Photo credit: USFS, USDA

Learn How to Fish: 5 Books for Beginning Anglers

If you’re interested in hitting the water for fun or for food, we’ve got five books that’ll help you put a fish on the end of your line.

The earliest fishing hooks date back 42,000 years, and likely, humans have been attempting to catch our aquatic friends for much longer. Luckily, you don’t have to carve a hook from bone to get started on your local water anymore.

And with social distancing now a priority for many, fishing licenses have seen an uptick. Minnesota reported an 11% increase in fishing license sales, and West Virginia reported a whopping 40% increase in both hunting and fishing licenses in the month of June.

Luckily, these guide books provide a wealth of knowledge that you can carry along with you in your pack. Whether you want to fly fish, throw a Rapala, or simply stick a worm on the end of a hook, these books will help you get a jump on the local competition.

Best Fishing Books for Beginners

Best for Beginners: Basic Fishing: A Beginner’s Guide, Wade Bourne ($11, Paperback)


This is truly a book focused on a beginner’s viewpoint. With the basics outline, most folks will be able to tie up a rig, find fish, and hopefully put a few on the dinner table.

This basic guide focuses mainly on traditional freshwater fishing, and reviewers say it leans toward the Midwest or Eastern fishing. That being said, lakes abound nationwide, and you’re likely to pick up many of the basics as long as you’re looking to just get started on the fundamentals.

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Best for Fish-Crazy Kids: The Total Fishing Manual: 317 Essential Fishing Skills, Joe Cermele for Field & Stream ($14, Paperback)


A book that focuses mostly on freshwater fishing, reviewers say it’s a great fit for younger anglers looking to learn more. The collection of articles and knowledge pulls from the top writers at Field & Stream. It’s more a collection of tips and tools than a how-to manual, however. And at $14, it’s an affordable snag for the fish-crazed kid.

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Best for Aspiring Fly Fishers: The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide, Tom Rosenbauer ($25, Paperback)


Tom Rosenbauer has been guiding anglers through the ins and outs of fly fishing for over 40 years, and his professorial tenure at Orvis has likely created more anglers than any other in the business.

He shares his hard-won wisdom across many books, but this is a biblical one for anyone looking to tie a fly on the end of their line. The breakdown is beginner-friendly, but the nuance and in-depth coverage are educational for anglers of all levels.

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Best Pocket Guide: Fishing: A Guide to Fresh and Salt-Water Fishing, Golden Guides ($7, Paperback)


This pocket-size book has been in print since 1949, and fish haven’t changed much since then. Reviewers love it for both its nostalgia and the great illustrations for fish species identification.

At 4 x 6 inches, it really is small enough to travel. And 160 pages of info help anglers across fresh and saltwater, but readers state it’s more of an overview than a how-to.

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Best for Identification: Ken Schultz’ Guides to Saltwater ($18) & Freshwater Fish ($19)


OK, so these are two separate books. But the saltwater guide packs in 227 different species of fish, and the freshwater guide packs in 140 different species. Identifying your catch is not only a great skill to have, but it’s also a measure for legality. It’s unwise to keep a fish that you assume is one species but you might not know for sure.

These are both field guides that measure in at 5.5 x 8.5 inches. They go into anatomy, have a deep glossary of terms, and are handy for anyone who wants to remain both legal and educated when fishing for any species.

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Nicole Qualtieri

Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. She also serves as a Board Director for Orion the Hunters Insititute, a non-profit promoting fair chase and hunting ethics nationwide. A DIY hunter, she comes from a non-traditional hunting background and began hunting and fishing in her 30s. She's been a voice for hunting, fishing, and conservation since 2014, when she got started working on the television show MeatEater. She's an avid horsewoman, bird dog aficionado, snowboarder, hiker/backpacker, food nerd, and all-around outdoorswoman. Find her online at @nkqualtieri.