If you are new to freshwater fishing, your head may be spinning faster than monofilament off a reel when figuring out what to bring and what not to bring on your upcoming trip.
To keep from staying up the entire night before you step out your door, the following ABCs should help, no matter what species you plan to hook or where you plan to go.
Licenses: Keep Wildlife Agents Happy by Obeying the Law
Carry your state’s fishing regulations pamphlet or bookmark it on your smartphone and buy the required licenses, punch cards or special permits required in said regulations before you head for your destination.
Know what the catch limit is for the type of fish you seek. Make sure the species is in season.
Be aware that some licenses cover only some species. Others, in the forms of punch cards or permits, are required for fish species that fishery agencies watch for the health (i.e., populations and average size) of a particular species.
Your state fishing pamphlet will tell you which permits are needed and how to report your catch.
Clothing and Accessories
Of course, warm climates and cold climates play a key role in what to wear while on shore or in a boat. Some clothing items serve purposes in all climate types.
Essential accessories include a good knife, insect repellent, toiletries, and a waterproof bag for your phone and camera.
If you are a fair-weather angler, who enjoys spring, summer or fall fishing—whether it be bass, bluegill, catfish, trout or kokanee (landlocked sockeye salmon)—make sure you carry a hat to keep the sun from blistering nose, ears or neck.
Wear suncreen and polarized sunglasses, they will improve visibility in the water and remove reflections
If you wade in the water, bring chest or hip waders with good-gripping outer soles to stay safe and dry.
Unless you don’t mind hefting a tackle box full of metal lures, heavy weights, extra reels and other tackle, find an economical vest at your local sporting goods store. This item of clothing can save you much hassle.
Unless the water temp exceeds the high 60s in Fahrenheit, waterproof boots prove to be a wise choice for footwear.
After all, you are going to where fish live, the water. You are therefore very likely to at least dip a toe or two into some H2O. Further, rain falls no matter the temperature outside.
If you must seek your fish of choice in the cold, a pair of fishing gloves can save some grief.
Some neoprene varieties include open fingertips for easy handling of reel handles, fishing line or leaders, hooks, lures and release of fish.
However, take it from this angler who has spent countless hours angling for winter steelhead and on ice for trout, unprotected fingertips will feel winter’s bite..
Tight-fitting gloves with dextrous fabric all the way to fingertips—ensuring warmth through and through—can be found at most sporting goods stores.
Also, make sure your waders are insulated and your boots are lined for warmth.
Moisture-wicking underwear proves essential for extreme cold, especially when fishing on ice. Ice fishers often use portable or self-built huts on the ice and even generators for a portable heater.
Some take kindling or charcoals to throwing a metal bucket to stay warm on the ice. In this case, you should bring along a kid’s wagon, a gear sled or similar homemade device.
Staying overnight? Carry extra underwear, socks, perhaps light, moisture-wicking hiking pants that zip off at the knee. These can be worn full-length during the cool night at camp or in your tent. Convert to shorts during the sun-drenched day.
Also bring something lighter than boots for fussing with things around camp, especially in warm weather.
A headlamp proves indisposable for overnights as well.
If the night temps dip to freezing or colder, don’t leave your rods and reels outside where rod guides and reels can ice over. Keep your rods and reels inside.
You can get back to the water early in the morning when the fish are biting instead of spending those crucial moments shredding ice off of your rod guides and reels.
Fishing from a boat?
Be sure to bring your boating safety essentials.
Again, defer to official agency literature, especially Coast Guard pamphlets. Each person in the boat should be allocated a life vest (some even come within the confines of a fishing vest).
Flares should be carried in case your boat or motor fails in the dark. Your boat should also be equipped with lights at bow and stern.
A first-aid kit may not be required by law, but you wouldn’t be the first one in the long history of fishing whose ear or finger received piercing by way of fishing hook.
This unfortunate wound becomes much more likely in a boat than on land, though possible even on terra firma. Keep towing and mooring lines attached at bow and stern. Bring bumpers to protect your hull for mooring along a dock.
If you fish from a cartopper boat or similar, you can dodge a lot of sun and heat by propping up a portable canvas canopy.
Seat cushions (some can suffice as extra flotation devices in case of capsizing) can make your fishing adventure much more comfy on the tush.
If fishing in the cold season, propane heaters can be attached solidly to your boat’s deck as long as there is space to maneuver from end of the boat to the other.
Almost needless to say, thermoses with warm cocoa or coffee pose a divine intervention to discomfort in the cold.
Technology knows no exclusions these days when it comes to electronics and size of your boat.
Fish finders (sonar devices), downriggers, rod holders and even underwater drones—believe it or not—come in all sizes, strengths, scopes and degrees of thriftiness. Match them to your preferred watercraft.
If you like to keep your catch as fresh as possible or wish to release some fish at the end of the day, a live-well in your boat will accommodate not only the fish but any baitfish you might be using to catch your prey.
If you like to troll ever so slow or need to stalk your fish quietly, an electric motor comes in handy.
Also, carry an extra cotter pin and prop in case your motor finds an unfriendly bottom.
Extra Line & Leader
You never know when a bird’s nest might find a home in your fishing reel that requires some cutting of your line. Bring an extra spool of fishing line just in case.
You will find that fish, rocks and parts of your boat, if you’re afloat, can nick and sheer leaders (the line that extends from your swivel to your hook or lure). Bring extra leader.
Sometimes our reel parts may need tightening and sometimes accessories on your boat might need some DIY repair. Small, compact sets of basic tools—much like those for a bicycle on the road—come in handy.
Pliers come in handy for adjusting the eye on plugs (the kind used for bass fishing) to maximize their action in the water. They also serve to pull hooks from unintended snags inside your boat.
Hemostats or customized hook removers found at sporting goods stores allow you to removed hooks from fish more easily and often without harm should you choose to release your catch.
Reels & Rods
Different types of reels conform to different types of fishing.
If you will be trolling from a boat, trolling reels and baitcasting reels are best fits, though spinning reels can be used for trout and similar species.
Of course, if casting flies, a fly rod and reel are best. That said, torpedo-style bobbers allow you to cast flies from spinning gear and reels equipped with monofilament rather than fly line.
Match the length and strength of your rod to the strength and size of the fish you seek and the current in the case of rivers. If casting from shore, bring a rod that won’t be too cumbersome around brush or tight spots.
Water and Food
Don’t forget the bring enough water and food, depending on the length of your trip.
Always keep an eye on the weather forecast, tides, moon phases, wind velocity, precipitation volumes and anything that can affect the visibility or behavior of the fish as well as the volume of water flow should your destination involve a river or tides.
It will also determine how long you might stay on the water and the level of comfort you experience, especially if fishing from a boat.