The first time I had a fish on my line, my heart was pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears. When its you and your fish, the important thing is to breath and keep your cool. Many things can go wrong at this point, but if you do everything right, you might just bring that fish to hand or net.
1. Set the Hook
As soon as you feel you have a fish on the line, reel in the slack and set the hook.
“Setting the Hook” means successfully hooking the fish in the mouth. You set the hook by quickly and firmly lifting the rod tip. The action is in your wrist and your elbow; don’t bring your rod arm over your head, just give it a quick snap.
- If you set the hook too soon: you will pull the lure or bait out of the fishes mouth.
- If you set the hook too late: you will “gut hook” the fish, meaning the fish will swallow the hook. Generally this is bad, especially if you plan to release the fish.
- If your hook set is too light: you won’t penetrate the fish’s mouth and you’ll lose the fish.
- If your hook set is too hard: you will tear the hook right out of the fish’s mouth or tear the area around the hook and probably lose the fish.
- If you use circle hooks, your hookset should be slow and deliberate or not at all.
2. Play the Fish
The actions and reactions you take to tire out a fish so that you can bring it in, are collectively called “playing” the fish.
As a beginner, you are going to be tempted to haul in the fish by cranking on your reel. But, that’s a good way to lose a fish fast.
The idea is let the fish tire itself out without snapping the line or tearing out the hook. This is what you can do to play your fish right:
- Set your drag properly, before you have a fish on.
- Keep your rod tip up. Your rod should be vertical or near vertical, but not over your head:
- Do not allow slack in the line- keep the line tight.
- Keep the fish away from anything that will tangle your line. You can steer the fish’s head by moving the rod (not turning the handle.)
- If the fish runs towards you, reel in the slack:
- If the fish swims away from you, DO NOT REEL IN; allow the drag to do its job:
- As soon as the fish stops running, reel in the slack.
- As long is the fish is not pulling line out, pump the fish in.
How to Pump the Fish
- Lift the rod tip. This pulls the fish toward you.
“Landing” a fish means getting it out of the water. Most fish should be landed with a net. There is a right way and a wrong way to net a fish.
How to Net a Fish
- The fish should be “played” or tired. If it is still making runs, let it.
- Bring the fish in close to your feet.
- Put the net in the water carefully, away from the fish.
- Pull the fish over the net, head first, by steering it with the rod:
- Quickly lift the net up and out of the water, netting the fish.
*If you chase a fish around with the net, it will spook and probably make another run. The adrenaline rush will over-tire your fish and can really lower its chance of survival if you plan to release it.