Freshwater Fishing Rules That Were Meant to be Broken

Many of us grew up with a firm set of freshwater fishing rules or beliefs that were passed on to us from a parent, grandparent or maybe even an older sibling who taught us how to fish. These rules were likely based on experiences our elders had while out on the water, and were then shared with us. While I always appreciate advice or opinions that are passed along by knowledgeable anglers and fishing mentors, I have learned not to accept all advice as fact, but to test these theories on my own… and you should too.

You may have heard a few of the following rules or theories about freshwater fishing. Do you feel that these rules should always be held as truth? I personally believe that they were meant to be broken.

You always have to get up a few hours before dawn and be out on the water super early to catch fish. We've all heard this one, right? This was one of my grandfather's favorite rules, but I've found that it shouldn’t be etched in stone. While I do think that fishing in the morning (when it's cooler) during the hot summer months is generally more productive, you shouldn't overlook some of the great fishing opportunities that can take place from dusk until about midnight. If you're not a morning person, you can still get out on the water and catch fish!

It's best to always use live bait if you want to catch fish. This really depends on what you plan to do with the fish after you catch it. I do feel that live bait is more natural and dependable, but fish also tend to ingest live baits deeper. My suggestion is that if you plan to practice catch and release fishing, make an effort to use artificial baits or lures instead since the fish don't take them as deep. Plus, there is nothing that can really compare to the sight and sound of a largemouth bass hitting a topwater lure. You have to experience it!

You always have to set the hook. This rule is not true if you are using circle hooks. All an angler has to do when fishing with a circle hook is reel down on the fish; the hook sets itself. Circle hooks have become much more popular in recent years since they are very effective at catching fish and are rarely swallowed. Circle hooks are ideal to use when fishing with kids or if you have a few lines out at the same time and are fishing passively.

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.