Fishing glossary and Fishing 101 Basics

Fishing Glossary

Brought to you by the Outdoor Writers Association of America Inc.
Search Alphabetically:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Search by Keyword:

Fishing Tips: Where to catch fish

Plan your fishing trip where the fish are plentiful, especially if you're just starting out. Just getting outdoors to fish is part of the fun, but nothing beats landing lots of fish!

Where fish live

A city park, a pay-per-catch pond or a heavily stocked lake is a good bet. Rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and man-made reservoirs also hold fish. If you don't know where to fish near your community, call an official from your state fisheries department or ask someone working at a local bait shop.

Where fish swim

Fish love to swim off sandbars, in deep edges, in weed beds and around sunken islands. They also swim near artificial structures such as boat docks or piers and around natural cover such as fallen trees. Get a map of the lake if possible. It will help you locate some of these popular fish locations.

Fishing Tips: Fish love live bait!

Not all people like the same foods. Fish are no different. Choosing the right kind of live bait can depend on the kind of fish you're trying to catch. Here are some commonly used live baits, some listed with tips on where to find them outside of a bait shop. Click on the links to learn how to get them on your hook:

  • Crayfish - Under rocks or other shelter in lots of cold-water ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.
  • Crickets - Outside under rocks or maybe even in your house!
  • Frogs - In swamps, ponds and other areas with still, shallow water.
  • Grasshoppers - In fields of tall grass.
  • Grubs (insect larvae) - Sometimes they live in your lawn.
  • Hellgrammites (dobsonfly larvae)
  • Leeches
  • Mealworms (insect larvae)
  • Minnows (including different species like chubs, dace and shiners) - They can be tough to catch, but you'll probably find them in the same bodies of water you fish.
  • Night crawlers and earthworms - Down in the dirt, probably in your yard or garden.
  • Salamanders - In swamps, ponds and other areas with still, shallow water. Sometimes you can find them on marshy land underneath logs.
  • Salmon eggs
  • Wax worms (moth larvae)

Fishing is fun! But remember to stay safe!

Tips for a safe fishing trip

  • Always wear your life jacket when fishing and keep it fastened. Safety should be your main focus, so the life jacket should be the right size (not too big) so that it won't slide over your head.
  • Have plenty of cold drinks and snacks in the boat.
  • Avoid getting sunburned while fishing. You should apply sunscreen to any part of your body that isn't covered by clothing.
    • Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outdoors, even on a cloudy day, and reapplied every two hours.
  • Keep hooks, sharp knives and fishing line in a tackle box. You don't want to get hurt.
  • Fins are sharp. Always handle fish carefully and under the supervision of an adult.
  • It is important to be aware of weather conditions before setting out on a fishing trip. Also, weather can change quickly so it is a good idea to take a radio along to stay tuned in to changing conditions.
  • Wearing the right clothing for a fishing trip is important and it can help to keep you dry. Footwear should be appropriate for the occasion, and wearing multiple layers of thin clothes allows you to adjust to changing temperatures.
  • The right clothes and repellents can help keep the bugs away.
  • If fishing from shore, pick an area free of debris and large enough to allow casting space for all of the anglers in your group.
  • Never fish from bridges or roadways.

Fishing equipment

  • Rod, reel and line
    Start with a spincasting reel (the one with the push button on the back) rigged with 10-pound-test monofilament and a 5- to 5 ½-foot, two-piece rod with light action. This outfit is easy to use and transport, and it will cast light lures.

  • Tackle
    1. No. 2 straight shank hooks, 1/16-ounce clamp-on weights and floaters. This live-bait outfit works great with earthworms, minnows or PowerBait eggs and is highly effective for anything that swims. The most important factor to an enjoyable day of fishing is catching fish.
    2. Spinner baits, 1/4- and 3/8-ounce willow-leaf blades in both white and chartreuse. These baits have plenty of flash, are easy to cast and retrieve, and are relatively snagproof.
    3. 8-inch purple plastic worms, wire guard No. 3 hooks, and 1/8-ounce bullet-shaped slip sinkers.
    4. Shad colored Pop-R top-water bait. Top-water baits are exciting to fish; this one can't be fished too fast or too slow. Be sure to purchase treble-hook covers to cover the hooks when not in use.

  • Bait bucket
    If you're fishing with minnows or other types of baitfish, you'll need a bait bucket. It should be tethered to land or your boat whether it is the kind that floats or sinks. This container will have small holes to allow fresh water inside.

Other items for a pleasant fishing trip
  • Cold drinks
  • Lots of snacks
  • Sunscreen
    • Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes prior to going outdoors, even on a cloudy day, and reapplied every two hours.
  • Camera
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Fishing cap
  • Sunglasses

Get a Fishing License

Find out where to get a Fishing License in all 50 states. Get a License >>


Conservation: It's easy being green

Conservation is an important part of keeping our planet, our wildlife and ourselves healthy. Conservation means protecting resources. For anglers, people who love the outdoors and anyone who has ever been thirsty, water is one of the most precious resources in the world. And water is home to fish, just like the outdoors is home to all other wildlife. Nobody wants garbage dumped into his or her home. So, please, help keep the outdoors clean by practicing conservation.

  • When you go fishing, you may not want or need to keep your catch. Practicing catch-and-release is a great way to make sure there will always be fish swimming in your favorite fishing hole.
  • If you aren't going to eat the fish you catch or mount them on the wall, you can still take something home to remind you of the day. Taking a picture of a fish right after you've caught it will give you a nice keepsake while keeping the fish healthy. Remember to handle the fish with care before returning it to the water.
  • Never leave fishing line or other litter in the outdoors. It's an eyesore, but it can also be dangerous. Animals, including fish and birds, can die if they eat the garbage or get caught in the line.

Conservation: Catch-and-release tips

  • Once you've hooked a fish, bring it in quickly so it doesn't become too tired.
  • If you can, leave the fish in the water or your net while removing the hook.
  • Wet your hands before touching the fish if you have to hold it for a picture or to remove the hook.
  • Be careful and quick when removing the hook. Just twist the hook while pushing it toward the bend. Use pliers or other special tools if the hook is deep in the mouth. With treble hooks, remove one barb at a time. If the fish swallows the hook, cut the line inside of the mouth and release the fish without removing the hook.
  • Return the fish to the water as quickly as possible. If it doesn't swim by itself, you might be able to revive the fish by moving it through the water headfirst to force water through its mouth and over its gills.
  • If you use a livewell on a boat to store fish that you still want to release, be sure to change water frequently and keep the aerators pumping.