We have been spending more time practicing our angling skills lately. We are 100% not experts, not even close. I used to lead Fishing with a Ranger programs when I worked at Mustang Island State Park and I faked it the entire time. Luckily, we rarely caught anything. I still remember one time during a program where it was just me and one gentleman and we were both fishing and chatting. All of a sudden, I felt a huge tug on my line and proceeded to reel in a giant Redfish! My hands were shaking from the adrenaline. We measured it to make sure it was legal & I gave it to the guy for dinner.
Anyways, I don't have any real knowledge when it comes to fishing. I don't know how to tie proper knots, I panic when I have to remove hooks, and I'm always terrified that I am going to get spined when I handle a fish. I really only know how to use a push-button reel (I even had to google to see what they were called). It's been quite a learning curve, but even still in the beginning stages, there are a few lessons that we learned pretty quickly! If you're just getting into fishing (or are interested in starting), read our tips below to avoid our rookie mistakes!
Learn how to properly bait a hook
We lose a lot of bait pretty regularly, but are starting to learn how to prevent that and to have a better success rate with hooking the fish. Don't use too much bait, just enough to cover the hook. With worms, I try to thread the hook through them, or at least try to have multiple points where the hook goes through to make sure it's more secure and less likely to come loose. Different types of bait can call for some different techniques, but if you're having issues... Google it!
Bring needle-nosed pliers with you
We definitely learned this one the hard way. It's relatively simple to unhook a fish when the hook has just gone through its 'lip' (do fish have lips...???), but if you gut-hook a fish (the hook goes into its stomach), it becomes much more difficult to remove and you often need some pliers to reach into the fish to get a hold of the hook. This happened to us recently and I had to call my boss and ask him to stop on his way home from the park to help us out with his multi-tool! Poor fish ended up dying because of the struggle.
A friend of mine that is an avid fly fisher recommended hemostats vs. pliers. We bought some to throw into the tackle box, but any old pair of needle nosed pliers from your toolbox is just fine if you don't want to buy anything new!
A pair of work gloves doesn't hurt either
We have been catching a lot of perch (aka Bluegill) and they've got spines on their back and belly (dorsal fins and ventral and anal fins, respectively). Manhandling them barehanded makes me a little nervous. I'm sure experienced anglers don't think twice about it, but a pair of gloves made me feel just a little bit less at risk of getting stabbed. If you don't have gloves, try to grip near the head and slide your hand back to the middle of its body, compressing the fins as you move.
Get a small tackle box with just a few extra supplies stocked so your day doesn't end prematurely
We snagged our line the other day and lost the hook and, stupidly, we didn't have any extras. Soooo... that was that. Time to go home. As soon as we got home, I ordered a small tackle box with the basics - hooks in varying sizes, swivels (little clip things), floats, weights... you get the picture. We got our tackle box off of Amazon (booooo Jeff Bezos) for $10.
Learn how to tie ONE knot
You can use a basic shoe-tying knot (is there a specific name for that? I don't know), but there are some knots that are a bit stronger and better for fishing! One that I learned and is literally the only one I use (well, because it's the only one I know), is the Clinch Knot. Seems to work well enough for the basic fishing that we are doing and it's pretty easy!
An important thing to remember is that it isn't about perfection and knowing everything! Learning is part of the fun and you've got to accept that, when you're just starting something new, you're going to make mistakes and screw up. Embrace it and enjoy learning how to fish!