Angling Mistakes to Avoid

Fix these common errors and catch more fish.

These 10 common mistakes cause lost fish and missed opportunities. Learn to avoid these and you’ll improve your catch.

fish in boat
Always check all your knots ahead of time. Alex Suescun

Check All Line and Leader Connections

Weak or poorly tied knots are the most common cause of lost fish. Better to be safe than sorry: When in doubt, retie that knot, hitch or loop. And always use knots with a high breaking strength.

checking drag
Always check your drag. Ted Lund

Check the Drag

Drags that stick or are set too tight cause broken lines, so check all your reels before the next fishing trip, and take apart and clean any drags that seem to apply uneven pressure. Back off all drags before storing your rods to keep the washers from sticking. Just remember to restore each to the proper setting before use.

fish pulled out of water
Check your fishing line for weak spots and tangles. Alex Suescun

Inspect Your Line

Many fish are lost to broken lines, so check for chafed or weakened sections, potential tangles (more frequent on spinning reels), and those dreaded wind knots often encountered when using certain braids.

overfilled livewell on fishing boat
Never put too many live baits in the livewell. Scott Salyers

Don’t Overcrowd Your Livewell

Determine the number of baits you can carry based on the species and livewell capacity. Some, like threadfin herring and menhaden, are more delicate and require more oxygen than others, and bunching too many of them together is a recipe for disaster. Overdo it and you’re likely to discover your entire supply died on the way to the fishing grounds. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and take fewer live baits.

fishing rod in rod holder on boat
Always have someone manning the lines in the water. Ted Lund

Never Leave Baited Rods Unattended

You are bound to miss strikes unless there’s always someone manning the lines in the water. You’re also squandering bait, and in some cases, the lack of supervision results in line tangles and wasted fishing time.

gaffing fish in water
Don’t leave the gaffing to inexperienced anglers. Alex Suescun

Don’t Leave Gaffing to a Novice

Lack of experience at this point in the game often results in lost fish and loud expletives. You are better off handing the rod off and taking over the gaffing duties. Remember, a novice will need some instructions — and encouragement — to work the fish into a position where you can reach it with the gaff.

fishing rod and reel
Look into any tackle malfunctions and repair all signs of wear and tear right away. Ted Lund

Maintain Tackle in Top Shape

Malfunctions, even those that seem sporadic, are signs of trouble on the horizon. A drag that sticks or skips now and then, the roller in the bail arm of a spinning reel that doesn’t quite turn freely, require immediate attention. Otherwise, you’ll face the inevitable consequences at some point. Often, at the worst possible moment.

fishing boat on water
If you must fish a popular spot, do it early and on weekdays. Alex Suescun

Never Underestimate Fishing Pressure

Popular spots are usually crowded on weekends. During holidays, some turn into a zoo. Unless it’s a weekday, if you must fish such areas, do it early. And always include at least a few additional spots in your fishing plan.

fishing tackle in tackle box
Take inventory of your tackle often and immediately replenish it. Ted Lund

Replenish Lures and Terminal Tackle

The worst time to find out you are out of certain lures, hooks, swivels or leader material is when you need them. Avoid that predicament by periodically taking inventory of your tackle and replenishing any items before you run out.

bad weather over water
Weather and sea conditions change quickly, so check the forecast just before you go out on the water. Alex Suescun

Check the Weather

Weather and sea conditions change rapidly, so checking the forecast the night before and again just before you head out helps you make the right decisions regarding fishing locations, target species, tactics and more importantly, safety.