image of angler holding up a small smallmouth bass on the John Day R

10 steps to becoming an angler

Our tips for new or novice anglers
October 26, 2020

Fishing isn’t hard, but it can be confusing to know how to begin. Here’s a step-by-step approach to get from thinking about it to doing it.

1. Start with trout and bass. Trout and bass are two of the most popular gamefish in Oregon. There are a number of reasons why, many of which make trout and bass fishing great choices for new anglers.

  • They are widespread and often live in nearby lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.
  • The fishing gear is simple, and you can usually use the same gear for both trout and bass.
  • The fishing regulations for trout and bass are simpler and easy to understand.
  • You’ll need to buy just a basic fishing license – no need for additional tags or endorsements.

2. Buy simple gear to start. The fishing section at the sporting goods store can be overwhelming, and some anglers are notorious for collecting a whole stable of specialized rods and reels.

But in fact, you don’t need much more than a simple spinning rod and a handful of lures to start bass and trout fishing. Here’s a list of suggested gear to fish for trout and bass, and for several other species as well!

A look at some basic gear for a day of fishing.

3. Look for fishing close to home. No need to travel for hours to find a place to fish. Chances are, there’s some good fishing close to where you live.

If you live near Bend, Portland, Medford, Roseburg or in Lane County, we’ve highlighted a number of fishing spots near those communities.

Or how about 101 great places to take the family fishing? In it we highlight family-fishing locations throughout the state.

4. Buy a license. Everyone who is 12 years or older needs a license to fish in Oregon. Kind under 12 fish for free. An annual youth license for kids 12-17 years is only $10, and includes hunting and shellfishing as well. If you’re just fishing for trout or bass, that’s all you’ll need – a license.

You can also buy a one- or three-day fishing license, which is a great option if you’re unsure you’ll like fishing or have a friend who wants to tag along.

You can buy a license online or at an ODFW license vendor. If you’re buying your license online, you can print out a hard copy on your home computer, or download your license to your smart phone using the MyODFW app.

If you prefer to buy a license in-person, you can go to one of ODFW’s license vendors. This includes many Bi-Mart and Fred Meyer stores as well as several small independent retailers.

5. Check the regulations. The Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations are available in print and online. To get a regulation booklet, go to an ODFW license vendor, or call your local ODFW office and they’ll send you one.

The regulations will tell you what areas are closed to fishing, how many fish you can keep and if there are any gear restrictions. It’s a good idea to check them before you go.

The regulation booklet can be intimidating, but don’t be. Here’s a simple strategy for your search.

  • Find the zone you want to fish in (there are zone maps in the booklet), and note the regulation table for that zone.
  • If the waterbody you want to fish isn’t listed under Exceptions to zone regulations, that means it’s open to fishing and the regulations listed for the zone apply. 
  • Waterbodies with special regulations will be listed under the Exceptions… section within the zone, along with the special regulations.

6. Check the weekly Recreation Report. The report describes fishing conditions and angler success for hundreds of streams and rivers, lakes and ponds throughout the state. It’s updated weekly by the local ODFW fish biologists. Once on the Recreation Report page, select the Fishing Report and then the zone you want to fish in.

7. Go fishing. After all that, you’re ready to go fishing. To help you make that leap from planning to fishing, there’s the How to fish for trout article and video series. Much of this will apply to bass and other warmwater fishing.

To learn more about bass and warmwater fishing techniques and locations, check out Warmwater fishing in Oregon, which highlights some of the best warmwater fishing in 10 zones around the state.

8. Take a friend. Fishing can be more fun with other people. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors with friends, or create some special memories as a family.

In fact, during the pandemic, more and more families are discovering fishing as a safe way to help entertain the kids. Here are some ideas for planning a family fishing adventure.

9. Get a photo. Many people still remember years later catching their first fish. Wouldn’t it be great to capture that moment with a photo? (This alone is a good reason to invite a friend or family member to go with you. Someone has to take the photo of you and your fish.)

If you plan to release your fish, here are some tips for photographing it safely.

Be sure to send us a copy of your photo and we may use it on the ODFW website, in brochures or on signs.

10. Clean your catch. Congratulation! You’ve caught a fish, and you can almost taste its deliciousness. But you’ll have to clean it before you eat it.

Here’s a quick and simple way to clean fish for the pan.

A quick and easy way to clean your catch.

Want to learn more about fishing in Oregon? We’ve got all kinds of articles and tip sheets for catching all kinds of fish. Just use the search button on if you’re looking for something specific. If you’d rather browse to see what’s available, go to the articles page and use the filter feature to find How to fish articles.

Have fun and tight lines! (It’s a fishing thing.)

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