Being able to take time off and do the things we love is part of what makes life worth living. Unfortunately, our hobbies can often spiral into disasters if we don’t take the time and plan things out in advance. This is doubly (or even triply) true if you’re fishing, as a lack of preparation can destroy a trip before it starts.
To make things easier on our readers, we’ve decided to put together this fishing guide to planning the perfect fishing trip. We’ll go over everything you need to remember before you hit the road. Topics will include how to pick the right fishing spot, what gear you should bring, and a few other fishing tips.
Let’s start with the most important thing to get out of the way: making sure everyone in your group has their fishing license.
Your Fishing License
Before you decide to start planning your fishing trip, make sure that every member in your group is licensed to go fishing. In most states, minors under 16 and seniors over 70 don’t need a license to go fishing. Some states have other special exemptions for veterans or the disabled.
A lot of anglers wonder why they need to pay for a fishing license in the first place, so let’s break down where your money goes.
Fishing licenses exist to keep the US Fish and Wildlife Service funded, as they work to maintain the waterways that you fish on. This can range from work on the terrain to ensure the proper flow of rivers, to restocking the depleted fish populations at the end of each season.
Getting your fishing license is a simple matter in most states since the implementation of online applications. Simply fill in the form, scan and provide copies of any required documents, and send the required fee, and your application should be processed within a reasonable amount of time.
If any angler in your group is unlicensed, they may be subject to fines, so make sure that you sort out your documentation before heading out on your fishing trip.
Choose Where You Want to Fish and the Fish You Want to Catch
Choosing the spot for your fishing trip is the first thing that you’ll have to do, and there are two ways of going about this. The first option is to pick the spot first and then decide what kind of fish you’re going to catch. This is the most common way to pick a fishing hole, and it’s great for beginner anglers who just want the experience.
The second approach is to figure out which fish species are present in your state and to pick the one that you’re after. Of course, this will also depend a lot on the time of year. You can then look for the waterways in which that fish species is most common. This approach is far less common, but it’s a good way to find new spots to fish if you’re getting bored.
Researching Your Target
Much like hunting, your success rate in angling is directly tied to the amount of time you spend researching your prey. Learning more about the fish that you want to catch can teach you everything that you need to know to improve your chances of success while you’re fishing.
For example, some game fish are more likely to go for live bait, while others will have their attention drawn by colorful lures. This kind of intuition can let you know what kind of tackle you’ll need to come back home with a few more catches under your belt.
Other than learning more about the tackle you need to use, research will also teach you more about the kind of technique that you need to use when you’ve hooked a fish. Some fish will require a firmer hand, while others will require some aggressiveness on your part.
Make sure that you pick a target that corresponds to your skill level, as some fish are harder to catch than others. While the “fightiness” of a fish can often determine how hard they are to catch, it isn’t the only factor that determines whether or not it will slip your hook. A Rainbow Trout won’t be as easy to catch as a Flounder.
Picking the Location
Choosing your location is often a matter of personal preference, but there are a few things to consider before you pick a fishing location. If you don’t have a boat, picking a fishing spot is relatively simple. Common choices are fishing piers and rivers, which offer easy access to the riverbank.
On the other hand, sportfishing with your own boat takes a bit of research on your part, as you’ll have to determine whether or not the body of water has a ramp and whether your boat is allowed there. Some spots will only allow electric boats, while others will cap the horsepower that the motor can produce.
Keep in mind that some lakes may not even have a ramp for boats, so it’s essential to know everything about a spot before you decide to drive all the way over.
The weather can adversely impact your angling experience, and we don’t just mean that the rain can make you slightly uncomfortable. Fish react to environmental conditions, and some species are extremely sensitive to light and the temperature of the water. Since the weather won’t be the same year-round, get to know the usual conditions for your preferred season.
A warmer day may end up pushing fish who prefer cooler water to the bottom while also bringing fish who like warmer water to the top. A cloudy day may bring fish who like darkness to the shallows, while a sunny day will repel them.
All of these factors have to be accounted for before you take your fishing trip. Keep a close eye on the weather for the day that you have planned, and if it takes a sudden turn for the worst, you should try and reschedule. Of course, that isn’t always an option and, you sometimes have to make the best of it.
Deciding on the Kind of Fishing Trip You’re Going to Take
There are different kinds of fishing trips, ranging from excursions that are a few hours long to multi-day trips where you camp out in the woods. Of course, your trip doesn’t have to be anything quite as extreme as either of these, but it’s good to have an idea of what you want to do.
For a day-long fly fishing trip, you can pack light since you likely won’t need a complicated camp site. You may not even need to set up camp at all.
On the other hand, for overnight stays, you’ll need to bring along tents, cooking implements, and much more. This will require more storage room in your vehicle, and it may end up limiting the number of people that you can bring along on your trip.
Also, consider what kind of fishing spot you’re going to. If it’s an established fishing area with amenities, you may not need a lot of extra equipment. If you’re heading off the beaten path, then you may need to bring a form of emergency communication and some basics, even if you’re not camping.
Packing Your Fishing Equipment
Ideally, you should have all of your equipment ready up to a week before the fishing trip. This will allow you to go through all of your gear and ensure that everything is in working order. As you put together your gear, take a moment to test out each piece of equipment to make sure that everything is working.
It’s possible that some piece of gear ended up rusting in storage and may not be usable on your next trip. This is why we advise checking your gear early, as a week will give you ample time to order or purchase a new piece without having to cancel or reschedule the fishing trip. This step is essential if you fish in saltwater, as it may have corroded your equipment while it was in storage.
Along with your equipment, make sure that you bring along adequate provisions in case of emergencies, especially if you’re heading out into the wilderness. A bit of extra non-perishable food and water may seem like a waste of space, but it’s not worth taking any chances.
When you pack your gear, try to arrange it logically so that it takes up as little space as possible. Most of the time, the limiting factor while packing for a fishing trip isn’t weight; it’s the amount of space that you have in your vehicle. Smart packing can help you avoid these problems.
Get Out on the Road
Make plans for how everyone is going to get to the fishing spot, determine who is going to drive themselves and who needs a pickup. Every member of the group should be in contact on the day of the fishing trip, to keep everyone informed about any changes to the schedule.
If you’ve never driven with a boat trailer, you’ll need to get used to it before your fishing adventure. Keep in mind that your turning circle will be wider, and you’ll need to give cars ahead of you more room, as your braking distance will be longer.
Bringing along your boat can introduce a whole new host of challenges when you’re on the road. Before leaving your house, take a close look at the roof of your car or the trailer’s connection points. Ensure that everything is secure, as a loose boat on the highway can be a danger to you and your fellow motorists.
When driving with a trailer, it may start to fishtail (making uncontrolled turns from side to side). If you notice this happening, gradually ease off on the gas pedal and let the car coast to a slower speed. Do not apply the brakes in this situation. Also, while a trailer is fishtailing, you’ll want to turn the steering wheel as little as possible.
Establish Your Camp (if Applicable)
When you first arrive at a more austere fishing spot, you’ll want to get your camp set up as soon as possible so you can have access to the necessary amenities. Choosing the right spot for your camp is essential, and you’ll want it to be on a piece of flat land that is sufficiently elevated compared to the water.
Putting your camp at a higher elevation than the water will ensure that it doesn’t get flooded by an unexpected shift in the water level. Flat ground helps make it easier to set up your tents properly. Also, make sure you’re not near any beehives or animal nests so that you don’t end up disrupting the denizens of the area.
Put down stakes and pitch your tents, find a spot for a fire (only if you’re allowed to start one), and get your cookware ready. You’re almost ready to get started bass fishing. Of course, none of this paragraph will be applicable if you’re going deep sea fishing.
Get Your Boat on the Water
In some places, getting your boat ready to go is as simple as getting the strongest members of your party together and carrying it over to the water. Unfortunately, if you’re alone or if you have a particularly heavy boat, this may not be possible.
This is why some fishing spots have ramps, where you can drive your car right up to the edge of the water and deploy your boat from it. This makes things much more convenient, but it’s understandably harrowing to drive your vehicle down a ramp that leads to the water.
Remember That Fishing is About More Than Just the Catches
While some people may enjoy going fishing just to catch the most impressive fish possible, there’s a lot more to it than that. The best fishing trips all involve spending time with friends and family, cooking, and eating together out in a natural environment, the angling is just a part of it.
Don’t end up getting so focused on catching fish that you lose track of the bigger picture.
To properly prepare for a fishing trip, you’ll have to decide where you want to go, learn more about the fish you want to catch, make sure that all of your gear is in the right shape, and get out there. That’s probably the best way to condense everything into one sentence, but it leaves out a lot of essential detail.
Whether you’re fishing in Alaska or Florida, these fishing tips should help. We hope you have a great fishing trip.