habitat and behavior. You can go from there.

What’s the difference between freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing?

That’s a great question. There is some overlap between the two, but they are largely different experiences.

There’s no law that says you can’t do both, but be aware of the distinctions. They have bearing on equipment, technique, licensing and more. Some fish can’t even live in saltwater, so do your homework:

  • In general, saltwater fish are bigger than freshwater fish, and there is greater variety.

  • Not only are saltwater species larger, but they put up a bigger fight. Catching a swordfish, marlin or tuna requires somewhat more skill and experience than catching a bass or bluegill.

  • Some saltwater species are far offshore, so fishing trips may take longer.

  • Some special gear is required for saltwater fishing.

Most newcomers get their feet wet by learning in freshwater environments closer to shore.

What are the best times for fishing?

Louisiana is famous for world-class fishing all year. There’s always something to catch. Even so, if you have your heart set on sailfish or speckled trout, say, you’d best wait out the winter months.

A good fishing calendar comes in handy. It will show you when your target fish are most active.

As for the best time of day to fish, shoot for early morning or after sunset when it’s quieter and less crowded.

Where is the best fishing for beginners?

Again, it depends on what you hope to catch, but there are endless resources on the internet for finding out where the fish are biting.

There are feeding charts and breeding charts. There are depth charts, tidal charts and lake maps. Here are more ideas:

  • Local and regional fishing reports (online, on TV, or on the radio)

  • Online fishing forums

  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (Click on the fishing tab for information on species, navigational charts, weather and water conditions, fishing workshops and much more.)

  • Fish-finding GPS

Hang out at local marinas to learn from charter captains and seasoned pros. In no time, they’ll have you mastering complicated knots and referring to ordinary crappie as sac-à-lait.

Fishing in Louisiana is distinguished by respect for the sport and the fish. When you’re applying for a license — and don’t forget to do that — be sure to read up on rules, regulations, catch limits and conservation efforts.

What gear do I need?

Don’t spend a fortune on fancy equipment; most charter boats furnish all the gear. When planning a trip to go fishing for beginners, a spinning rod-and-reel combo of good quality is sufficient. A spinning combo is the go-to tool even for experienced anglers. It gives just the right control for casting and reeling. You can set it and forget it if you have other business. It won’t work as well for heavy, trophy-type fish, but it’s a great rod to start with. (Note that a spincaster is a different type of rod. It can be trickier to use and is not recommended for learning.)

Once you’ve mastered the basics, a baitcaster rod is the next step up.

What goes in the tackle box?

Before you go crazy, remember that all your gear — including rod, reel, hook, line and sinker — must match up with your target fish. The size of the hook matters. The weight and appearance of the line could either fool the fish or provoke snickers. Bait must look like the real prey that specific fish like to eat. Lures have to “swim” convincingly.

A competent employee at a good tackle shop can help you stock up. Here are the essentials:

  • Extra hooks

  • Extra fishing line

  • Live or organic bait such as worms or chicken bits

  • Lures (also called hard bait) such as rubber worms or fake shrimp

  • Bobbers, floaters and sinkers

  • Swivels to prevent your line from tangling

  • A multipurpose tool that can cut line, pull out hooks or pop a cold beverage

Is there anything else?

Finally, wear comfortable, layered clothing that’s adaptable to different weather conditions. Wear sensible shoes. Protect your skin, eyes and scalp from the sun. Don’t forget a small first-aid kit; waterproof, resealable bags for documents and money; a cooler for water and snacks (plus a secondary cooler if you plan to store your catches); and bug spray.

Making It Easy on Yourself

The best way to find out if you like fishing — and to keep getting better at it — is to hire a charter captain. Our experienced guides have the know-how and equipment to make you a lifelong fan of fishing.

For a small investment, you can improve your diet, teach your kids a new skill, or just unplug your devices and truly relax. Whatever your goals, fishing for beginners has never been better.


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