Let's Talk Fishing

Outdoor family time has suddenly become greater now that the coronavirus forced most places to shut down. But as the state is slowly trying to open back up and with temperatures warming a bit, many parents are looking for other outdoor activities. I highly recommend fishing.  Why not continue your outdoor adventures and go fishing? It’s America’s favorite pastime.
Fishing can produce more than fun memories, it may even be supper. If your desire to take your family fishing is strong, but your experience is weak; don’t be discouraged. You can have plenty of fun by sticking to the basics. A stroll through any outdoors store will show you fishing has many complexities, but don’t be intimidated. If you have a basic knowledge of the equipment and understand a few simple techniques, fishing can be enjoyable for you and your family.
Let’s start with equipment. The best pole to start with would be a closed-faced reel and a 5½-foot rod. The pole should be rigged up with a bobber, sinker and hook. The bobber dictates the depth you will be fishing, so you may have to adjust this when you find a fishing location. The sinker should be placed 6 inches above the hook and the hook size needs to be able to accommodate the fish you want to catch. Use a No. 4 or No. 6 hook for panfish, such as sunfish.
The most important part of your set up is the knot that holds the hook to the line. That is your connection to the fish. You will need a good knot to make sure the hook is securely tied.  There are two good knots to choose from: improved clinch or the Palomar knot. Directions for tying them can be found at this link: short.mdc.mo.gov/ZhA.
If you are worried about not being able to afford a pole, most Missouri libraries have a Rod and Reel Loaner Program. This program is a partnership between Public Libraries and MDC. It provides fishing poles and tackle boxes to check out. All you need is a library card. Type in this link to find a library near you: short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJq
Once you have the right equipment, the next step is mastering the technique of casting. Learning to cast simply takes practice. You may want to use a casting plug to learn to cast. If you don’t have a casting plug, simply tie a weight on the end of your line. There are six simple steps to casting: grip, stance, aim, cast, release, and follow-through.
* Grip: Hold the pole with your dominant hand and place your thumb on the release button on the reel.
* Stance: Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart with one foot forward (if you cast left-handed put your left foot forward, if you cast right-handed put your right foot forward).
* Aim: Align your arm (bent at your elbow) with your body and keep your eye on where you want to cast.
* Cast: Hold your arm close to your body but do not let it touch, then slowly move the rod forward and let go of the button when the pole is at eye level.
* Release: When your arm is almost straight out in front of you, release the button.
* Follow-through: As you release the button, follow-through as you straighten your arm. More information on casting techniques can be found at: short.mdc.mo.gov/ZhA 
Now you’re ready to fish. An essential to any fun fishing outing is to choose a good location. There are several public lakes and streams with established fish populations. Or, if you know someone with a farm pond, ask them for permission to fish there. No matter where you decide to fish, make sure you know the fishing regulations and if you’re age 16 or older you will need a fishing permit.
After you have found your location, you will need bait. Live bait is almost always a good call.  I recommend worms. Worms can be purchased or better yet, dig some up in your yard.  Keep the worms in a bucket away from the hot sun and covered in soil. When you put the worm on your hook, cover the hook but leave enough of the worm to entice the fish.
Cast out into a good location in pond and watch your bobber. The bobber is the tattle-tale on the fish. It will sink as the fish nibbles the worm on your hook. You will need to pay attention and set your hook when you see the bobber go completely under water. Setting the hook means you jerk the fishing pole upwards and then reel in your catch. Hopefully, you will have a fish on your hook. Before touching the fish, wet your hands and then gently release the fish. If the fish swallows the hook, cut the line. Many times, a fish will survive being “deep-hooked” if the line is simply cut whereas trying to tear the hook free will do fatal damage to the fish’s internal organs.
Fishing is such a fun way to enjoy a day at the river or lake. Make a day of it with bringing a picnic lunch. Remember when you are finished fishing, remove the worm from your hook, reel your line in and secure the hook on the pole. Clean up your pole and make sure your tackle box is in order. This way it’s ready for the next time you want to go fish.
Remember, good things come to those who wade! Happy fishing. 
For a free Introduction to Fishing pamphlet contact the Ozark Regional Office at 417/256-7161 and ask for Intro to Fishing or go to this link in the article: short.mdc.mo.gov/ZhA.
MDC reminds the public to enjoy responsible recreation by continuing to maintain physical distance in the outdoors and avoid popular areas where people may congregate. Additionally, continue handwashing and sanitizing and travel in a group of 10 people or less. For more information on best practices to keep you and others safe, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
To read the latest responses and actions taken by MDC during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit https://mdc.mo.gov/about-us/mdc-covid-19-response.
Mary E Scott is a Fisheries Management Biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Ozark Region. More information about conservation issues can be found at your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or at mdc.mo.gov.

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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