Not every fish requires years of experience and complicated techniques to catch. In fact, there are several types of freshwater fish that I feel are perfect for beginners to practice on.
That’s what I aim to do today. I want to teach everyone reading this what freshwater fish are the easiest to target, and how to catch them.
Easy to Catch Freshwater Fish
Bluegill are often an angler’s first catch. They’re typically small, weak, and close to shore. Beginning anglers will usually benefit the most from catching bluegill, but advanced fishermen can adjust their gear to make bluegill much more satisfying to catch.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend grabbing whatever rod you have access to, a few common garden worms, and then you should set up a basic fishing rig.
To do that, all you have to do is attach a small hook, bobber, and splitshot to your line. The bobber should only be about 3 or 5 feet from the end of your line, and the splitshot should be placed a few inches above your hook. Don’t use a large hook for this rig. Bluegill have small mouths, and they’ll be able to easily steal your bait off of larger hooks. If they do swallow a larger hook, it’s liable to pierce through their head and cause serious damage.
Don’t try to lob your rig into the middle of a pond when you’re fishing for bluegill. They mostly stick to the shorelines, and they’re most active in relatively warm weather. After you’ve thrown your rig into the shallows, just wait for your bobber to go under, and set the hook. They don’t put up much of a fight on standard gear. So, I don’t think anyone will have any problems reeling them in.
Most pros tend to move on from bluegill after their first year of fishing. However, the little fish can still provide a lot of sport for savvy anglers.
I trust that seasoned anglers know how to reel them in. So, I’m just going to talk about the gear that makes bluegill fun to catch as an advanced fisherman.
My favorite gear to use is an ultra-light rod, small spinning reel, 2-pound line, and a tiny fishing lure. Live bait can bring bluegill in quickly, but advanced fishermen will enjoy the thrill of tricking them into biting a small spinner or plastic grub.
With that set of gear, bluegill can put up a reasonable fight, and getting a bite won’t be a sure thing. The entire experience is much more thrilling.
Crappie are another freshwater species that is easy to catch. They’re a little harder to catch than bluegill, but they’re nowhere near as difficult to catch as blue catfish and alligator gar.
Crappie can be caught on the same live rigs as bluegill, but a different approach must be used for lures. Crappie tend to suspend themselves at a certain depth, and they usually hide out along structures. Try to play with the depth that you’re fishing at until you start hooking crappie. When you’ve found a spot where they bite, don’t stop fishing it until you’re certain they’ve left.
Using lures is a bit different. Since crappie suspend themselves at a certain depth, it’s best to use small jigs and an ultra-light rig. I recommend bobbing a small jig up and down until a crappie takes the bait. They put up more of a fight than bluegill. So, get ready for a fight.
Channel catfish are the easiest types of common catfish to catch. They don’t get excessively large, and it’s easy to set up a proper rig for them. In fact, I’ve frequently caught channel catfish on a simple bluegill rig. However there is a more efficient way.
Channel catfish can be caught on light equipment, but it’s best to use a medium rod. Heavier rods will make them too easy to catch, and they’re strong enough to break lighter rods. I like to use a circle hook with 12-pound line when fishing for channel catfish. To weigh down my bait, I like to use a half-ounce sinker.
If you’re just starting out, I recommend using chicken livers to catch channel catfish. They’re extremely cheap, and they work like a charm. More experienced anglers will want to use different cut baits and formulated baits to catch massive fish, but regular chicken livers are fine for beginners.
Try to cast a little bit off of the bank of a pond or lake. Channel catfish often hangout just where the water starts to deepen, and they come closer to shore to feed. It’s possible to catch them in the middle of a lake, but bites won’t happen as frequently.
Trout can only be caught in specific areas, but they’re some of the best fish to catch. They’re rather delicate, though. So, I recommend handling them with care if you plan to release them.
Trout are another type of fish that are great for lightweight setups. They eat small lures, and there are a few live baits that will work. A lot of the fun comes from getting these finicky fish to bite, though.
A lot of weight isn’t necessary to catch trout. It’s best to make a basic rig with a small Aberdeen-style hook, and thread a very small soft-plastic lure onto it. From there, it’s best to cast into shallow streams in areas where trout are common, and vary your retrieve with each cast.
Large-mouth bass are some of the most popular game fish in America, but they’re not too difficult to catch. Catching the monster-sized trophy bass requires a lot of skill, but smaller bass will bite on practically anything. Some fishermen even use bent beer caps to catch them.
Large-mouth are most active in the early morning and early evening, and they’re most commonly found in ponds and lakes. They’re easy to find in rivers, but the addition of harsh currents makes it harder to tell if one is biting. It’s also possible to catch them all year. Most fishermen will only target them during the summer and fall, but they will bite lures in the winter. It’s typically best to use very slow retrieves during the colder months. The bass simply aren’t as fast when it’s cold outside.
To catch a large-mouth bass, it’s typically best to use lures. They’ll occasionally bite rigs that have live bait on them, but it’s a lot easier and more fun to use lures. I recommend starting off with an inline spinner bait. It isn’t necessary to attach any weights to inline spinners, and their frantic action tends to excite bass.
If an inline spinner doesn’t work, I usually switch to a soft-plastic worm, and I use the worm to check the bottom for bass. A varying retrieve is best for this method. That’s what bass fishing comes down to usually. Just continue to switch out lures until one works, and bass will practically jump on the shore for you. They’re not very hard to catch at all.
It is worth noting that bass are pretty tough. Even the smaller members of their species can easily break thinner lines, and they’re known for leaping several feet out of the water to spit a hook out. It’s fun to them do that because their gills fan out, and they look like intimidating, but it makes catching them harder sometimes. Even if they don’t spit out the hook or break the line, they can burn out weaker reels if the drag isn’t set properly. That’s why I recommend that fishermen catch every other fish on this list before purposefully targeting large-mouth bass.
There are technically easier fish to catch in North America, but the fish on this list are available to almost everyone, and they’re easy enough for anyone to catch with a little practice.
If for any reason you find it difficult to catch one of these fish, I always recommend slightly changing your method. If you’re using a rig, try fishing it a little deeper. If you’re using lures, try varying your retrieve slightly. Fish can be picky, and I’m usually only slightly off of what they want to bite. Once I make those slight adjustments, it’s not uncommon that I fill a basket within half and hour.