Top 10 Secrets for a Successful Fishing Trip

Christopher Dyrland-Marquis

Heading out for a big catch? Before you go, read these tips to help make the most of your time outdoors. Consider these ten strategies to come back smiling after every excursion.

Choose the Appropriate Bait
A great fishing trip starts with knowing what kind of food your target fish likes to eat. Different species of fish like different things: While Walleye usually enjoy small minnows, others, such as Trout, enjoy worms and nightcrawlers instead. Aggressive species, such as Bass, may even prefer small crayfish!

Know When to Hit the Water
Depending on the season, the time of day that you cast into a body of water can have great influence over your success. Though popular feeding times vary somewhat by fish species, a useful rule-of-thumb is to start early at dawn or wait for dusk. If you find yourself throwing out a line in afternoon heat, you might only catch a stinging bout of sunburn.

Use the Right Hook
There’s a pretty high chance that no one is pulling ten-foot swordfish out of our local, Bozeman waterways. If you are wielding Great Uncle Steven’s deep sea 11/0 J-hook, you probably won’t get a bite. Conversely, if you use a hook that’s too small, the fish can swallow it - an unpleasant problem to remedy for all parties involved. For most local fish, a hook size between 6 and 14 works well to hold bait, remain unseen, and keep a fish on the line.

Bring the Fishing Net
Longtime anglers will recall the unspoken shame and regret that arises after an embattled trophy fish is brought ashore, only to slip the line because no one brought a net. Don’t make your tear-stained hands cast into the water again: A fishing net keeps the catch secure, while also protecting the fish from unnecessary trauma. Utilizing this tool will ensure that when you finally catch the fish you’re after, you can keep it.

Grab a License Before You Go
Nothing brings an adventure in the great outdoors to a screeching halt faster than encountering Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks officers when you don’t have proper licensing. Prevent unnecessary citations and those awkward conversations with a 15-minute stop at any of the widespread businesses across the Bozeman area selling invasive species passes, fishing, and conservation licenses: Montana Trout Outfitters, Montana Angler, Bozeman Family Fly Shop, Walmart, and more. The proceeds even support local wildlife management!

Pack Some Drinks and Snacks
A game of determination, strategy, patience, and spurts of excitement: Fishing has it all. However, in the down time—and there’s a lot of it—nothing beats some relaxation, a frosty beverage, and a bite of your own to eat. Be sure to take along enough food to make your day something to cherish, but be sure to pack out what you bring in; no one likes litter!

Safety First
The best fishing stories are those in which we are regaled by tales of exaggerated monsters thrashing against the hull of a fisherman’s boat, threatening to capsize his vessel in the yawning maelstrom of its tailfin. However, when angling, the importance of utilizing safety precautions can’t be overstated; rivers and lakes often hold hidden, life-threatening hazards, and residents know all too well that Montana’s weather can turn on a dime. Wearing a lifejacket and packing warm clothes can save your life, and letting others know where you plan to fish will ensure you come back with tall tales of your own to tell.

Know Thy Rod
We’ve all seen it - the perfect, majestic flourish of a fishing rod, its sparkling chrome lure sailing through the air, the thwack, as it stops cold and falls short, its newly tangled reel leaving an angler bridging language gaps between fishermen and sailors in red-faced expletives. The subtle differences to explore in fishing rod selection and performance could fill volumes, but learning basic characteristics about your righteous tool helps to equip you for success on the water. Do you need to cast farther out? Perhaps a longer pole is what you need. Is your rod too heavy? Graphite rods (as opposed to fiberglass) offer a lighter construction. Taking time to better understand your fishing rod can help perfect your technique and improve your results.

Take Along Some Spares
Without any replacement gear, a fishing excursion into the wilderness is bound to be cut incredibly short. Submerged rocks and logs have a special affinity for catching baited hooks and snapping fishing lines, and a hungry fish might steal bait two or three times before finally getting caught. Extra snares, bait, line, and weights can provide a forgiving buffer against bouts of bad luck and extend what would be a 15-minute fit of frustration into a blissful, fish-filled afternoon.

Embrace the Spirit of Fishing
No matter how many (or how few) fish you do end up wrangling, don’t forget why you went in the first place. The old adage, “No such thing as a bad day fishing,” holds a lot of truth. Don’t be afraid to focus on enjoying the fresh air, improving your casting, or even just dipping your toes in the water. If you’re having fun, chances are you’re doing it right. While a productive day of angling might involve a large haul or a big fish, the most successful ones will linger on your heart and mind, inspiring you to go back to the great outdoors and experience it all over again—with or without the catch.

There are few activities more fulfilling and rewarding than a day spent fishing. It offers something for everyone, challenging us to outsmart surprisingly adept opponents, teaching us patience in both our success and defeat, and giving us the opportunity to appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty that surrounds Bozeman every day. But such things are impossible to experience inside, so go out and cast away!

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