The Accidental Angler: Tales of a Fishing Newbie

Updated on November 16, 2016
LisaRoppolo profile image

Lisa is a writer with a terrible case of wanderlust! She loves to photograph interesting places and provide tips to the casual vacationer.

Bluegill caught in Hamilton, IL at Chaney Creek, which runs into the Mississippi River system
Bluegill caught in Hamilton, IL at Chaney Creek, which runs into the Mississippi River system | Source

How It All Began

One day I was chatting with my boyfriend about the outdoors and reminiscing about our childhoods, when he mentioned he would love to go fishing sometime, as it had been a very long time since he had done so. We both grew up down the street from each other and as a kid and he used to fish quite often at Marquette Park Lagoon in Chicago. Myself, however, have never been fishing (up until recently). I am quite an outdoorsy kind of gal; I have a large organic garden where I grow veggies, fruit and flowers. I love to go to State Parks and hike. I enjoy taking nature photography, so you would think this would have been something already in my skill set, but alas, it was something I have never had experience with before. So, my adventurous spirit was piqued and I suggested we go fishing the next weekend.

Duck we named Peaches.  She would visit us every weekend for 6 weeks at Pilcher Park, probably mocking our lack of fishing abilities!
Duck we named Peaches. She would visit us every weekend for 6 weeks at Pilcher Park, probably mocking our lack of fishing abilities! | Source

The First Outing

There are a ton of places to fish near my house, so I suggested we go to Hickory Creek, which is located in Pilcher Park, not far from where I live. It is a very familiar forest preserve for me because I go walking the trails there often. Seemed logical to me, as I have always saw people fishing there and I know there are several species of fish in that body of water. It was summer, July to be exact, so we headed out in the morning when the fish would be the most active. Joe rigged up a floating jig head with a weight and used live bait in the form of a night crawler. We could see lots of activity on the top of the water, which was a good sign. Unfortunately, we caught absolutely nothing that day and we kept going there, 6 weekends in a row, until Joe finally caught something, which was a bullhead catfish. 6 weekends. In the wrong spot. Very frustrating! That began our quest to venture out and research some other fishing spots.

Plicher Park and Hickory Creek
Plicher Park and Hickory Creek | Source
After 6 weeks of fishing in Pilcher Park, this is what Joe caught.
After 6 weeks of fishing in Pilcher Park, this is what Joe caught. | Source

Venturing Out

It all started with visiting the feed store for some live bait and picking up a copy of the 2016 Illinois Fishing Guide, which lists all the bodies of water in the DNR. It is sorted by county and also includes things like types of fish in each body of water and creel limits. This guide has been immensely helpful in picking our spots.

A common carp caught at Johnson-Sauk Trail State Park, Kewanee, IL
A common carp caught at Johnson-Sauk Trail State Park, Kewanee, IL | Source

Important Information

Always make sure you have purchased or are up-to-date on your state fishing license. Fishing licenses can be purchased on-line through the state's DNR website, or in person at several sporting good stores. If you plan on keeping fish (i.e. Trout or Salmon) you will likely also need a Trout stamp (inland and/or lake) and Salmon stamp (lake). Check with your individual state requirements.

A storm moving in at Miliken Lake, Wilmington, IL
A storm moving in at Miliken Lake, Wilmington, IL | Source

Types of Places We Fish

Illinois has varied and vast waterways available for recreational fishing opportunities. Most have shoreline access. Sometime down the line the plan is to get a small bass boat to be able to add some variety to our fishing spots and access larger fish species.

  • State Parks
  • Retention Ponds
  • Rivers
  • Steams
  • Quarries
  • Forest Preserve Lakes (both natural and man-made)
  • Large Lakes (i.e. Lake Michigan)

Live Bait or Fake Bait? What Works?

Here is the thing, what the fish are interested in one week isn't necessarily the same thing they are interested in the following week. Not just that, but it can also vary by the time of day and season! Fishing is kind of like gambling; even when you have a strategy, you aren't guaranteed to catch anything. Fish can be extremely finicky. Trial and error has been the method we have employed on our fishing excursions. Being prepared with a variety of bait is probably the best course of action. There are some generalizations we have found to be effective:

  • Night crawlers or Trout worms work on several types of fish (Catfish, Bluegill, Crappie etc) who doesn't love a live, squirmy meal?
  • Wax worms work best on smaller fish (Bluegill, Sunfish)
  • Plastic worms, aka, power bait, seems to work best on Bass
  • Corn, bread, power bait corn, and fake marshmallows work the best on Carp
  • spoons with small hooks and live minnows seem to work best on Trout

Chaney Creek, Hamilton, IL
Chaney Creek, Hamilton, IL | Source

It's All About the Presentation

You will hear this phrase a lot by fishing enthusiasts. Every time I think of presenting something to a fish, it conjures up a funny visual in my head of presenting a feast on a silver platter to a cartoon fish, but I digress.

Fish not only have a good sense of smell, they also have good eyesight, so it is important to choose rigging that won't spook them away from what you are offering. This includes fishing line thickness and color. Some species of fish cannot see the color green (i.e. Trout) and therefore it would be beneficial to use green line to increase your chances. Some fish prefer to eat off the bottom (i.e. Catfish) so rigging your line with weights to be able to sink down to where they are will increase catch-ability. Some fish prefer eating off the top or just below the surface. Do your research, decide what fish type you are going for and plan accordingly.

How to Catch Trout

Big Ol' Bass caught on a power worm
Big Ol' Bass caught on a power worm | Source

Dealing with Weather and Bugs

Weather and bugs can be challenging, especially near the water. Being prepared for the weather is a must. It goes beyond checking the forecast, as I can attest to, even with no rain in the forecast we have been prone to pop-up storms while out fishing.

Making sure you have the following, especially if you are going to be out all day, is essential:

  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • A first aid kit (getting hooks caught in fingers is no fun!)
  • Water (and snacks too!)
  • Wet wipes (these come in handy when dealing with live bait guts on your hands or if you have to pee in the woods. Don't laugh, it happens.)
  • Hat and Sunglasses
  • Rain poncho, umbrella or just having your car nearby in case of a downpour
  • A change of shoes in the trunk-you don't know how many times we have fished in muddy places!

Encountering Wildlife

Always keep a look out for water foul where you are casting your line. Reel in and let them pass. Most water foul won't stick around in the area you are fishing, but may end up swimming by relatively close to your line.

Channel Catfish caught at Miliken Lake, Wilmington, IL
Channel Catfish caught at Miliken Lake, Wilmington, IL | Source

Keeping Fish to Eat

Let's face it, we live in a world full of pollution. Bodies of water can be polluted with many things, including pesticide runoff, motor oil/roadway runoff, hazardous waste dumping (which is illegal, but some people do it), waste from factories and construction companies. Finding a clean source of water to be able to eat from is getting harder in smaller bodies of water. I would not keep anything caught from a retention pond or any source of water where there is runoff from the street draining into it. Safer places are large bodies of water and major waterways. Even then, limiting your consumption of fish to a few times per month is probably the safest bet unless you know for a fact that the particular water source you are catching from is clean and safe.

Rainbow and Golden Trout we took home to eat because we knew they were safe
Rainbow and Golden Trout we took home to eat because we knew they were safe | Source

Benefits of Fishing

Fishing in itself is pretty fun, but there are actually some other benefits to it:

  • Getting outside away from the city and enjoying quiet nature
  • The act of casting and walking around a pond is a great way to get exercise
  • Watching the seasons change in your favorite fishing holes
  • Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat can be both beautiful and entertaining because animals do funny stuff
  • Lots of nature photographic opportunities

Lock 14 on the I&M Canal, LaSalle, IL
Lock 14 on the I&M Canal, LaSalle, IL | Source

I Will Not Fish in Winter

I know some people right now are probably preparing for ice fishing, but not me! I have a low tolerance for the cold, so I will use this off-season time to reflect on our fishing excursions, what we could do better and planning on some new places to visit in the spring. Hope you enjoyed my little journey into newbie fishing or as I like to call it, Angling for Dummies.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Lisa Roppolo

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • LisaRoppolo profile imageAUTHOR

        Lisa Roppolo 

        7 weeks ago from Joliet, IL

        Thanks so much for the comments! It has been about a year since I've written a new hub. Life's trajectory has taken me in a bunch new directions. First, I started a new job last September after the old one laid me off without warning. I also started painting again after a long hiatus thanks to my boyfriend who is a Pinstriper and sign painter and have networked with a bunch of artists who are all really great people. After my summer calms down, I do plan on publishing a very detailed article about the craft as well as provide some photos of some stellar artwork.

      • profile image

        Kenneth Avery 

        7 weeks ago

        Lisa -- you are very welcome. I meant every word that I left you in this comment box. Please keep up work like this hub and I promise you that you will always be successful, happy and well, happy.

        At my age and health issues, my fishing days are over, but I can sit and dream of the water and how the tide ripples at dawn or sunset. Fact is: the ocean tide speaks a language that only the old and faded can understand.

        Keep in touch with me, Lisa.

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        7 weeks ago from the short journey

        Good stuff here. I fished as a child but that's been a while. You've definitely piqued my interest. I think I was expecting something of a humorous story but this is really useful as well as interesting.

      • LisaRoppolo profile imageAUTHOR

        Lisa Roppolo 

        10 months ago from Joliet, IL

        Thanks so much Kenneth!

      • kenneth avery profile image

        Kenneth Avery 

        10 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

        Hi, Lisa,

        (Sept. 11--a moment of remembrance).

        I apologize for not visiting you for such a long time. Life has a way to get you off track, well, knocked down if you try dance with Life. She is not a good dancer.

        But I LOVED this hub about "accidental angler," for you nailed it. Loved the photos; text; lay-out.

        I truly think that this hub should be a must-read for all people who have a desire to fish.

        Keep up the great work.

        Write soon.

      • LisaRoppolo profile imageAUTHOR

        Lisa Roppolo 

        20 months ago from Joliet, IL

        Thank you!

      • profile image

        johan smulders 

        20 months ago

        Interesting article about your newbie experiences. I am a keen fly fisherman in South Africa but have caught steelhead in Oregon. The USA has great opportunities and I wish you well

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, skyaboveus.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://skyaboveus.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)