Small inland lakes can be a great place for new anglers and boaters to get more experience, as small lakes generally mean calmer, more accessible waters. If you’re looking for a beginner lake fishing guide, there are five basic steps you can take to learn how to catch fish in a lake.
Learn more about fish species habitats
The first step is to find out what types of fish live in the lake you want to fish in (you can use the places to fish and the boat map to help). Once you’ve completed this step, it’s up to you to decide which way to aim. One of the most important lake fishing tips for beginners is to find out if the particular species you want to target is active at the time of your travel trip or in season. For example, if you are looking to catch crappie in a Florida lake, the best time to catch this species is during the cooler months of the year. Also, be sure to purchase a freshwater fishing license when planning your trip, unless you are fishing on a state-mandated fishing day off.
Find out more about the eating habits of species
Next, you’ll want to learn more about your preferred food choices in order to determine the best bait and device to use. Artificial baits may seem fascinating, but it is best to stick to live bait if you are a beginner. There are often many different techniques that come with lures. Therefore, it is best to keep them simple for now and start with live bait for the best chance of catching. Live minnows, or worms, are popular live baits that you can use in freshwater fishing for a variety of species. When you go to your local bait and fishing store to buy bait, they can advise you on what size hook to buy based on the type of live bait used.
Get to know the structure of the lake
Keep in mind that certain marine fish species prefer shallower waters, which makes them easier to catch from the coast, while others inhabit deeper areas or open water. If you want to target panfish or largemouth bass near the vegetation, you can fish from the shore. However, you may need a boat to get into deeper or open waters when targeting species like walleye or lake trout. These considerations play a role in determining where to fish in a lake. Another important tip for lake fishing is to find structures (logs, stumps, cairns, weed beds) or changes in depth as these types of areas are likely to hold fish.
Watch fishing videos
Watch online videos that can help you tie a knot, rigging, landing a fish, and other lake fishing tips for beginners. There is a lot of information out there, but find a source you can trust, make a commitment to learn a new thing or two a week, and then get out on the lake and put your new freshwater fishing skills into practice.
Check the weather
Stay up to date. In other words, plan your trips when the weather is safe, but also learn how weather can affect fishing behavior in a lake. By becoming an amateur meteorologist, you will understand why you generally have better fishing days before a front moves and brings about a significant change in temperature. Windy days can also drive bait fish into certain areas of a lake, which means that predatory wild fish are always nearby.
Now that you know a few things about lake fishing for beginners, get outside and enjoy some time on the water with your family. There is always plenty of natural beauty to be appreciated when on the lake.
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide in southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has been featured in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @ shefishes2.