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How to Understand the Sport of Fishing

Oct 31, 2007
Every year more than thirty million people in the United States go fishing. Behind this vast migration to our streams, lakes, bays, and oceans, there lies a greater motivation than the desire for food and exercise. It is simply that fishing is fun - so much fun that it is one of the nation's fastest growing family sports.

The fact that fishing is no longer the exclusive preserve of males accounts for this rapid rise in popularity. Today mothers and daughters are discovering the pleasures that fathers and sons have traditionally recognized - and the sport is proving a recreation that can truly be enjoyed by the whole family.

There are three basic methods of fishing:

Still fishing. This is the simplest, often the starting point of one's interest in the sport. The equipment required is elementary: a rod - this can range from expensive fishing tackle to a bamboo pole; a length of line; a float or bobber; and a hook. The hook carries natural bait - worms, minnows, hellgrammites, crayfish, grubs, and insects - and lies static beneath the water until a fish bites.

Trolling. In this method, the hook, with bait or artificial lure attached, is drawn through the water by a slow-moving boat. Trolling is practiced on the ocean, on freshwater lakes, and in rivers that are wide enough and deep enough to give your lure unobstructed passage.

Casting. Here the angler employs the action of his rod to "throw" an artificial lure over the water, then retrieve the lure so that it imitates the action of live bait. (At times, live bait is cast in the same manner.) The principal casting techniques are bait, spin, and fly casting for freshwater fish, and surf casting in salt water.

The question that's often put to me is, "Why bother to learn to cast when you can just drop a line in the water and still fish?" There are three obvious answers that come to mind immediately, and a dozen more that may occur to any of you who have tried both methods.

First, it's much more fun and more sporting to catch a fish by casting. Second, when casting, you can present your lure in good fishing spots that can't be reached by still fishing. Third, while the still-fisherman can present his bait only to the fish in his immediate vicinity, the caster can reach much farther, has a greater potential number of fish within his range. His chances of taking a trophy catch - the ultimate goal of nine out of ten anglers - increase correspondingly.

In almost all states there are open and closed seasons on many fresh-water species; before you fish any waters be sure the season is open for the species you plan to catch. (If a fish is caught that is protected by a closed season, it must be released immediately.) This is especially true when you plan a trip to out-of-state waters.

To obtain this information, write to the Director of the Conservation Department of the state where you are planning to fish. A letter so addressed, sent to the state capital, will reach the proper source. Ask (1) for a free copy of that state's fishing laws; (2) for information about license fees and data on the open and closed seasons (usually contained in the law booklet); (3) what weeks are best for given species; and (4) where the best fishing and accommodations can be found.

Nobody would expect to play baseball in the major leagues as soon as he bought his first glove, and no golfer would expect to win the National Open as soon as he has acquired his first clubs. Bring the same patience and persistence to fishing as you would to these other sports: you'll be in the ranks of the expert a lot sooner than you would expect. And we confirmed fishermen are anxious to have you join us.
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