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Part I – Introductory Tips & Advice
The title ‘How To Catch Fish’ speaks for itself, but it is the action that truly matters. Are you wondering whether fishing is only for a rugged class of outdoorsy people who enjoy spending time by the water? You are mistaken. Fishing is a surprisingly addictive pastime that teleports you to a simpler day and age, when people ate what they hunted and shared it around a communal fire – these days they call it ‘camping’, and bring a ton of electronic goods to make their outdoor experience more convenient.
In this detailed guide, I aim to pack as much fishing tips and actionable advice as possible so you can get out there and catch something worth boasting about at the office. My main reason for writing this guide is to promote the idea that fishing is for everyone (hands down!), and all it takes is some savvy and patience to make a good angler great.
Here’s what you need to know before reading this tutorial…
A good internet connection – Our guide is filled with important links and video sources that you can stream at your leisure to eventually master the tricks and tips given here. Of course, seeing also means doing, which we shall soon cover.
#2, Must-Have 2
You are probably one of those readers who want to start from scratch. Here are all the items you need to grab before going fishing, let alone reading this article. We will cover a few extras in the section following this one.
• Cooler Box –The fish need to be stored until you are free to clean and pack them. A cooler box is the best place to store your fish so you are not left running around the boat trying to keep those slippery critters from leaping back into the water.
• Tackle – Sounds like something out of a wrestling match, but fishing tackle includes swivels, hooks, sinkers, and other teeny-tiny but super-important additions to your gear. A newbie can always choose from a variety of well-packed tackle kits available on the market. Be sure to have a word with the store manager on whether you need anything extra to go, and do not feel shy to mention what kind of fishing you plan to do. Good advice can come from anywhere and it will enhance your outdoor experience.
• Rods – Seems somewhat obvious, but it still needs mentioning here. The rod, especially one that complements your fishing style, is the most crucial piece of gear you can take with you. How do you find the right one? To put it in no-nonsense terms, you need to know that a fish has bitten your bait, so get a rod whose triggers you can feel distinctly. A general size recommendation is a rod of 8 feet. The setting often determines the type of rod. For instance, rick or beach-based fishing will need a 10-12 foot rod.
• Lines – The type of fish you plan to catch (a location-oriented pamphlet or book guide will certainly help you know what you are in store for) determines the type of line that you need to buy. In other words, the stronger the fish the sturdier the line. Make sure none of your lines are tangled.
• Reels – You have the rod to catch them with, and the line to lure them with. Now comes the reel, which needs to suit or match the rod you have. A spinning wheel is the common favourite. Make sure to get one that you can easily grip with one hand and reel in your prize catch. Clean all the reels you take with you.
• Lures – Whereas a professional angler will know the exact kind of bait to use to catch particular kinds of fish, you (likes thousands of other anglers out there) may be looking for something simpler and less smelly to use on the water. Artificial lures are suited to help catch different species of fish. They come in diverse colours, materials, and sizes. Remember that bright is not always best. Know your fish and you will know what type of lures you need to buy. If you are still confused about this particular fishing essential, get yourself a handful of all-purpose lures available on the market.
• Fishing License – This is by no means a small item to take with you. The area you plan to fish in will have its own rules and policies. You will almost always have to carry a fishing license with you or the next thing you know the police will have reeled you to jail.
While we are caught in the flow of fishing gear, it can be easy to forget about yourself. Get an extra pair of clothes and shoes for your trip; windbreakers, jackets, vests, etc. We recommend pants, including jeans, especially if your fishing region has insects that bite. Socks and hats should also be on your roster, as well as insect repellent and sunscreen lotions. Grab a couple of towels, and buy yourself a pair of wader boots in case the fish are teasing you a bit away from shore.
#3, Must-Have 3
In this section, I want to reiterate and highlight a few points covered above. The name of the game is ‘Extras’.
- Lines – Take several spools with you. A rod and lure are not enough when you have no lines to help increase depth and range. Do not see this as unnecessary space-occupying tools, more lines are always a good thing out in the wild where snags (to say nothing of the fish) can break them more often than you might expect.
- Tackle Boxes – Take two. The first is the main tackle box carrying all the essentials you need (including spares and tools, which you can leave in the car). The other is a smaller one that you can hang around your waist to take with. The practical implications are self-explanatory.
- Rod – A backup rod, in particular. Imagine bidding adieu to your fishing trip due to a common mistake that affects several anglers, namely losing your main rod while out on the water. This is a smart precautionary measure, and you can certainly buy a cheaper but just as reliable backup rod.
#4, Must-Have 4
I am going to cover all things Miscellaneous in this section…
- Take extra hooks, corks, swivels, sinkers, and lures.
- Knives are a must-have as well, for when you feel like cleaning the fish right then and there.
- A net (size can vary) to help you scoop fish out of the water, in case you cannot reel them in fast enough for a lift-and-drop into the cooler box.
- A tape measure is a good addition if you are one of those anglers who want to document the type of fish you aim to catch.
- If you are not confident when it comes to separating fish from hook, it is best to take long-nose pliers with you.
Other ‘common sense’ extras: sunglasses; sunscreen; first aid kit; camera; waterproof bag (to hold your phones and other modernities); toilet paper; a map of the area you plan to fish in (aside from aiding you if you get lost, you can also use a map to mark your preferred fishing holes);and a Swiss army knife (a great multi-tool choice).
We are now going to dive into a series of specific fishing regions and how best you can ply your craft out there.
Part II – Diverse Fishing Regions
#5, How To Catch Fish In A Lake
A lake is a closed waterbody fed by underwater systems or even a small river. Always opt for natural lakes as opposed to man-made ones if you wish to make the most of your fishing trip. Often, the lake’s size will dictate whether or not you can take a boat out on it, so equip yourself accordingly once you have the facts.
You might assume that lakes, being land-locked, are all probably freshwater. This is not the case, saltwater lakes do indeed exist – Lake Urmia, Pyramid Lake, Great Salt Lake, Lake Gairdner, Namtso, Lake Milh, etc.).
- Structures and man-made objects are sometimes found in lakes across the world, and fish use them for shelter or to plan hunts. Such obstacles also include logs and trees now sunk. You have an increased chance of catching fish in such spots. Of course, you can bring your own sunken structure for use, like the Mossback Fish Attractor.
- Outlets/Inletsare ‘comfortable’ lake areas where fish are concerned. These exit and entry zones are cooler than other lake regions, making them great fishing spots.From large fish to bait fish, you will find a veritable ecosystem in these particular zones.
- While it is not advisable to fish in windy weather, strong breezes mean bait fish are guided nearer to the shoreline where they peck at windswept food. Drift lines will indicate their presence as well as those of the bigger fish that come on over to feed on the small fry.
- Note the Heat Index. Simply put, the hotter the climate above water the deeper the fish swim underneath it. When the weather is sultry, head out during dawn and dusk when your catch will be closer to the shallows. Different species (a good example being Bass) react differently to climate, so do your homework.
- Much like sunken obstacles, weed beds are prime areas for several fish species, especially big ones that like to hunt. The right lure or bait can be all the encouragement they need to bite, especially weeded zones that lead into deeper lake regions.
#6, How To Catch Fish In A Pond
A pond is distinct from a lake in that it has its own photic zone. This means that aquatic vegetation can cover the entire waterbody, whether above or below the surface or both. Fish life can certainly thrive in ponds, based on environmental conditions. Almost all pond fish are small, but there is a great chance that you will come across an ‘apex predator’, a ‘top fish’ so to speak, in such ecosystems.
- Pay attention to Creel Limits. This is to help maintain the foodchain or ecosystem present in particular ponds.
- When using minnows for live bait, do not ever dump them in the pond afterwards. It upsets the ecosystem that is already thriving there.
- A short rod, preferably an ultra-light model, will be best, anything under 6 feet. This improves manoeuvrability.
- Some ponds will host natural fountains, springs or streams where the water temperature is cooler and therefore more conducive to hosting fish.
- The most recommended bait for pond fishing are worms (regular, euro, wax). Experiment until you find one that best suits the pond you are at.
- Ducks are often present in pond zones, and fish will most assuredly have learned that where ducks go food follows (it is not uncommon for people to throw bread crumbs to ducks). As long as you stay careful, you can catch fish near a flock of ducks.
- Do not fish brazenly. Ponds are shallow zones and therefore make it easy for fish to spot you instead of the other way around. Vibrations also work to their advantage. Camouflage clothing is a good recommendation, wear them and stay in an out-of-sight spot until the fish bite.
#7, How To Catch Fish In A River
The fact that it is constantly flowing is a massive advantage for anglers. Different seasons see different fish swimming upstream or down. As long as you know the proper bait casting techniques and have the right rigs, you are good to go river fishing.
- Never introduce any foreign bait or fish to rivers. This is a route taken by diverse species and adding the wrong food sources can upset the natural flow; pun unintended.
- Certain urban areas have advisory notices put up concerning water pollution, so avoid fishing in such rivers.
- A calm river zone with plenty of weeds will serve as a great fishing spot. As you can imagine, widespread weed beds are rare in river environs, so fish (large or small) make full use of small weeded patches.
- Locals are your best source of information concerning prime river fishing spots and bait use. A nearby bait and tackle shop can open windows of understanding to better help your river fishing enterprise. This is especially true of varying weather conditions and the phases of the moon.
- Bounce live bait off the river bottom, it is a recommended practice to catch fish faster in rivers. Particular rig kits are available to help with this. While performing the bounce, do it with the current never against it.
- Islands and backwaters are superb river zones to catch fish. Slack between surface-peaking islands can contain plenty of passing fish. Wade with care in these slippery zones. Even rivers have backwaters where the current is not that strong, and where they break off and re-enter the main river farther downstream. Fish like the Largemouth Bass love such backwaters.
- Polarized glasses can make all the difference to your river fishing experience. The water clarity needs to be good enough, though, and these glasses will help you spot fish quickly.
#8, How To Catch Fish With A Net
This implies not using a rod at all but a sturdy net to catch fish. There are three types of nets available.
- Cast Nets – These are particularly wide and their edges come designed with small weights attached to them. The net is thrown in an arc, sinks, and you can pull it back along with fish; if done right.
- Lave Nets–Uncommon, much bigger, and designed to float on the water in such a way that the angler can reel in the net when they feel a fish moving in its mesh.
- Hand Nets–These are the preferred type of nets for fishing;kids, amateurs, and professionals alike. The net is attached to a ring that often comes designed with a handle.
- While it certainly makes for a fun fishing experience, something to laugh about atthe dinner table, a fishing rod is certainly the better of the three. In case you still want to try a net, here is how you work the technique.
- Your net should certainly have no irregular or torn holes in it else small fish will simply wriggle out and away, and larger fish will find a way to ruin the experience.
- Grass, reeds, weeds… These are NOT ideal fishing spots to use a net in. As long as the water is clear and not as deep as the extent (radius) of your net, you are good to go.
- Since cast nets have different methods of use and have a handline to help tug the net back to you, it is best you pick a technique and practice it. Generally, you collect the net over an arm, hold the line in one hand, and Frisbee-fling the net over the water. You can still try the same while holding the net with both hands to improve the throw.
- Net fishing is a great survival technique, and not to mention thrilling. Remember, do not net more than you can pull.
#9, How To Catch Fish When It Is Cold
The sentence can be misunderstood,I am referring to catching fish in cold climes not catching cold fish. Jokes aside, fish can indeed be caught during cold weather. This obviously implies cold water fishing.
- Cold water fish are more active, meaning you can expect faster reaction times once you have cast your line. To this effect, opt for spinner baits, crank baits, and top water baits. If the weather is exceptionally wintry, use fish scents to draw out those lazy biters.
- Summertime hosts fish (especially bedding fish, mostly comprising smaller males) in shallow regions and structures whereas those same fish swim to deeper regions in cold weather where the temperature is comparatively stable. Underwater channels and steep drop-off points are recommended fishing zones in cold climates.
- Use the popping technique when you have tried it all and failed. Simply drag bait along the bottom and pop it up every now and again. Take your time with this method, giving dozens of seconds of inactivity before you ‘pop’ again.
In cold settings, fish swim closer to each other in tight formations. This is certainly an advantage for those anglers who feel a singular need to go fishing when the weather is nippy. Fish turn lazy in cold weather, but that does not mean a lunker or monster is impossible to bait.
Part III – Types of Fish to Catch
#10, How To Catch Redfish
The good news is that redfish is a year-round species. Even slight temperature changes in the water (Florida springs to mind) are not a deterrent to their numbers. That said, Fall is the all-time ultimate season for redfish when they appear in huge numbers.
- Essentially an inshore species, redfish can be found in coastal saltwater lagoons, bays, and estuaries. While they remain in these locales during winter, spring, and summer they swim to inlets during Fallto spawn.
- They swim along with schools of mullet fish, so seeing one is often a sign of the other’s presence in the water. Interesting symbiosis: mullets root around on the bed and then leap out of the water, bringing up food that redfish like.
- There are the normal redfish variety and then there is the ‘bull’, a potential lunker measuring 30 inches for which you will certainly need a heavy tackle. Paired with a 40-pound leader, bull redfish require a 20- to 30-pound test line. The normal variety can be managed with a 20-pound leader paired with a 6- to 14-pound test line.
- There are two tackle varieties to help you catch redfish: bait casting and spinning. Structures like mangroves, pilings, and docks demand extra leverage, or you can just bid that redfish goodbye. With bait casting reels, you gain extra power as well as accuracy, ensuring that both the cast and the reel-in are smooth.
- As all-purpose tackles go, spinning tackles are ideal, whether you are live-baiting, top water-luring, or deepwater jigging. Redfish residing in under docks are best caught using spinning tackles
- If you are drawn to fly fishing, a rod in the weight margin of 8 to 10 pounds is best for redfish. You can certainly use fluorocarbon leaders and sinking lines to send flies down to your potential prize catch.
- From crabs (fiddler, small blue) to shrimp and small fish (sardines, ladyfish, pinfish), your live bait choices are simple. You can find these in the same water as the redfish or simply buy live shrimp from a bait shop.
- Lures, on the other hand, are just as effective. Fish-mimic spoons (gold spoons in particular) and jigs or a weighted shrimp will do the trick in both shallow (top water plug is best only in shallows) and deep waters. Gulp! is the recommended best bait choice for redfish.
Redfish make for superb fishing, even in jetties containing 10 to 18 feet of water where casting deep-diving plugs can increase your chances of landing a lunker.
#11, How To Catch Trout
A close cousin to the salmon, trout are mostly freshwater and come in several different varieties – steelhead, brown, rainbow, lake, etc. Found in cold/cool streams and lakes, trout make for exceptional fishing; and they taste amazing too.
- Lures are a major deal when it comes to attracting trout. In fact, the wrong lures can lose you potential biters. Panther Martin is a recommended brand to look out for when choosing the right trout lures. A silver spoon makes for a fine lure as well.
- If you are inclined to using live bait, night crawlers are your best bet, with crayfish and minnows trailing in close.Learning about a particular region’s troutcan reveal plenty of dietary points that you can use to lure and catch trout. This is especially true of mayflies, which appear during Fall.
- Only stocked (farm-raised) trout will fall for power bait (pellets of feed), so do not be misled by the strong-sounding name. The same applies to any dough-bait substitutes.
- Deep pools in a river with a steady or strong current can contain big trout, especially during dusk and dawn. Smaller varieties can also be present.
- Trout prefer moving water to anything sedentary, so make sure you pick your fishing spots correctly.
- Your trout-catcher rig should include: a 4- to 8-pound test fluro carbon line, a reliable spinning reel, and an ultra-light or light action rod.
- If your aim is to land a lunker over a foot in length, do not use insects or flies for bait.
Known for being quite the scavengers, trout can raid other fish’s eggs (salmon eggs are their favourite). Threading some onto a size-6 hook can help you fill your trout basket, in due season and with a little skill.
#12, How To Catch Lake Trout
Native to North America, this is one of three specific species of trout. Their distinct ‘green to grey’ body and white or yellow spots make lake trout easy to recognize. From a diet that includes insect larvae and small crustaceans to leeches and snails, lake trout can be baited using a variety of options.
- You will often find these coldwater-loving fish in large and/or deep lakes.
- When considering lures, keep the following in mind: available baitfish, average population size, season, and depth of the lake. Your aim should be to mimic local baitfish, so get the right advice and the right lures.
- As with trout in general, night crawlers make for the ideal (and highly recommended) live bait choice. Salmon eggs and minnows (medium to large) are also useful.
- Depth is a crucial factor where lake trout fishing is concerned. They enjoy cold water, meaning you will need to fish deeper during warm weather. On the other hand, following an ice-out, you will need to maintain your lure at 10 inches from the surface.
- Springtime will still yield lake trout, but there are particular depths at which you need to search for them: 20 to 30 feet mid-spring, and 30 to 45 feet late-spring.
- Summer is the hardest time to find lake trout, unless you know where water remains at a steady 53 degrees Fahrenheit, or you heard tell of pockets of cold water fed by natural springs.
Lake trout roam in sizeable numbers, so when you see or catch one chances are there are more in the vicinity. Based on where you are fishing, lake trout lengths can vary anywhere from 14 to 20 inches.
#13, How To Catch Catfish
Although they do put up quite a fight, the thrill of catching catfish is matched only by a few others, to say nothing of how lip-smacking good they taste. Simple bait rigs can work wonders to attract catfish.
- Whether you are headed to shallow waters or fast-moving rivers, even warm ponds, catfish can certainly be on your list.
- During daytime, choose muddy water zones; tributaries are a good choice.Humps, drop-off bases, deep holes, and river bends are other ideal nooks that could contain catfish. As sunken structures go, weed edges and standing timber are catfish ‘hangout’ spots.
- The best rig for cat fishing includes: a shore-style or boat rod holder, long-nosed pliers for hook removal, lip-grip or net, 1/0 to 3/0 bait or circle hooks, #7 to #10 swivels, # 2 to #6 treble hooks, 0.5- to 2-ounce egg sinkers, beads, split shots, jig heads, and bobbers.
- Minnows and live worms make for excellent bait.
- Start by threading a sinker onto the mainline followed by a bead. Tie the mainline to the swivel end where there is a monofilament leader (1- to 2-foot). By bottom trolling or hovering, you increase your chances of encouraging a catfish to bite.
- With a float rig, simply add it over a slip-sinker rig’s weight, and drift your bait through native catfish lairs (wooded or weeded). Try to avoid snagging while you are at it.
- If you find that your catfish are thinking things over, feed your line to a curious nibbler. This is a seasoned tactic to prevent the catfish from sensing any resistance. When ready, set your hook and get ready for a fight.
Their improved taste and smell make them amazing night hunters; especially those whiskers that help them find their way even in the darkest of settings.When fishing at night, choose weeded areas, points, flats, shorelines, and bars to land a handsome clutch of catfish.
#14, How To Catch Crappie
Yet another North American native, this freshwater species comes in two varieties, namely white and black. A regular angler favourite, crappies swim in schools and prefer submerged structures to open water.
- Coming out mostly at dawn or dusk, crappies prefer the deeps and head to the shallows purely to feed. It is only during their spawning period that they come out in droves to the shallows.
- If you enjoy ice-fishing, the crappie can indeed be on your list because this fish does not perform winter hibernations.
- A tight line can make all the difference when crappie fishing. Their soft lips can tear away from the hook if the line is too loose. Since they are known to fight (like catfish), hooking on to a crappie is not too hard a task.
- A topographical map of the waterbody you are fishing in will be of great use. By pinpointing depth and sunken structure sites, you can figure out the best place to fish for crappies.
- When using jigs (recommended 1/8 ounce jigs), use a loop knot if you are earnest about freedom of movement while casting. The jig’s subtle movement encourages crappies to bite.
- Do not retrieve the lure too soon. Give it time, especially when you are sure that crappies are in the vicinity.
As bait rigs go, a time tested one comprises: a live minnow (hooked immediately behind the top dorsal fin or through both the lips); a #6 hook; a slip bobber; and a small split shot. Based on the depth, you can manipulate the slip bobber without affecting your casting ability.
#15, How To Catch Walleye
Between their rather specific feeding tendencies and heightened suspicions, walleyes can prove tricky to catch. They too are schooling fish, and gather in goodly groups around sunken structures. They can also be found around river bends and rock humps.
#16, How To Catch Mullet
The warmer the weather, the harder it is going to be to catch mullets. Angling for these particular fish might have proven difficult for many people, but that is simply a glorified myth; you need to learn to do it right.
- Estuaries are the best places for mullet fishing, and reduces their so-called difficulty rating by a huge margin. All it takes is a flood tide to send a school of them into an estuary.
- Use either waders or polarized glasses to work the shoreline in search of estuary mullets. Lurking shoals can be found in creek edges adjacent to the main river line. Mullets are not fans of change, so you can find them in their preferred spot time after time.
- A lightweight feeder/leger rod is the recommended choice, specifically the Daiwa Porky Pig (courtesy: Henry Gilbey, Sea Angler). It is rather adaptable: float fishing, free lining, legering, surface fishing…
- The reel can be of your choosing, as long as it has a tapered spool, smooth drag, and an outstanding line lay. Your rig must also include: hooks in sizes 6 to 10, leads, floats, and swivels. Your lines need to have 6- to 10-pound breaking strain.
- Be careful not to overfeed the mullet. That said, ground bait (sliced white bread) is a great bait choice, especially around dusk and dawn when they come up to feed.
#17, How To Catch Perch
As carnivorous freshwater fish go, the perch is an angler favourite that swims in schools and is most active at dawn and dusk; feeding time.
- The yellow perch is the most common of the species. At 5 to 18 inches, these fish can be as long as they are distinctive.
- Known for their tendency to steal bait and swim away, perch are much like mullets in this regard so you need to use small hooks in order to land them. Bait the hook tip without pushing all the way.
- When choosing between artificial lures and live bait, opt for the latter. Crayfish make for excellent live bait for perch, with the added advantage of effectiveness all year round. Other options include minnows (cool water) and night crawlers (warmer climate).
- Perch are not known to linger in the same place for too long, so despite being a schooling species it is best you hook a perch and keep at it, moving where needed to reel in more.
- This brings us to the use of a Crappie Rig. With different types of live bait put on different rigs, you can shortlist the best ones for the perches at hand and go from there. This way, there are chances for you to catch more than one jumbo perch (aka jack perch) at a time.
On the other hand, a slip bobber works its own kind of magic when it comes to perch fishing.
There are a fairly honest number of questions concerning fishing, so just to confirm here are some of the most-asked:-
Where do I go fishing?
If you know for a fact the type of fish you want to catch, then you will have no use for this question. However, if you want to try someplace new but have no idea where to begin, an interactive map or regional fishing guide is your best bet to resolving this query.
When do I go fishing?
Not to sound superstitious, but you will be surprised how much the moon influences your chances of catching fish. Checking region-based listings will give you a clear understanding of the best times to fish. Here’s an example, the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The moon is responsible for high and low tides.
Inspired from the Almanac are the following points. Go fishing…
Photo Credit: www.toronto4kids.com
- When there’s a westerly quarter breeze, as opposed to one from the east or north.
- When the barometer is one the rise or remains steady.
- When several hatching flies are about (mayflies, caddis flies, etc.), and you need to match your lures accordingly – some fish are shockingly hard to fool.
- Immediately after sunup; earlier the better. Or just before sundown.
Photo Credit: therdchurch.wordpress.com
What are Some of the Most Commonly Used Terms in Fishing?
So you don’t feel left out or questioning the sanity of fellow anglers, here is the ‘fishing lingo’ that you need to know…
- Popper: Referring to a hard-bodied lure that, during retrieval or casting, skips across the water
- Snag: Any object that your hook can get stuck on.
- Long Wand: In reference to a fly-fishing rod.
- Dolly: Just a dolphin (a pleasant sight).
- Man In The Grey Suit: Just a shark (a not-so-pleasant sight).
- Jigging: When you are trying to encourage fish to bite, and so lift and lower your lure/bait in the water alternatively.
- Trolling: When you trail your lure/bait behind you on the boat/watercraft, in the hopes that bigger fish mistake it to be a moving target and rush to bite.
- Doughnut: When you are competing with friends and you catch absolutely no fish in a given session (zero, like the O in a doughnut).
- Setting The Hook: The fish needs to stay on the hook as you reel it in. This means the hook needs to be inside the fish’s mouth as it struggles during the reel-in phase. To that effect, you increase the tension on the line, and essentially ‘set the hook’.
- Sinker: The fishing line’s weighted end, to ensure it goes into the water.
We have arrived at the end of our tutorial. I hope you are thrilled to get out there and land that perfect catch, whether it is a redfish or a mullet; or any one of the other species covered in this guide. Fishing is easy with the right rig and gear, and a clever understanding of the fish that you aim to hook. Comment with your thoughts and personal angling experience below, and share the article ‘How To Catch Fish’ on your favourite social media channel if you believe it is going to make smart anglers out of ordinary fishers.