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The Thrill of Freshwater Fishing: Exploring the Wonders of Angling

Freshwater fishing is one of the best ways to spend time outdoors.

It allows you to connect with nature while enjoying the challenge of catching fish. There are many different species to fish for and several different ways you can catch them.

If you want to learn more about freshwater fishing or how to be successful, keep reading!

Freshwater Fishing

What Is Freshwater Fishing?

Freshwater fishing is a popular activity that involves angling in non-saltwater environments such as lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds. Its accessibility across the country makes it a fun and relaxing way to spend time outdoors.

It involves casting a line with a hook and bait, with the objective of catching various freshwater fish species. No matter where you live in the country, there is a freshwater fishing opportunity near you.

Whether pursued for sport, relaxation, or food, freshwater fishing provides an opportunity to connect with the outdoors, improve angling skills, and appreciate the vast ecosystems available in freshwater fishing.

Where to Go Freshwater Fishing

There is an abundance of places to go for freshwater fishing. All you need is a body of water that contains fresh water and available fish. From the largest of lakes to the smallest of ponds, there are opportunities to go freshwater fishing that are closer than you think.

One of the most overlooked freshwater fishing opportunities is ponds. Located in most cities around the country and mixed within communities you already live, ponds are a great place to target freshwater panfish.


Another great place to go freshwater fishing is on the shores of a small stream. Water that flows through parks and residential areas has a ton of great access on shore to wet a line.

More common freshwater fishing spots involve rivers and lakes that are filled with wide varieties of freshwater fish. Oftentimes requiring a boat, there are still plenty of public accesses and fishing piers constructed by the local DNR.

Top Freshwater Fishing Species

There are too many freshwater fishing species to list here! But there are a handful of species that are most common with anglers. For many reasons, panfish, bass, and trout are among some of the most targeted species.


Panfish, by far, are the most abundant freshwater fishing species across the country. If you come across a body of water that you see has fish, most likely you are looking at a variety of panfish.

Panfish is a broad category of fish and contains various types and names. Bluegill, Sunfish, and crappie are among the most popular.

The term panfish comes from the general shape of the fish. They are thin and wide, making them look like a pan. They also are great in a pan with oil for a fish fry!

Whether you are looking to pick up a rod and reel for the first time or you are an experienced angler, the panfish is a great species to target.

If they are in the body of water you plan on fishing; they can be caught anywhere with a simple bobber and hook setup.


Bass grow to be much bigger than panfish and are known for their fighting ability. Bass anglers tend to target this species more for sport than food.

There are three main types of bass. Largemouth bass can be found all over the country and are the most widely fished for. Smallmouth bass like clear and deep bodies of water and are known to be excellent fighters. Spotted bass are mainly found in southern reservoirs and hunt in packs.

Bass Fishing

Regardless of what bass you are trying to catch, there are many different ways to target them. The list of artificial baits is endless, with this list mentioning some of the top bass fishing lures for all seasons.


Trout are another popular freshwater fishing species that anglers try to catch all year long. The diversity trout fishing has to offer creates a big draw for catching the fish.

There are specific species of trout that only live in rivers, while others prefer deep lakes. Common river and stream species are brown and rainbow trout. Trout that prefer lakes and get much bigger are simply referred to as lake trout.

Depending on what you plan on targeting will determine what gear to bring. If you are looking to catch trout for the first time, refer to this complete beginner’s guide to trout fishing.

Gear Recommendations for Freshwater Fishing

There is a wide variety of gear that can be used to go freshwater fishing. The simplest is a cane pole with some line and a hook attached to the end of it.

The more sophisticated rod and reel combinations will give you more flexibility on where you can place your bait. Freshwater fish can be a challenge to catch, but having the right gear for the situation will give you an advantage in landing the fish of a lifetime.

There are plenty of great options for rods, including our top bass fishing rod picks. After you have decided which rod and reel is best for you, choosing what they will bite on is next. By far, the most fish-catching bait is a bobber and hook setup tipped with a worm or any other food option you have.

Worm on a Hook

Many anglers choose to use artificial baits made out of hard or soft plastic that are designed to mimic baitfish and critters that freshwater fish feed on. This could be a 5” worm, a deep diving crankbait, or a spinnerbait that flutters through the water.

Check out the top bait options available to the freshwater fishing angler.

Common Methods of Freshwater Fishing


The most popular way to freshwater fish. It requires using a rod, reel, and line to cast out a bait to get a fish to bite. You are actively casting the bait to areas you think fish are living.

Some baits require you to reel it back, while others are better off sitting in one place. Conventional fishing tackle comes in many different sizes and actions depending on the type of bait you plan on throwing.

Among conventional freshwater fishing tackle, there are two main types of gear, spinning and casting. Spinning reels are a great choice when using light lines and baits. Casting gear allows the angler to use heavier baits more easily.


Fly fishing is an entirely different way to catch freshwater fish. Although you can catch a lot of the same fish as conventional fishing, the approach is completely different.

Instead of the focus being on the bait you are casting, fly fishing focuses on casting a heavier line out into the water. That is because the baits used in fly fishing are micro and hardly have any weight to them.

There is still a rod, reel, and line like conventional fishing, but the design is very unique. The rods are much longer and flimsier, making casting a far distance easier. The reels are also simpler, making it easy to store extra line.

Once a fish bites, oftentimes, the fish is fought by hand lining the fish to you instead of using the reel. More control is given to the angler when they are able to feel the fish’s every movement.


Freshwater fishing can also be accomplished in the winter through the top layer of ice that forms on a lake. It’s specific only in the areas that get safe ice in the winter.

Ice fishing tackle is a shorter version of conventional fishing tackle. There is still the need for a rod, reel, and line. Instead of the rod being roughly seven ft, ice fishing rods fit in the two to three foot range most of the time.

Ice Fishing

The smaller rod and reel give the angler an advantage when sitting close to the hole cut in the ice. Since the body of water is frozen, working your bait up and down to fish is only possible. There is no need to store extra line on your reel for long casts.

Like in conventional fishing, there are many types of sizes and actions depending on what bait and fish you plan on going after.

What You Need to Know Before You Go Freshwater Fishing

Fishing Regulations

The most important thing you should know before you go freshwater fishing is the current regulations for the specific scenario you are going to be in. Regulations are designed to support freshwater fisheries and ensure their well-being for many years to come.

First and foremost, this means getting the appropriate license for your outing. A general fishing license is a must, but there also might be additional license requirements depending on the species of fish you plan on targeting, the method of how you plan on catching them, and what body of water you will be on.

If you plan on keeping fish to eat, there are regulations on how many fish you can take and what size fish are considered legal keepers.

The regulations are easy to understand because local DNR websites list all the necessary information. A quick search or reading the regulations pamphlet will get you familiarized with what you need to know before you start freshwater fishing.

Fishing Conditions

Freshwater fishing conditions will change from day to day, so it’s important to understand the basics. Conditions can refer to many things, but weather, seasonal patterns, and structure are ones you want to keep in mind.

Depending on the weather, fish will be in certain moods. Sunny days will have fish looking for shade. They will sit next to or under anything that casts a nice shadow and gives them protection from the powerful sun.

Cloudy or rainy days will have them out on the move. Swimming in open areas looking for baitfish. These low-light days can be some of the best times to go fishing.

Fish will be in energy-saving mode if it is very hot or cold. They will most likely stay in one spot and move slower if they need to adjust their position.

Aside from weather conditions, the current season can also give you clues on what the fish are doing at any given time. Spring, they are focused on reproducing in the shallow water. In Fall, feeding is the only thing on their mind as they prepare for winter.


In summer and winter, you can find the majority of fish out deep where they are most comfortable in numbers. Each season sparks a different activity, and understanding this pattern will help you locate freshwater fish faster.

The last main condition to consider when freshwater fishing is the structure in the body of water you plan fishing. The structure is anything that is located in the lake. Docks, rocks, stumps, grass, reeds, and anything else you see in the water is a viable structure.

Fish will be located close to the structure for protection and feeding opportunities. It’s easy to get baits stuck in the structure. Knowing what is in the lake before your trip can help you choose the right bait. For example, if there is a lot of grass, use a hook with a weed guard to help avoid snags.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to catch freshwater fish?

A bobber and hook is the best way to catch a freshwater fish. Cast your bait into an area that has fish. The bobber will start to bob up and down, indicating a fish is nibbling at your bait.

When the Bobber goes all the way under the water, that means a fish has your bait and is swimming away. Quickly start reeling to drive the hook into the fish’s mouth. Reel up until the bobber is at the end of your rod.

What is the most popular freshwater fish to catch?

The most popular freshwater fish to catch are bluegill. They are in the panfish category of fish and are the most abundant fish across the country. They are also the perfect beginner fish to catch.

Bluegill live in shallow areas around docks, trees, and lilypads. The best way to catch them is with a bobber and hook tipped with a worm.

What time is best to catch freshwater fish?

The best time to catch freshwater fish is in the morning and evening, during low light conditions. Fish use low-light conditions to feed.

They will be moving around looking for food. This gives you the best opportunity to catch many fish, no matter what bait you choose to use.

Take Your Fishing Skills to the Next Level

Are you looking to take your freshwater fishing skills to the next level? Check out our complete fishing resource page for in-depth explanations about the many types of freshwater fishing topics.

We go over different species and how to target them. There is also gear and tackle recommendations that will help catch you more fish.

Start freshwater fishing today!