From Hookin' To Cookin'

Fishing Poles
Choose a fishing pole that fits your child’s hands. It should be about as long as your child is tall. There are a variety of youth-size rods and reels (complete with line) for sale.

The simplest fishing rod is a cane pole. It can be made of bamboo, fiberglass, graphite, or even a tree branch. Fishing line is tied to the end of the pole. There is no reel. You simply toss the line into the water and wait for a fish to bite.

A spincast rod is great for beginners. The fishing line comes out of a hole in the reel cover. A thumb button releases the line or stops it from going too far.

Tackle and Bait
Start with worms and a small bobber. Hooks are sharp, make sure you help children put the worm on. Hook the worm through the body two or three times. Nightcrawlers work great and you can even have a fun evening collecting them. Keep the worms in a closed container inside a cooler with ice to keep them fresh.

Minnows are another good bait for beginners. You can buy them at local bait and tackle shops. Keep them in a bucket of water. Use a small dipping net to catch them. Run the hook through the back just below the dorsal fin — don’t hook it through the spinal cord.

Bobbers keep your bait suspended off the bottom and where the fish are biting. They bob up and down when you have a bite. Kids love to watch them.

Tying on the Hook

The Trilene® knot is a strong all-purpose knot that you can use to tie a hook to your line. Follow these simple instructions.

  1. Run the end of the line through the eye of the hook two times.

    Knot tying

  2. Loop the line around four or five times, then thread the loose end back between the two loops near the hook.

    Tying a knot

  3. Pull tight. Trim the loose end.

    Tying a knot

Fishing on a hook with warm to a wonderful meal.

Cleaning Fish

Freshly caught fish tastes great if it's cared for properly. Store caught fish in a cooler with ice until you get home. To preserve a fresh taste, clean your fish as soon as possible. Filleting, pan dressing, and skinning are three simple ways to clean your catch.

If you would like to view videos that illustrate how to fillet fish, here are some good ones:
(Note: these links will take you away from the Iowa DNR web pages)

  • General Fish Filleting this method uses a fillet knife (9 min)
  • General Fish Filleting this method uses an electric fillet knife (2 min)
  • Panfish/Sunfish Filleting (2 min)
  • Catfish Filleting (9 min)
  • Walleye Filleting (2 min) Additional information about this technique from fisheries biologist Bernie Schonhoff: This video for walleyes addresses the Y-bone in walleyes, but doesn’t show the “zipper technique” that I use. To do it you fillet and skin, then slice on both sides of the midline at the tail. Then you grasp those two cut sections and pull apart. If you do it absolutely correct you end up with 3 pieces, one in each hand and the third from the middle falls on the table. This is the one with the bones. Otherwise you have to pull the bone section off of one of the other sections, whichever one it stuck to.
  • Northern Pike Filleting (4 min) Additional information about this technique from fisheries biologist Bernie Schonhoff: This is the closest to the technique that I use for pike, but it left out several pointers that I always tell people. First, there are no Y-bones past the body cavity so you only need to go that far. Second, lay the fillet so that the belly side is nearest to you. Next, find the Y-bones by running the knife along the fillet, then slice down and away from you just above the Y-bones. Last, find the blood line in the fillet, then cut down and away from you to remove the Y-bone section. To make sure to comply with laws that require you leave some skin, I remove the Y-bones first and then skin the fish from the head end instead of the tail end and stop the skinning just before the tail, slicing through to leave enough skin on the filet and to keep the 2 boneless pieces together as a single fillet.
  • Asian Carp Filleting. The links below provide a couple different options for filleting Asain carp.

Cooking Fish

Wash cleaned fish thoroughly. If you are not going to cook the fish right away, freeze immediately in a container (milk carton, pop-top plastic container, freezer bag, etc.) filled with water. Thaw fish in the refrigerator or under cold running water. Do not thaw fish more than one day before cooking.

Rinse fresh fish in cold water and pat dry. Make several shallow, diagonal cuts in large fillets to shorten cooking time. Cook refrigerated fish within three days.

There are several ways to cook fish. Fish cooks very fast. When done, it will pull apart and flake. To check if it is done, cut into the thickest part and make sure there is no opaque color or jelly texture left. Do not overcook.