To Catch a Fish

Fishing is a classic summer pastime. Scaring up a few sunfish doesn’t require much more than a stick, a string and a hook (barbless is ideal if you’re fishing with kids and targeting catch-and-release species). Fresh fish can also be a nutritious, delicious addition to your diet, with the added benefit of fresh air and maybe even a little exercise if you have to hike a ways to get to the best fishing hole. The wall of tackle at the sports shop can be intimidating for beginners, of course, which is why we love If you’re interested in learning how to catch fish for eating, they’ve got resources to get you started no matter how little you know about fish and the gear it takes to catch them.

2013 - Second Annual Spring Fishing - Saturday
2013 – Second Annual Spring Fishing – Saturday / Project Healing Waters / CC BY 2.0

Before you go out and drop money on a pole, however, there are a few questions you should look into locally to make sure your fishing is on the up and up.

Do you need a license?

Most states require a specific license to go a-fishing. You may or may not need to purchase licenses for your kids depending on their ages and where you live. Your town office should be able to tell you what you need to know and sell you the license. If you’re planning an out-of-state camping trip, check that state’s fish and game commission website–you will probably need to purchase a license for that state as well before pulling out rod and tackle. In some cases you can order the license online and have it mailed to you if your trip is more than a month out.

What can you catch?

The best eating species vary from place to place, as do the protections surrounding them. When you buy your license, pick up a local fishing guide to help you identify the species and follow the regulations for sustainable fishing. Make sure you know the answers to these questions before you keep a fish:

  • What species is it?
  • What dates is it okay to keep this species of fish?
  • How big does it need to be for me to keep it?

Bonus question: How healthy is it?

Most white-flesh, freshwater fish are very nutritious. If you want to double check a species before you go looking for it, try looking it up on our Food Finder. Already skilled with fishing? Try our recipe for Baked Trout. If you’re out camping, just toss divide the ingredients between foil packets and cook over the fire until the fish is done.