Fishing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Fishing #OnTheCircuit

Four photos in a collage showing children and adults smiling while fishing.
Photo Credit: Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoor Partners

We’ve highlighted all types of activities you can do on the Circuit Trails—biking, walking, running, sightseeing, group events, birding and beyond—but we haven’t dropped a line on fishing!  Trails travel around or near various waterfronts throughout the region—offering the perfect place to hone your skills. Whether you’ve never fished before or regularly cast a reel, here are a few tips and tricks for fishing #OnTheCircuit.

Learn About Licenses:

Before you go out, explore whether or not you need a fishing license. In most states, 16 years and older is when someone needs a fishing license and there are multiple types of licenses, some offering up one day, two days, and multiple days. Fishing licenses help support waterways and parks in the area.

Gear Up:

A lot of fishing areas are surrounded by tall grass or bushes, so we recommend tick and bug spray to prevent any bites. Consider using polarized sunglasses to enhance your visibility into the water, which helps your chance of spotting fish and underwater structures. Identify which reel you want—the closed-faced spinning reel is recommended for beginners due to its simple design and user-friendly features. On the other hand, the open-faced spinning reel, considered more versatile, is for anglers with some experience. All fish eat live worms, but try using artificial bait as its action oriented, and as you gain confidence and experience you can explore using other bait options with different approaches.

Scout Your Location:

Look for areas where others gather to fish. When fishing, cast along the edge of the water, sides of docks, and locate pools of still or calm water. These are deeper areas and typically have structures where fish will populate. Different seasons impact fish behavior. Fish tend to be more active during the fall and spring, when temperatures are moderate and fish feed or prepare to lay their eggs during the spring months, so you may wish to try during these periods.

Join Fishing Groups:

Connect with local fishing clubs or groups to meet with and learn from fellow enthusiasts. For example, the Mid Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoors Partners—a 2023 Circuit Trails Coalition Community Grantee—offers resources, training, and a community of fellow anglers. Joining will help you identify the types of fish you’ll be catching as well!

Be Mindful and Recreate Responsibly:

Be mindful of your surroundings, especially when casting. Make sure you’re far enough from people who may be walking or biking on the trail, as well as trees or anything else you may accidentally snag with your line. And no matter how alluring the waters may seem, always check if fishing is allowed at that place and time before you head out.

Whether casting your line for the first time or honing your skills, these basics will set you on the right path to a rewarding fishing experience. Remember, patience is key to becoming a successful angler. Check out the short video below to learn more in-depth about fishing equipment from Todd Pride, founder and lead coach of Mid Atlantic Youth Anglers & Outdoors Partners!


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