Fishing for Fun
Often called sport fishing, fishing for fun means you're going fishing to enjoy the challenge of catching the fish and the fight it gives you. You may keep some to eat but that is incidental to the fun of catching them. Most of the fish you catch will be released to fight another day. You may also target fish that aren't considered table fare, like muskie.
Sport fishing is done with rod and reel, and artificial lures are used most often. Sport fishermen can use live bait but some frown on using it. They say live bait takes the challenge out of catching the fish and makes fishing too easy. If the fight it more important than the effort to get the fish to bite, don't hesitate to use live bait. And some species like catfish require live or prepared bait since they don't take artificial bait as readily as other fish do.
Trying to set a line class record is definitely sport fishing. When trying to get your name in the record books you use the lightest line possible to catch the biggest fish around. Sometimes this effort goes to extremes that are dangerous to the fish, since long, hard fights can weaken them, and it also result in frustration to the angler when a big fish is lost. But it's a challenge and the reward of seeing your name in the record book is a thrill.
The International Game Fish Association has a special group of “clubs” of fishermen. The 20-to-1 club is for fishermen catching fish twenty times as heavy as the line test (the most weight a particular line will take before breaking). For example, you would have to catch a 200-pound fish on 10-pound line to qualify. There are also 15-to-1, 10-to-1 and 5-to-1 clubs.
Don't decide to start with the most challenging fish or try to set a record. You'll just disappoint yourself. Pick a game fish that's easy to catch and gradually work up to bigger and more challenging quarry. Beginners' luck sometimes seems to come into play and novices sometimes catch huge fish, but the catch makes news and is considered luck because it's an exception, not the rule.
If you're fishing in fresh water you should start with bream as your first fish. They're plentiful, easy to catch, and put up a good fight on light tackle. You can catch them on simple equipment and start enjoying the thrill of catching as well as the sport of fishing. You can also learn a lot by fishing for bream and watching how they behave, what happens when they bite, and how to unhook them. Carp and perch are other freshwater fish that share the same characteristics as bream and they can all be caught from the bank.
Saltwater fish that can be easy to catch for sport include topsail cats, drum, flounder, and pollock. They can all be caught from the bank and fight well on light tackle, so you don't need special equipment. Most of these fish hit live or prepared bait better than they do artificial baits, making them a little easier to catch. You can also learn about the way fish hit by fishing with live bait first. Fish are more likely to hit a live bait hard and come back more than once if you miss hooking them. Pay attention to the way they hit it and you'll be a better artificial bait fisherman, too.
Avoid Glamour Fish
Some fish such as freshwater bass get a lot of publicity, and there's a lot of hype about them in advertising. Many of the fishing television shows are about trying to catch bass. Fishermen spend millions of dollars trying to find the magic lure that will catch them. There are thousands of “weekend warriors” that fish club and local tournaments trying to catch them.
Bass can be extremely frustrating to catch, even for experienced anglers. In Georgia, bass clubs turn in a creel census report after each tournament. Over a twenty-year period the results are amazingly consistent. It takes bass club fishermen an average of five hours to catch one bass weighing an average of 1.6 pounds. Bass club fishermen are experienced bass fishermen for the most part. If it takes them that long to catch bass, it can be very frustrating to you when starting out.
Muskie are another fish that get a lot of space in fishing magazines. They're great to catch but a real challenge. Called the fish of 10,000 casts, they get that name from the difficulty of getting them to hit. Muskie fishermen say it takes an average of 10,000 casts to get one fish. They are another fish that will frustrate you starting out.
Bonefish are a good example of a saltwater fish that's a real challenge to catch. They fight extremely well but have to be stalked, and casts to them have to be very accurate. Unless you hire a guide, bonefish are very hard to catch even for experienced fishermen. Wait until you have some experience catching fish before going after fish like these that are difficult to catch.