Freshwater Fishing (THE ULTIMATE GUIDE)

Freshwater is continuing to rise in popularity and is one of the world’s most favorite activities to do outdoors. It is also an ideal introduction to the world of fishing. Fishing can be a fun learning experience if you know your basics.

Fresh water occurs naturally on the Earth’s surface in certain locations. There can even be freshwater streams in a saltwater body. However, it is most commonly found in ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, and icy waters. There are even a few freshwater bays where you can find fish.

There are so many types of freshwater fish that it can be overwhelming. They each have their habitats and ease of catching. If you are a beginner, it is best to stay focused on the easy fish to catch.

What kind of equipment will you need for freshwater fishing? Where can you even fish? What kind of fish can you catch? What other procedures do I have to go through to be able to fish? This comprehensive guide will help to answer all of these questions.


Types of Freshwater Fishing

The various types of freshwater fishing are distinguished by areas that freshwater fish live in. Ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, freshwater bays, creeks, and even ice will all have an abundance of freshwater fish. These bodies of water are everywhere. Make sure that you are allowed to fish at your place of choice.

Pond Fishing

Pond - Lake Fishing

Sunfish like black and white crappies, pan fish, and others are abundant in ponds. Pond fishing is arguably the easiest and simplest type of freshwater fishing. Ideal for beginners, pond fishing, can be done from the shore or on a boat. It is easy to go pretty low-tech with pond fishing, for you only need a few basic things. A rod and reel, a bobber, and some earthworms will have you set to fish in a pond.

Lake Fishing

Also super popular, lake fishing provides a larger variety of fish than pond fishing. Fishing in a lake requires additional equipment and technique.

Stream Fishing

Stream - River Fishing

Trout is what makes stream fishing so appealing. They are fun to catch, but other fish can be found in streams as well. Wading or fishing from the shore is effective with smaller streams, but you can use a boat if it is large enough.

River Fishing

The variety of fish is tremendous in rivers. During short periods of the year, there can be tons of fish spawning at a time. Rivers offer more opportunities than some other areas to fish.

Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is not very common in most regions. This is for obvious reasons. There has to be ice to ice fish, and it can be hard to find a good area with unique fish. It also requires warm clothing and the right equipment, especially to cut the ice.


Freshwater Fishing Equipment

Fishing Equipment

The most important thing you will need will not even be used while you fish. A fishing license is paramount to being able to fish legally. Get caught without one, and you will be in a good amount of trouble. You do not want to be deleting the fish population where you are not supposed to.

The other equipment that you will need will be helping your overall fishing experience. With the right poles and baits, you will be ready in no time at all. Here is a list of everything you will need for your first fishing expedition.

Rod and Reel

A rod and reel are the most basic needs for a beginner fisherman. If you have a novice kit, they are automatically compatible with each other. Getting one of these is easier than trying to find two different items.

A spin cast reel is a conventional reel, and it will have better handling of tangles. Consider buying both rod and reel as a set, to save yourself from overwhelming options.

Tackle Box/Bag

A simple one tray tackle box should suffice for your first one. You do not need to get overwhelmed by a multiple trays one with tons of options just yet.

Hooks

Hooks are critical for live or imitation baits and come in a variety of sizes. With the lower number, the hook is larger. This is unless the size is followed by a /0. You will want an assortment of hooks. Sizes 6 to 2/0 is a good range for hook size.

Sinkers

These weight help bring your bait down to the bottom where the fish are more frequent. Some sinkers tie onto the line while others are crimped on using pliers. The crimped ones are cheaper and easier to use. Sinkers used to just be made out of lead, but other benign metals, like tin, are now being used.

Bobbers

Bobbers help to suspend your bait at the right depth. They float, only allowing the line below its placement to sink below the water.

Pliers

You can quickly remove the hook out of the fish’s mouth with pliers. Also, they are useful for crimping your bobber, as mentioned above.

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Your line will most likely snag and be lost at some point. This is where the having extra line comes in handy. Keep extras of varying lengths on hand for emergencies.

Fingernail Clippers

Cutting your is a snap with fingernail clippers.

Swivels

Attached to the shank of the hook, swivels help to spin the lure without twisting the fishing line.

Jigs

Colorful lines attached to the shank look enticing and catch the fish’s attention easily.

Baits

If live bait makes you squeamish, there are plenty of colorful plastic worms and minnows to take their place.

Hook Hone

This will help to sharpen your hooks, helping you catch more fish.

ID Guide

An ID guide can be really helpful to help you to identify the fish you are catching or looking for.

Fish Finder

This is a special device that uses sonar to locate fish underwater.

  • Check out our popular guide of the best fish finders reviews here and best portable fish finders reviews here.

Freshwater Fishing Techniques

Boat Fishing

Boat Fishing
  • Fishing from a boat can give you a wider range of water to fish in. Different types of boats are made for performing different tasks in different types of water.
  • Canoes, skiffs, and johnboats
  • Casual fishing on streams, small rivers, and small lakes
  • V-hulls, sportfishing boats, and ‘cathedral’ boats
  • Larger bodies of water

Fly Fishing

  • Using artificial flies – animal and insect imitations – to attract and catch fish is called fly fishing. Many use small boats to get to difficult locations.
  • Fly rods and lines have to be designed specifically to assist in casting the fly.

Trolling

  • Exactly what is sounds like, trolling is when you trail lures or baits behind a slowly running boat. This covers a large area.
  • This is effective for fish species that regularly feed on smaller fish.
  • Down-rigging is a method of trolling.
  • Uses a winch and weight to carry the line and lure to a specific depth in which fish are feeding. Downriggers can control the depth of your lure.

Still Fishing

  • This is the most basic form of fishing. Once the bait is cast, it does not move. By staying put, it can give good results. This can be done from the shore, but is especially effective from a boat.
  • Many people have their first experience with fishing in this way.
  • All you need is a basic rod and reel, a weighted line, a baited hook, and possibly a colorful bobber.
  • Requires a minimum of technical skills and equipment.

Flipping and Pitching

  • Flipping gets your lure in a specific spot with little disturbance. It is normally used in thick cover and dirty water. Stationary type baits are best for this type of fishing.
  • In flipping, a short amount of line – 10 or so feet – is released and then the line is fed back through the guides at the rod is lowered and raised.
  • Pitching is done using spinner baits.
  • This involves releasing the lure from your hand underhandedly while letting the line feed through the guides.


Freshwater Fish Species

Freshwater Fishes

Freshwater fish can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, bays, and streams. The following is an extensive list of all of the freshwater fish that you can catch. Also included is where you can find them and how hard each is to catch.

Freshwater Fish Species


When to Fish in Freshwater

The best times to catch freshwater fish depend on the season. Lakes and ponds go through what is called a seasonal turnover. Warmer water will rise and fall, depend on the season.

Spring Turnover

When the ice melts and water begins to warm, fish will stay in shallow areas where the water is warmer, and plant growth is faster. The warm water sinks, and replaces itself with cool water, which then, in turn, will warm up. When the temperature is constant throughout, the process is over.

Summer Stagnation

During the summer, the heated water at the top does not sink. The layers of water become stratified, and the fish will prefer the water. They need oxygen, however, so they will hang out between the two areas.

A good place to fish during this time is a point that extends past the shoreline and slope gradually. The fish will often school in this zone because they have access to both warmer and cooler waters.

Fall Turnover

Mixing of the cooling water temperature occurs in the autumn. Fish are able to move around more freely due to the cooling water. They can be difficult to find at this point, and this continues until the water becomes much colder.


Knowledge of where fish hang out, what temperature they like, and where they will be at a certain time of year is essential to a successful fishing expedition. The seasons will tell you where they will be.


Freshwater Fishing Tips and Tricks

Freshwater Fishing Tips Tricks
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Glare over clear water can be annoying. Cut through it with polarized sunglasses while protecting your eyes from the sun. They can also help to see what is going on under the surface.
  • Outdoor Necessities
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • ​Pocketknife
  • ​Dry matches
  • ​Life vest
  • Sun protection other than glasses
  • Keep your hands clean. Fish have a good sense of smell and may be able to notice a strange scent on your bait. This is the case for fishing in water with little salinity.
  • Note the temperature. The majority of freshwater fish have their own preferences when it comes to water temperatures.
  • ​Make sure the fish you want will be in the area you are fishing in.
  • ​The best bait to use is live bait. With worms, minnows, and soft shell, the fish will gather around the scent. Artificial baits are good too, and most will work just fine for freshwater fish. However, if you know what kind of fish you are looking for, you can tailor your bait and other equipment to attract that particular fish.
  • A topographical map is super helpful. This will help you determine the depth and location of spots on the water.
  • Use a flotation device to ensure that you will not have any accidents.
  • ​Wader belts are useful for wading in ponds, rivers, or lakes.

Freshwater fishing can be an enjoyable family activity and hobby. There is a huge variety of fish to catch, depending on where you are located. You can fish in bodies of water from creeks to lakes to find freshwater fish.

Ensure that you are fishing safely, with plenty of sunscreen and other protective items. Other accessories such as a pocket knife or pliers will be useful at certain times. You never know when you might need something to get you out of a bind.

The fish will move around depending on the season. As long as you keep yourself informed of locations and preferences, the fish you want will be easy to find.

I hope this guide helps to give you an overview of freshwater fishing and starts you on the right path. Let me know what do you think in the comments and share if you liked it! Have fun with your fishing endeavors!


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