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Family Fishing Basics—cheap

Try before you buy. Wouldn’t it be nice if this applied to more than just test-driving a car? Imagine being able to watch the first quarter of a football game or the opening song of a concert before deciding whether to buy a ticket.

Here at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, we have a special “try before you buy” event during the first weekend of June. It’s our free fishing days. On June 3-4, you can fish anywhere in the state without a license. That even includes trout, a fish that normally requires a separate permit.

We’ve been doing this for more than a decade as a way to encourage people to try fishing. With gas prices putting a crimp in everyone’s travel budget this year, fishing is a cheap way to spend some time with the family and enjoy the great outdoors.

Now, if you go into the fishing section of a big discount store or your local bait store, the selection can be intimidating. Ignore most of what you see. Despite all the fancy hardware, live bait remains one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective ways to catch fish.

Start with your hooks. If the store offers a variety pack, get that. Otherwise, you’ll need a pack each of size 4 and size 8 hooks. Choose the long shank, Aberdeen style. Get a bag of BB-sized split shot lead sinkers—you pinch these onto your line to give you more casting distance. Finally, buy a couple of bobbers. These keep your bait suspended above the bottom.

You can buy a cane pole for a few dollars, or purchase a spincasting rod and reel for under $20. Garage sales are also great places to pick up used fishing equipment at bargain prices.

Now that you have the equipment, where do you go? Ask a neighbor who fishes or visit the department’s Internet site at and click on fishing. You’ll find a wealth of information there. Or visit and search under fishing.

Finally, get some nightcrawlers for bass and catfish, and some wax worms or crickets for panfish. Toss the bait near weed lines, docks, or trees fallen into the water.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll like this test drive enough to try fishing again.


Have you always wanted to go fishing but never learned how to do it? Then get started with your own free copy of Basic Fishing. This guide tells you how to tie knots, cast, bait hooks, and more. Call the department at (800) 858-1549 to order your copy.

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