Finding the Best Places to Fish

Finding the best places to fish require preliminary steps before you hit the internet, visit bait or tackle shops, or do anything else. To successfully locate a great fishing location, you must first focus your efforts. This is the first in a series of articles. This one, the first, will focus on the general question of finding those hidden gems to target. Subsequent articles will be species-specific and will include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, trout, catfish, and pan fish (crappie included) – all within getting special treatment in their own article.
It may be that you are not picky about what you would species you’d like to fish for. That’s ok, and it is entirely possible (and sometimes advantageous) to find places that offer several species you are interested in. However, I have found that choosing one species as a starting point, and then perhaps using other species that might be present as secondary criteria, is the right way to get the best focused information. 
When using species as your first selection criteria, it is important to first learn as much as you can about what factors provide the best habitat for that type of fish. Some of these factors include water temperature, water clarity, water quality, structure present for cover; predatory species that feed on the fish you are targeting, and fishing pressure. Clearly you do not need to be a fisheries biologist to figure all this out.
Much of the legwork is already done for you. I will cover in a moment some of the resources you should look into when doing your research, but at this stage, it is wise to rely on information that others have established as important for the particular fishery.
Once you have it in mind what species you are interested in, establishing some criteria on location is important. Are you looking for places within a certain radius of your home? Will you be bank fishing or wade fishing, or do you have access to a boat to get out on the water? It is pointless to research heavily a body of water that offers everything you want, if you cannot access the areas that are productive. 
Perhaps you are planning a fishing vacation. If this is the case, establishing a location is obviously important, but are you willing perhaps to hire a guide at least for a day or part of a day to get you started off on the right foot. If you have a period of days to fish, and you don’t get things figured out until the very end, you might be really disappointed. This is especially true if you have traveled some distance to fish the area.
Finally, when it comes to location, going a few extra steps can be very helpful. Finding a little utilized access point on a river for example can make all the difference in the world. Heavily used access points can be almost thoroughly depleted of fish. 
Sources of Information:
The internet is the obvious place, but only one of many. On the internet, I suggest using forums as a primary source. Get to know people on there and observe the etiquette in place on the forum. As an example of this, I have noticed that in some areas (Michigan for example), it is not considered ethical to share exact location information for smaller streams and rivers in an open manner. Often, users are willing to discuss more specifics via private message format. Try to find forums that are species and/or location specific. Also, try to find forums that have a level of activity where you can get your questions answered in a timely manner. Besides these forums, are websites dedicated to providing unbiased information on certain areas. One excellent source can be found in the resource box below this article.
A second source of great information, and this is often available on the web as well, is your state fisheries department, whatever it is called. I have been able to get fish counts for specific stretches of river as an example. Additionally, you need to use this resource to learn of special regulations that might be present in the area you will be fishing.
A third resource for information is local bait and/or tackle shops. They have a vested interest in helping you be successful. As a matter of etiquette, it is only right that you would then patronize that shop in acquiring some of your needs. 
Finally, as I mentioned above, fishing guides can also be a great source of information. If your budget allows, why not hire a guide to shorten your learning curve at your selected fishing area. You will then know good specific fishing areas, rigging methods, and much more. I usually even take notes when I do this and guides are more than willing to allow this.
So, here are some very basic considerations to start off with. In the next article we will get down to specific species considerations and even a few specific suggestions for different geographical locations. If you are eager to get started, visit the resources below.

Paul Marsh co-authors a website that emphasizes teaching outdoors skills in the areas of hunting, fishing, and camping, all with the highest priority on assisting families and newcomers to these activities. His website Family-Outdoors has information on camping, hunting, and fishing from all perspectives with specific information on fishing at Family-Outdoors Fishing.