Getting started is often the toughest part – learning to walk as a baby, learning to ride a bike, driving a car, and yes, even learning to fish. Beginners may think they’ll just go to a sporting goods store or a bait and tackle shop, pick up a fishing rod, and head out to a local pond or stream. But when they get to the store, they are faced with aisles filled with rods, reels, hooks, sinkers, bait and lures in every imaginable shape and color. So many choices can make it seem easier to walk away than face the nearly limitless choices. Sound familiar? If this has happened to you, or you haven’t yet made it to the store for fear that this would be your experience, don’t worry! We are ready to help you get started.
The key is to have a basic plan and start simple. This approach will help you keep your frustration level and gear costs down. So get out your pencil and notepad or your smartphone and prepare to make a list that will get you out fishing with the right gear in the right spot.
First, let’s talk about gear. The most basic and essential item you’ll need is your rod and reel.
A spinning reel is a great option for beginners because it can be used to catch a wide variety of fish and can be used in streams, rivers, ponds or lakes. If you are starting from scratch, purchasing a spinning reel and rod combo can be a great option. “Combos” take some of the guesswork out of gear selection and guarantee a good match between the rod and reel and typically offer great value for your money. The combo usually comes with the reel already loaded with fishing line.
Check out this video from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to learn about two types of spinning rod combos. If you are interested in taking up fishing, teaching your kids to fish or hoping to become a better angler, this video is for you!
Once you get to the store, simply ask an employee to point you toward a good beginner rod that will meet your particular needs and budget.
Next, you’ll need to think about hooks, sinkers (small weights that attach to your line to help the line sink into the water), bait and lures. The type of hooks and sinkers you use will depend on what bait you choose, which will depend on the type of fish you’re catching. Bait fishing (as opposed to fishing with lures or flies) is a great way for beginners to get started. Live worms or PowerBait—a scented putty-like material that you form around a bare hook—are good starting points, while lures, which are designed to attract a fish’s attention, are another effective option once you get comfortable using bait.
Bait Fishing Basics
The Bait Fishing Basics video will show you how to assemble a bait fishing rig and bait a fishing hook, as well as various bait options to choose from.
Additionally, a rubber net (which is easier on a fish’s skin than string style nets), needle-nose pliers or forceps to more easily remove hooks or lures from the the fish’s mouth, and a small tackle box to keep gear in one place are also helpful.
Watch and Learn
Now that you have your gear, how do you learn how to actually fish? Even without a master angler at home, you can find plenty of great videos and classes to build basic confidence before heading out to fish on your own. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has many great videos that keep things simple and will help you get started. Or you can search on YouTube to find additional online videos. I recently went fishing with my son and his friend Om. Om’s parents don’t fish, so he taught himself everything he knows on YouTube. This 12-year old master angler now sets up his own rod and reel, expertly selects his bait, and even ties his own flies for his advanced fly-fishing setups.
If you prefer hands-on learning, Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers beginner clinics and seminars on topics ranging from spin fishing to fly fishing. To find an event near you, please view CPW’s Clinics and Seminars calendar. Many clinics provide gear for first-time anglers and some events even provide free fishing rods.
Where Should You Go?
Now that you have your gear, you’ll need to choose where to catch your fish. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a number of maps and apps that make it easy to find family friendly fishing locations near your home or your favorite Colorado vacation spot.
101 (+) Places to Take a Kid Fishing
For beginners, 101 (+) Places to Take a Kid Fishing is a simple interactive map loaded with family-friendly fishing spots. Simply click on one of the locations on the map below and reveal information about that fishing spot: name, description, what fish might be caught there, and directions to get you there! Big kids are welcome to fish in these places too!
Colorado Fishing Atlas
Whether you’re a seasoned angler or you’ve never picked up a rod before, finding a place to fish in Colorado has never been easier! The Colorado Fishing Atlas offers a little more control than the map above. Use the simple map interface to locate and view recommended opportunities for the family, remote fly fishing or ice fishing all on top of street maps, USGS topographic maps or high resolution color aerial photography.
CPW Fishing App
The CPW Fishing App allows users to search for fishing opportunities by species, specific interest or even proximity to your home or destination. Locate fishing opportunities near you.
Both the Fishing Atlas and the CPW Fishing App use the following guidelines to identify “Family Fishing” spots:
- Must have easy access. Easy access is defined as a <= 100 yard walk on a gentle slope with a hard surface.
- Typically has an available restroom.
- Provides a better-than-average chance of catching a fish.
Fishing is a lifelong hobby that can bring family and friends together. Don’t be afraid to start simple with a basic setup and at a local pond. Whether you’re fishing with kids or you’re an adult just starting out, keeping a simple tackle box and an easy to use rod will have you successfully fishing. Good luck out there!
Written by Doug Skinner. Skinner is an editor for Colorado Outdoors Online and is a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Videos by Jerry Neal. Neal is the senior videographer and a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.