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Fishing Fundamentals (WSJCANC)

TopicLaboratory and Hands-on Activities - Physical Activity
Laboratory and Hands-on Activities - General
Outdoor Skills - Fishing
Wildlife - Fish
Participants will learn how to use the equipment to begin fishing. They will realize that fishing is a fun, readily accessible activity and is an important management tool used by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) fisheries biologists.
Recommended SettingIndoor and outdoor classroom
LocationWitt Stephens Junior Central Arkansas Nature Center, Little Rock

Education Coordinator, 501-907-0636


Duration45 - 60 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants10 - 30
  • Recognize basic fishing tackle and different types of fishing require different equipment.
  • Learn to tie simple fishing knots and how to attach a hook, sinker and float to a fishing line.
  • See how to make bait that tastes and smells good to catfish.
  • Identify public fishing locations in central Arkansas managed by AGFC.
  • Understand that fishing is a vital management tool used by AGFC fisheries biologists for balancing fish populations.
  • Realize how license sales and excise taxes on fishing equipment funds management of all fish species, not just the few sought by anglers.
  • Learn the most recent statistics on fishing’s economic impact in Arkansas.
Key Terms*

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)

Amendment 75 of 1996


Baitcast reel

Cane pole

Carrying capacity

Central Arkansas Nature Center (CANC)

Commercial fish

Daily limit

Fisheries biologist

Fisheries management

Fishing knots

Fishing license revenue

Fishing regulations

Fishing rod

Live bait

Possession limit

Spincast reel

Spinning reel

Sport fish

Sport Fish Restoration Act

Tackle box

Terminal tackle


10 gallon aquarium or large clear jar filled with water

Arkansas fishing regulations handbooks

Copies of “Beginner’s Fishing Guide”

Cane pole and fishing rods

Catfish bait creation ingredients and recipe sheets

Fishing line, barbless hooks, sinkers, floats

Great Places to Fish in Central Arkansas brochures

Shark hook and rope for demonstration of knots

Spincast, spinning, baitcast and fly reels and rod seats
Tackle box stocked with terminal tackle


Arkansas has about 600,000 acres of lakes and more than 9,700 miles of fishable streams. More than 200 species of fish inhabit these diverse waters. Deep reservoirs, shallow lakes, bayous, cool-water streams, large rivers and tailwaters beneath reservoir dams offer anglers a buffet of fishing destinations. Fishing is a popular recreational activity in the state with hundreds of thousands of anglers enjoying the sport each year. From inexpensive cane poles and live bait to specialized tackle and gear, everyone can find a level of fishing to enjoy on the water.


  1. Introduce yourself and the CANC. Explain that it is owned and operated by AGFC and showcases the agency’s mission. Also tell how Amendment 75 of 1996 funds paid for the facility and allow free admission.
  2. Explain that AGFC uses fishing to keep fish populations at healthy levels while providing fun for people. Hand out the fishing regulations guidebooks, explain that all anglers must follow fishing regulations, and show where to find pertinent information. Note the distinction between daily limits and possession limits. Share how AGFC fisheries biologists regularly sample fish populations, calculate the carrying capacity and recommend fishing regulations based on this data. Some fish are considered commercial fish for food, animal feed and other uses. Point out that AGFC has special regulations for commercial fish that differ from those for sport fish.
  3. Mention that fishing license revenues fund a large portion of the AGFC budget to manage all fish species, not just those sought by anglers. Define “excise tax” and tell how anglers contribute additional money for fisheries management by buying fishing equipment through the Sport Fish Restoration Act.
  4. Explain other economic benefits of fishers spending money in Arkansas on fuel, food, drinks and lodging. Quote the most updated statistics on the economic boost.
  5. Distribute copies of the “Beginner’s Fishing Guide” and lead participants through the sections on terminal tackle and general fishing tips. Use the poles, rods, reels and tackle box to illustrate common fishing equipment, and briefly highlight how it is used. Allow participants to handle the reels on the rod seats to see how to use them.
  6. Give each a barbless hook and section of fishing line to practice tying fishing knots. Show how to tie the palomar knot and/or improved clinch knot.
  7. Demonstrate how to attach a weight and float, and use a small aquarium to show the basic fishing rig as it appears under water.
  8. Hand out the Great Places to Fish in Central Arkansas brochures. Survey the public fishing areas managed by AGFC in central Arkansas by identifying the names, locations and typical fish species of each.
  9. Explain that some fishing baits can be created from unusual combinations of common items. Choose a few participants to create the catfish bait (using one from the list compiled by Keith Sutton) and go through the ingredients. Ask the class why they think catfish would be attracted to this bait, and make sure they understand that catfish are covered with taste buds. Give participants the bait recipe and encourage them to use it.


  • If there was not enough time to cover each activity, recommend they do them later.
  • Provide copies of illustrations from the aquatic resources education curriculum to refer to for types of fishing equipment.
  • Provide a list of websites and fishing publications so they can search for more information. Encourage this by giving them AGFC fish bookmarks.
  • Use the information on sportfishing in America to create math lessons based on the economic impact of fishing.
  • These ideas can be used in the post-visit teacher packet.
  • Suppose you will be going bluegill fishing next weekend. What kind of fishing pole would you choose? What kind of bait would you pick? How does keeping a few bluegill to eat help sustain the population? (It keeps them from overpopulating to the point of disease, stunted growth and starvation.)
  • How does the money people spend on fishing and tackle ensure fish populations? (AGFC uses funds from license sales and excise taxes to maintain fish populations and access areas for anglers.)

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) – the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife


Angler – a person who participates in recreational fishing


Baitcast reel – a fishing reel that revolves during the cast and must be controlled by an adjustable brake and magnets within the reel along with thumb pressure; also called a level wind reel; the most difficult reel to master and generally used by advanced anglers


Cane pole – a simple fishing pole made from the dried, hollow stem of the river cane plant with a fixed length of fishing line affixed to the terminal end; ideal for fishing from the bank or in tight locations, especially for panfish


Carrying capacity – the amount of fish that a given water body can sustain based on its nutrient and oxygen levels, presence of pollutants, biological food chain, and habitat structure for various species; carrying capacity is closely monitored by AGFC fisheries biologists to maintain fish populations within healthy ranges


Commercial fish – any of several species that are caught and sold for value as food, animal feed and other uses; AGFC has special regulations for commercial fishing


Daily limit – the number of fish of one species or group of sport fish species that an angler may possess between 12:00 a.m. on consecutive days; AGFC lists daily limits in the annual fishing guidebook and on its website at www.agfc.com


Fisheries biologist – a scientist who studies and manages wild fish populations


Fisheries management – the scientific guidelines and procedures used by fisheries biologists to accurately provide for healthy fish populations


Fishing knots (Palomar, Improved Clinch, etc.) – various knots used by anglers to secure hooks and terminal tackle to fishing line


Fishing license revenue – funds generated from sales of fishing licenses that support management of fish species


Fishing regulations – legal codes set by AGFC to ensure sustainable fish populations for enjoyment of the people; Commissioners review scientific recommendations from fisheries biologists and input from the public before establishing regulations


Fishing rod – a slender, hand-held pole usually made of graphite, fiberglass or composite material used by anglers to catch fish; general types include spincast, spinning and baitcast rods


Live bait – a variety of organisms that can be placed on a hook to catch fish; common types include worms and grubs, crickets and other insects, and crayfish


Possession limit – the legal number of fish of one species or group of sport fish species that an individual may possess in person or in storage; determined by doubling the daily limit


Spincast reel – a fishing reel activated by depressing and holding a button when casting; also called a closed-face reel; the simplest fishing reel to operate and usually the first that anglers learn to use; is not as accurate to cast as baitcast and spinning reels


Spinning reel – a fishing reel with an exposed spool that hangs underneath the rod; activated by opening a wire bail to release the line before casting, which is pulled from the spool by the weight of the lure; also called an open-face reel; more difficult to use than a spincast reel but easier to master than a baitcast reel


Sport Fish Restoration Act – federal legislation enacted in 1950 that collects excise taxes on the sale of fishing tackle and equipment that is returned to the states for fisheries management work; raises over $600 million annually


Sport fish – any species of fish sought by recreational anglers by rod or pole for food or enjoyment of catching; AGFC sets regulations concerning sport fish angling that are listed in the annual fishing guidebook and online at www.agfc.com


Tackle box – a container to hold terminal tackle, line and other items used by anglers to catch fish


Terminal tackle – hooks, weights, swivels, artificial lures, etc. attached to the end of the fishing line to catch fish