Sure, you know your home fishing hole like the back of your hand. You know what bait to use and when to use it. You know exactly where everyone dumps old Christmas trees in the lake to build up a perfect fish structure. You know where the hardcore, on-the-water-at-4 a.m. guys go before the rest of us even think about getting up and heading to the boat ramp. You know all that. What you may not know is where to find those honey-holes while you’re on vacation. Here are some secrets to help you tap into that “local knowledge” and get you on the fish quickly. You want to get out of your steel garage door in Oklahoma City ready and prepared as you would not want to waste your time defining where are your going to do your hobby.

Plan Ahead

Whether you’re hitting the Gulf Coast, Flaming Gorge or Lake Texoma, you’ll do yourself a favor by doing a little legwork before you hit the road. Spend some time on the Internet, and you’ll be amazed at what you find. Many times the Chamber of Commerce or the local fishing guide association will have posted some great information to influence anglers like you to spend some time (and money) in their community. You may not find too many specifics, but you’ll likely track down what’s biting when and get a good idea about the proper bait and gear you’ll need.

Go Local

Once you’ve done your computer research, it’s time to go old school and start “talking” to people. You know that bait shop you found? It’s in their best interest to put you on some fish. You’ll be back. And you’ll buy fuel, snacks, ice, and, of course, more bait. And anything else you forgot. Just make sure you’re listening to the guy behind the counter, and not the silver-tongued angler who’s just hanging around the shop. He may have a vested interested in steering you the wrong way. Another great source for information is local guides. In fact, you can take some of the pressure off and get to the fish faster if you hire a guide for your first day. For a reasonable fee, they can get you to the secret fishing holes quickly, and you can spend more time hauling in your catch.

Finally…Be Respectful

If you’re on vacation, chances are other anglers might have the same idea. As you spend time with the locals, show them the appropriate respect. You’re a visitor. Be a good one. That means paying up for current fishing licenses for you and your family (as required) and knowing the keeper species and catch limits. Practicing a catch and release policy for any fish you don’t plan on consuming during your trip is the responsible thing to do. And it provides a good lesson for the young anglers on your crew. And make sure that you pack out a little more than you packed in. Nothing can ruin a great fishing hole like out-of-towners who leave a body of water more polluted than they found it. Go beyond “No Littering” and pick up extra trash you see.

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To pick a good fishing spot, you first need to know what kind of fish you want to catch. Let’s say we’re going to fish for bass – the best place to fish is in a shallow cove. Here there is a lot of shade, which they seem to favor, plenty of shelter, and lots of food. Other fish live in shallow coves, such as sunfish, and sometimes salmon. To fish for bass you can use many types of bait, but the most effective is the common worm. Put one on the hook, and add a bobber about two to three feet away. Cast out and let it work. This method will work on just about any kind of fish, any place.

Another kind of bait you could use is a lure. A lure can be anything from a frog to a baby fish to a grasshopper, which are made of plastic, metal, feathers, or a combination. Most lures are shiny to attract fish. As the lure spins, light will reflect and fish will come, thinking it is a small or injured fish. Lures are good for fishing in weeds, or if you’re tired of sitting around. All you do is cast out the lure and bring it back in. You should alternate speeds – start out slow, then go faster, and back to slow. Keep this up and the fish will surely take it. You could also give the lure short bursts of speed by pulling back on the rod, but just a little. Too much will scare the fish away.

You can also fly fish, which is much harder and takes a lot more skill and patience. A fly rod is anywhere from six to fourteen feet long. To fly fish, you need a fly. Not the kind that you catch in a field, but an artificial one, made of any combination of bird feathers, animal fur, and thread. The challenge in fly fishing is to make the fly look as real as possible. You cast out in a series that doesn’t let the fly touch the water. If you catch a fish on this type of rod, it is a lot of fun.

You can only fly fish when there is a “hatch,” when the underwater bug eggs hatch and rise to the surface. The fish go into a feeding frenzy. Then you cast an artificial fly into the hatch. The fish will think that it is a real fly and eat it – that is when you catch a fish.

In most places you can’t tell if there are fish, so use the trial and error method. You start with the simplest of methods, putting on a worm and casting out. Wait about 15 minutes, and if you haven’t caught anything (or are not satisfied with your catch), move or try a different method. Usually I try lure fishing. The same rules apply, except you’re casting out and reeling in for fifteen minutes. Then if you’re an experienced fisherman and have a fly rod, you can try fly fishing. Where all else fails, fly fishing usually works.

Different types of fish live in different places. Bass and sunfish live in shallower water than salmon. Salmon like to live in the deeper part of lakes. They tend to stay year round and only go to shallower water to spawn, which is when fish lay their eggs.

When you’re fishing from a boat, figure out what method you want to use and try it. If you’re using the worm method, cast toward the shore. In a few minutes you should start to get some action. At first you might just catch a sunfish, but the bigger fish should come, and you’ll have some fun. If you’re fishing from the shore, cast out about ten feet and you should get the same results as from a boat. When you’re lure fishing, you should cast out as far as possible. With lure fishing you probably won’t get as many fish as with worm fishing.

This is how you pick a good fishing spot, what to use, and how and where to use it.

Good Luck! l

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