Early spring is the right time to introduce children or youth anglers to the joys of fishing, Scott Jones, Extension specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. Getting started doesn’t have to be expensive.


“Fishing is a great way to bond with family and friends while building an appreciation for the outdoors and natural resources,” he said. “Most people learn to fish from one or both of their parents. The peaceful time family members spend together fishing often becomes a cherished memory that lasts a lifetime.”


Learn a few fishing basics


Jones said young Arkansans are in luck, as the state offers extensive fishing opportunities in its ponds, lakes, rivers and streams. To start fishing the state’s diverse waters, they need to acquire a few fishing basics, according to a news release.


“As with any hobby, fishing can become as expensive as you want to make it,” he said. “Fortunately, getting started fishing can be quite affordable. If you plan to teach your child to fish in public waters, necessary gear and licenses can be purchased for under $50.”


Youth 16 years and older require an Arkansas fishing license. The license can be purchased from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) online, in one of the AGFC regional offices, or in sporting-goods stores.


When shopping for a fishing rod, most young anglers begin with a spin-cast rod and reel combo, which are affordable and easy to use, Jones said. Additionally, “ready-to-fish” packages that include the rod, reel, fishing line, hooks and weights together in one set are commonly sold at sporting goods stores.


Find proper gear


The all-in-one packages commonly contain the most important terminal tackle, gear that is attached to the end of a fishing line. In a sporting goods store, these packages can spare the beginning angler the headache of trying to make sense of aisles full of terminal tackle that include a potentially overwhelming variety of floats, weights, hooks, swivels, rattles, lure keepers, split rings, tools and other accessories.


“The incredible diversity in equipment available is a result of companies developing highly specialized equipment intended for a number of specific species of fish,” Jones said. “Ready-to-fish packages are a great option for beginners who don’t have an experienced companion to guide their shopping decisions.”


Jones said anglers can choose to fish with artificial lures or live bait, including worms, crickets or baitfish such as golden shiner or fathead minnow.


“Live bait is usually more effective at attracting fish to bite than artificial lures,” he said. “Though artificial lures are increasingly realistic, they can’t match the scent, appearance, movement, taste and texture of a live organism. The better artificial lures can match some of these characteristics, making them more successful, but no lure can achieve all of them at once.”


One of the drawbacks to live bait is that they can usually be used to catch only one or two fish before they are lost or too damaged to be effective. On the other hand, artificial lures can be utilized to catch several fish before they become too damaged to use. Live bait must also be kept alive during a fishing trip to maximize their effectiveness, while artificial lures can be stored and mostly neglected in any tackle box without going to waste.


Using baitfish


Jones said another drawback to the use of certain species of baitfish as live bait is the unintentional introduction of non-native fish species in Arkansas waters.


“Capturing baitfish from the body of water you intend to fish with a cast net is a common method for collecting your own bait,” he said. “However, in October 2018, new AGFC regulations to slow the spread of aquatic nuisance species will make it illegal to transport live wild-caught baitfish from one watershed to another.”


Starting from Oct. 1, to use live baitfish in Arkansas, anglers must either purchase the baitfish from a licensed dealer selling only certified farm-raised baitfish; use the baitfish in the same body of water from which they were captured; or capture baitfish from a tributary that drains into the body of water where the baitfish will be used – on the condition there are no physical barriers, such as a dam, that prevent fish movement between the tributary and the body of water where the angler plans to fish.


“Golden shiner and fathead minnow are great options for small live baitfish because they are native to and common throughout Arkansas,” he said. “Arkansas also happens to be the leading producer of farm-raised, certified disease-free baitfish in the U.S. When you buy minnows at your local tackle shop, you are almost certainly supporting Arkansas-owned aquaculture farms.”


After acquiring the right tools, young Arkansans can start taking advantage of the state’s abundant aquatic resources and learn how to fish, Jones said.


“Fishing is a hobby that not only builds an appreciation for the outdoors and natural resources, but also provides an opportunity for youth to decompress and disconnect from the increasingly fast-paced society we live in,” he said.


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.


— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.