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Beginning fishing

Judy Van Put - Columnist
Posted 4/19/21

We spent part of Saturday afternoon along the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, and observed a good number of trout fishers out and about, with out-of-town cars from Connecticut and New Jersey lining the …

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Beginning fishing

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We spent part of Saturday afternoon along the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, and observed a good number of trout fishers out and about, with out-of-town cars from Connecticut and New Jersey lining the banks of the streams. As we drove along the Willowemoc we noticed a fisherman with a little girl heading down the bank toward the stream. It reminded us of how important it is to encourage children to enjoy the great outdoors; and teaching them how to fish for trout is a good way to begin.

Years ago, the Department of Environmental Conservation, in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension, produced a wonderful guide titled “Getting Started: A Beginner's Guide to Freshwater Fishing.” We had gotten a stack of these booklets and handed them out to a number of youngsters though the years.

It appears as though the booklet is now out of print, however I was able to access a very similar one online, titled “I Fish New York: A Beginner's Guide to Freshwater Fishing.” Happily, this 88-page guide is available to download and print out if desired; it follows many of the same teachings as the original publication we had shared so many years

The booklet begins with a general description of the freshwater fishes of New York State (there are more than 165 species!) and “what makes a fish a fish?” It does an excellent job of introducing beginners to the many species of fish found in New York State and how to identify them through the use of color photographs, illustrations, graphs and charts.

There are two sections that provide information on fishing tackle and techniques - how to cast a spinning rod and troubleshooting tips - from basic to intermediate, how to bait a hook with different types of bait, followed by very good descriptions and illustrations on where to find freshwater fish in both lakes/ponds and streams/rivers, and how to hold a fish once you've caught one. And before embarking on your first fishing trip, there's a checklist on what to bring and why.

The “Care Of Your Catch” section begins with how to ‘catch and release' your fish, and what to do if you believe you've caught a ‘trophy' fish, and continues on with how to keep and clean your catch. Color photographs depict filleting, field dressing and pan dressing fish, as well as instructions on storing, preparing and cooking your catch.

There is a good amount of information provided on safety and responsible fishing - that covers both written and unwritten rules, how to respect nature and the environment and leaving the area in which you fish a cleaner place, as well as health advisories for eating fish and warnings about invasive species.

In addition to general and detailed fishing information, this “beginner's guide” includes a nicely illustrated section on Aquatic Life, from invertebrates and insects to birds, mammals and aquatic plants, and various species' lifecycles.

There's a chapter on the waters of New York State, another on Fisheries Management and even one on ice fishing. Interspersed throughout the book are short quizzes (activities), games, and lists of books used for reference or to gain more information, as well as a fishing diary for children at the end.

“I Fish New York: A Beginner's Guide to Freshwater Fishing” is a great teaching aid to introduce youngsters to appreciate the great outdoors and learn more about their environment, as well as the sport of fishing. The booklet can be downloaded by clicking on this link: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/gsfishing.pdf

Judy Van Put is a long-time member of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association, and is the recipient of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited's Professional Communications Award.

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