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A First-Timer’s Guide to Shoreline Fishing

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A large percentage of anglers today can probably say that their first fishing experience was from shore or dock. I still have a photo of me at four years old, sitting on the shore with a three-foot Zebco in hand and wearing my cowboy hat and boots.

Ah, those were the days.

Fishing from the shore is more or less the same as fishing from a boat; you just have to think backwards a bit. That is, in most cases, you must launch into the lake and recover towards the shore, rather than the other way around. This guide will show different aspects of shore fishing, along with techniques I have found to produce quality shore fishing trips.

The first thing to remember is that fish generally stand their ground along the shore and trudge to the water’s edge, gear and things jingling and making large amounts of noise is the first no-no. I’m not saying you have to crawl, but actually sneaking up to shore is the best approach. A brisk stride and slow, quiet movements are optimal at best.

Try to set up a tent at least twenty feet from the shore. Generally, in public parks and FWA’s, there are nearby picnic tables and they are generally at the optimal distance from the bank.

When it comes to tackle, less is more. Some fishermen on the shore think they have to bring all their gear and poles and if you are not going to venture to other parts of the lake or river, I guess that is fine. However, most anglers know that you must change locations to increase your chances of catching more fish.

I’m not saying you should leave the rest of your gear at home, it’s just that your car won’t be too far away. You can always bring too much, just leave the extra things in the trunk.

I usually carry two of each type of lure that I may need for the conditions, a stick; two maximum and sometimes a fridge. The cooler is for fishing Panfish or a place to put a fish so as not to scare others. When you catch a fish and just throw it away, that fish is stressed out and scared and thus scares off other potential catches nearby.

When I venture out into the woods or out of the way, it’s usually a decent hike to where I want to go. I have a small plastic utility case (actually a used wall hanging plastic case that is divided into four compartments. It is the perfect size), a pair of hook removal pliers, a towel and a lunch box foldable to put everything in. I have a couple of Berkley Gulp plastic worm bags and a pole; two if I’m feeling playful. That is usually all I need.

I put a two-inch lipped minnow, a couple of little jigs, a little spinner, and some extra hooks, swivels, and weights in the plastic box. Everything but the stick fits in the lunch bag, the stick breaks, and I go through the woods with nothing but the ground to stop me. If I need or want other lures that won’t fit in the case, I just put them in the bag and can usually put a bottle of water in there too.

The point is, keep your gear to a minimum and you’ll have more mobility. You don’t need the whole tackle box to fish from shore, unless you are spending the night in one place then the situation may require everything and the kitchen sink.

Try to make your first cast from about ten feet from the water’s edge. Look for the right conditions (overhanging trees, sunken wood or rocky spots and cast parallel to the shoreline. Many shoreline protection  fishermen walk straight into the water and cast as far as they can, often missing the fish right in front of them. or just a few feet along the shore.

You can catch a fish by casting it deep into your particular body of water, however it will likely be a while, especially if you use a lure or crank-type bait. To catch fish this far from shore, you have to dig deep and keep your presentation there for some time. As I mentioned earlier, most fish, even large ones, cling to shore.

Another thing I’ve mentioned in other articles is that seabass like to lurk around transition lines in the water (mud lines, brush lines, shadow lines, and steep drops). A good pair of polarized sunglasses will help you locate these areas in the water, not to mention spot fish and protect your eyes from flying hooks, weights, and lures when trying to dislodge a hitch.