Ode to Fishing

     I guess the DNR wants everyone to know the Minnesota Fishing Opener is right around the corner.  They have sent out a handful of Press Releases and each one of them contains interesting information about fishing.  It’s kind of like grocery shopping when you’re hungry, a little bit cruel but it still makes your mouth water.

Want to fish? Nothing to it (April 28, 2009)


Once upon a time, all that was needed to go fishing was a cane pole and can of worms. A boat and motor was almost considered an extravagance. Those days are long gone. Or are they?

Contrary to the perception one might get from TV, magazines or a visit to a sporting goods store, fishing need not be expensive or complicated.

“Fishing can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it,” said Mike Kurre, mentoring program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “All it takes is some basic knowledge and equipment to have a fun, relaxing fishing experience. And it’ s even more enjoyable when you take a youngster or two along.”

In today’s hectic world, many youth don’t get an opportunity to enjoy fishing because they don’t have an adult in their life to take them. And one reason some adults don’t take those youngsters is because they themselves have not learned how to fish.

“People see the advertisements and the TV fishing shows with all the high-tech, fancy equipment, the big boats, and the overwhelming selection of lures, bait, and accessories and they don’t know where to start,” Kurre said. “And so too often they don’t start, not realizing how simple it can really be.”

Kurre suggests that novice anglers start with a visit to a local bait shop or sporting goods store.

“Don’t be intimidated by all the equipment and accessories you see. All you really need are the basics. Store employees will steer you in the right direction because they would like to see you become a regular angler and customer.”

For the beginner, just a few essentials are needed: rod and reel, tackle, bait (and bait bucket for minnows), life jacket and fishing license. Beyond that, most of what you might want to take along can be found at home, such as a cooler, pliers, sun screen, bug lotion, chair or cushion.

Kurre offers the following quick-list for the beginning angler:

Rod and reel: A simple rod and reel can be purchased for as little as a meal at a fine dining establishment. For simplicity, start with a spin casting reel.

Tackle:  Tackle includes such things as bobbers and sinkers, hooks, and artificial lures. When starting out, avoid artificial lures. Store employees will help set you up with the basics.

Bait: The kind of bait you’ll put on the hook will depend on the species of fish you are after. Worms, minnows and leeches are popular live bait for numerous fish species. Panfish such as crappies and sunfish are usually easier to fish for and catch than species such as walleye, northern pike or bass. A worm on a small hook will usually do the trick.

PFD: A coast guard approved personal flotation device such as a life jacket is required while in a boat on water. It’s also a good thing to have when fishing from shore or a dock. Safety first!

Where to go: Minnesota is fortunate to have numerous lakes, rivers and streams that offer excellent fishing opportunities. Many of those waters have locations where you can fish from shore or from a fishing pier. In addition to the DNR, many counties and communities also provide places to fish. Ask around. Or, explore the DNR Web site for more information.

Practice: Once you have your equipment you need, practice casting by attaching a sinker weight to the end of the fishing line. You can do this in your backyard. You also will want to practice tying different knots to your tackle. Search for ‘fishing line knots’ on the Internet and you’ll find all the help you need to tie a basic knot. It’s easy.

Cleaning fish: If you have never cleaned fish, you’ll want to find someone to teach you. Or, simply practice “catch and release.” Use pliers to remove the hook from the mouth of the fish and then let it go. For young people especially, happiness is simply feeling a fish on the end of the line and reeling it in.

Fishing terms, A to Z (April 28, 2009)


Words familiar to us can be foreign to others. As an example, take fishing. If you are an avid angler, terms such as jig, structure, back-trolling and crank baits are common. For the novice or casual angler, however, they might make no sense.

For those new to fishing, here are some basic terms that might be helpful to know.

Angler/angling: An angler is a person who fishes; angling is another word for fishing.

Backlash: Tangled line on a bait casting reel. Tangled fishing line is also referred to as a bird’s nest.

Back-trolling: Technique in which the boat motor is put in reverse, allowing the boat operator to make sharper turns to follow changes in lake bottom structure.

Bait: Usually refers to live bait put on a hook (worms, minnows, insects, crabs, etc.).

Bait casting: Fishing with a revolving spool reel and bait casting rod; the reel is mounted on the topside of the rod.

Bobber: Also called a ‘float,’ they come in various shapes and sizes. They float on top of the water to keep the bait off the lake bottom and signal a fish bite by “bobbing” on the water.

Buzz bait: A large bait with propeller-type blades that churn when retrieved on top of the water.

Catch and release: The act of catching and immediately releasing a fish as a way to conserve the resource.

Crank bait: Minnow-like lure with a lip that causes the lure to dive under water during the retrieve; usually made from plastic or balsa wood.

Drifting: A method of fishing where the angler allows the boat to drift in the wind. Usually involves using live bait.

Flies: Lures made from fur, hair, feathers or synthetics tied to hooks; intended to resemble insects, larvae or minnows.

Fly-fishing: A preferred trout-fishing method using a special fly rod with either live or imitation flies tied to a hook.

Jerk bait: A soft or hard plastic bait resembling a small fish, usually fished by using quick jerks or yanking it to resemble a bait fish.

Jigs/jigging: Jigs are lures with a weighted head and a fixed hook often dressed with fur, feathers, or a plastic body/tail. Live bait can be added to the hook. Jigging is a technique in which the jig is moved up and down frequently.

Leader: Length of monofilament, wire or other stranded material tied between the end of the line and the lure or hook. Provides extra strength and guards against abrasion from sharp teeth or rough mouths of fish.

Livewell: Compartment in a boat that holds water in which to keep caught fish alive.

Lures: Artificial bait made to resemble live bait.

PFD: Personal Flotation Device, such as a life jacket or floating cushion.

Plugs: Type of lure made of wood, plastic or rubber and designed to imitate small minnows, fish, frogs, bugs, etc. Can be either floating or sinking.

Reel: Mechanical device that holds the fishing line. There are various types of reels, most notably spin-casting, spinning, bait-casting and fly-casting. Beginners are better off with a spin-casting reel.

Rod: The fishing pole, usually made of fiberglass, graphite or composite materials. Rods come in various lengths and strengths. Rods are available for fly fishing, spinning, spin casting, and bait casting.

Sinker: Weight used to sink lures in the water. Sinkers come in different weights, shapes, and types.

Slip-sinker: A sinker that slides up and down on the line rather than being locked in place.

Snap/snap swivel/swivel: A snap is a hook-shaped piece of wire with a clasp that is tied to a fishing line. A lure is attached to the snap. Snap swivels are the same concept but also help prevent line twisting.

Split-shot sinker: For the novice angler, this is the preferred sinker. These are very small round weights with a slit for the line. The slit in the weight is pinched together to hold the sinker in place.

Strike: A “hit” from a fish attempting to take a lure or bait.

Trolling: Fishing from a boat with the motor kept in forward gear at a slow speed. Live or crank baits are preferred for this type of fishing.

Zebra Mussels: Zebra mussels are an invasive species that foul beaches, interfere with food webs, smother native mussels, clog water intakes and are linked to fish and wildlife die-offs. Mussels attach to boat hulls, fishing equipment, nets and boat lifts. They can be transported on those materials or aquatic plants that remain on marine equipment and fishing tackle. Microscopic larvae may be carried in the water of undrained bait buckets or livewells. It is illegal to import, possess, transport and/or introduce zebra mussels into the wild.