First in a series

Often, readers of the Reel Report will call in saying that they enjoy reading the fishing reports and would like to learn how to fish.

Many have never picked up a fishing pole while others have given it a try; however, the majority have a hard time catching fish.

Hopefully this article will help get you started.

We are going to start with the basics and discuss how, when and where to fish for the easiest of all fish to catch, panfish.

Panfish consist of a wide variety of fish that are of a size that fit into a frying pan easily.

Among them are croaker, sand trout, whiting and gafftop.

One of the characteristics of panfish is that they take dead bait and do not require any fishing skills to catch as do game fish.

The tackle needed is about as basic as it gets.

A small rod and reel or a pole with hook, sinker and line attached will do.

For children and adults not experienced with using casting reels, small closed or open-faced spinning reels work best.

The line needs to be at least of 8-pound test with 10- to 12-pound line preferred.

Hooks can run the gamut from 4:0 to size 6 to 10 treble hooks, and the weight or sinker needs only to be heavy enough to sink the bait.

Most sporting goods stores, bait shops and discount store fishing departments offer a satisfactory selection of the basics to get you going.

If you are not familiar with any of this, a salesperson at any of those places can show you what is needed, and the cost will run from very inexpensive (up to $20) to more sophisticated equipment running several times higher in cost.

Once you select your rod and reel, the next item is tackle.

For beginners, I recommend using a panfish rig which consists of two hooks and a weight.

Dead shrimp or pieces of finfish cut into small sizes are the best to start out with, and for a good choice, bait one hook with shrimp and the other with cut bait (finfish).

Squid is a good substitute for pieces of fish.

Equipped with your rod, reel, tackle and bait, you are now ready to fish.

Now, the big question is where.

Since most beginners do not own boats, we will focus on piers, docks and the shoreline.

The beach front fishing piers along with the rock groins and Seawolf Park are excellent places for beginners.

One advantage is that other fishermen likely will be around and most are happy to help with any questions you may have.

The condition of the water has a big effect on the success of your fishing trip.

Choppy, sandy water usually is not good for fishing.

Ideally, greenish water with little or no wave action is the best choice.

Tidal movement is important as it is the key to triggering fish feeding.

During midsummer, the middle of the day tends to not be good for fishing.

Once you choose your spot to fish, bait both hooks and drop your line in the water.

If you can see the bottom, the depth is likely too shallow and you should try to find deeper water.

Generally, fish do not like to be seen, so the deeper depths help hide them while feeding.

Now that your baited line is on the bottom in about 3 to 5 feet of water, the feeling of nibbling fish should soon be felt.

Hopefully, one or more take the bait and get hooked.

The feeling of reeling in a live fish is hard to describe and is the key to getting addicted to fishing.

Just like in other sports, practice makes perfect, and for most people, a few successful trips will generate an interest in going after larger fish.

Among other items needed are a landing net (for that big fish that occasionally strikes) and a good fish stringer or ice chest for your catch.

Once you have a successful trip, you likely will get hooked on fishing.

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