LeBlanc: A few suggestions for new anglers

I would expect there are a lot of folks, young and adult, who received fishing equipment for Christmas and that is fantastic. Here in Southeast Texas, the weather seldom gets cold enough for prolonged periods, so anglers are rarely bothered for very long.

Another fact about our area is the northern third of Lake Conroe is in the Sam Houston National Forest, so there are no shortages of places where you can fish from the bank if you so choose.

There are a considerable number of beginning anglers that will have gotten fishing combos with a rod, reel and line. The rod will be around six feet long and the reel will be a spin casting or open face spinning reel and either reel type will probably be loaded with ten pound test line.

There are a few other necessities you will need, so let me point out the basics to you for catching fish in Lake Conroe.

If you didn't receive a tackle kit with your rod and reel combo you will need some fish hooks, small sinkers, and maybe a float or two. Floats are not a necessity but fun if the fish are biting shallow. The best way to find what you need in these items is to go some place that sells fishing tackle and look for small hooks that will have a long shank and labeled Pan Fish Hook, they will probably be a size six or eight.

Remember, you can catch a big fish on a small hook, but you can't catch a small fish on a big hook. Also don't be ashamed to ask someone at the shop what you need if you can't figure it out.

Now, if you received a tackle kit you may have some exotic looking artificial lures, but my recommendation is to not try those because the odds are you will fish until you are bored from no action and go home without a bite. It may not be that the lures are not good, but there are special techniques involved in successfully using each different type of artificial lure and it takes instructions and practice to become proficient with them.

I would recommend that the beginning angler go out and try to catch some bream or catfish. They are fun to catch and will bite on worms that can be found at any marina. You can also find night crawlers in your garden or flower bed if you want to dig around a little.

I must mention that you don't tie your hook onto the line with just any old knot because that is a way to loose a hook and a fish. I personally have used a Palomar Knot or an Improved Clinch Knot for more years than I care to remember and have been happy with the strength and both are easy to tie. You can pick up a knot tying guide at most places that sell fishing tackle or search them by name on line.

When fishing with worms under a float tie the hook at the end of the line, put a very light, probably a small split shot, above the hook about six inches and then attach the float a foot or two above the weight. You want the float to stand upright in the water and the weight and hook off of the bottom. Then it is time to bait up, so if you are using worms just thread them on the hook and if they are too long cut them to fit.

As your float sits in the water watch it for any movement or bobbing as that will indicate something is messing with your bait. As soon as it sinks set the hook.

You might be thinking that setting a hook when the fish takes bait and landing it couldn't be difficult, but there is a little learning curve necessary to tell the difference between an actual bite versus a nibble or bump of your bait.

One way is to wait and feel the weight of the fish on your line, or if fishing with a float wait until the float goes completely underwater before setting the hook by taking the slack out of your line.

Another point you can expect is the more you know about the fish species you’re after, and the more time you spend on the water practicing, the better you’ll get. As you practice more and catch more fish you will learn the feel of the bite and can tell what variety of fish is biting your bait.

Once you catch a fish use wet hands when handling it. If you are a wimp and feel you must wear gloves use rubberized — not cotton — gloves. This helps maintain the slime coat on the fish, which protects it from infection and aids in swimming. Anglers that know how to practice proper catch and release never use a towel of any kind when handling fish since a towel can remove this slime coat.

So folks let me make one more recommendation and that is if you want to get into fishing and learn to catch fish properly, think about hiring a fishing guide for an instructional trip and also bring home all of the fish you want to clean.

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