Are you a Scout who loves fishing (or wants to get into it)? If so, you’re in the right place! In this guide, I’ll be providing you with all of the answers needed to complete your Fishing merit badge worksheet, fish with confidence, and even land a catch of your own!
You’ve reached part 2 of my ultimate guide to the Fishing merit badge! If you’re new to ScoutSmarts, you should first check out Part 1 of my Guide to the Fishing Merit Badge for answers to requirements 1-4.
If you’ve just come over from part one, congratulations! You’re halfway done with the knowledge requirements and almost ready to start getting some bites. Now, we’ll be covering a few final knots, fishing etiquette, and how to prepare the fish you catch! Nice work so far, give yourself a big pat on the back. 🙂
It’s time to get back into it! Take a minute to closely review and think through requirements 4-10 of the Fishing merit badge:
What Are The Fishing Merit Badge Answers?
- Demonstrate how to tie the following knots: improved clinch knot, palomar knot, uni knot, uni to uni knot, and arbor knot. Explain how and when each knot is used.
- Name and identify five basic artificial lures and five natural baits and explain how to fish with them. Explain why bait fish are not to be released.
- Do the following:
6a. Explain the importance of practicing Leave No Trace techniques. Discuss the positive effects of Leave No Trace on fishing resources.
6b. Discuss the meaning and importance of catch and release. Describe how to properly release a fish safely to the water.
- Obtain and review the regulations affecting game fishing where you live. Explain why they were adopted and what is accomplished by following them.
- Explain what good outdoor sportsmanlike behavior is and how it relates to anglers. Tell how the Outdoor Code of the Boy Scouts of America relates to a fishing sports enthusiast, including the aspects of littering, trespassing, courteous behavior, and obeying fishing regulations.
- Catch at least one fish and identify it.
- If regulations and health concerns permit, clean and cook a fish you have caught. If you are unable to catch a fish for eating, acquire a fish, clean the fish you acquired, and cook the fish you acquired. (It is not required that you eat the fish.)
4) Demonstrate how to tie the following knots: improved clinch knot, palomar knot, uni knot, uni to uni knot, and arbor knot. Explain how and when each knot is used.
To learn how to tie the improved clinch knot and palomar knot click here to see my instruction in part 1!
The Uni knot looks pretty similar to the Improved Clinch Knot that we covered earlier. However, many anglers find the Uni knot to be a bit easier to tie in wind or rain, and just as strong! Like the improved clinch knot, you thread the line through the eye of the hook. However, you’ll loop the line back on itself, eliminating the need for finer threading!
This video (4:50) below does a great job explaining how to tie the Uni knot. There is one tricky step though, pulling the wraps along the standing line to tighten the knot, so make sure to follow along with the video instructor and get some practice in!
Uni To Uni Knot
The Uni to Uni Knot, also known as the Double Uni Knot, is used to join two lines together. If you’re connecting two lines of similar diameter, even if they’re made of different materials, the Uni-to-Uni knot should be your top pick.
Plus, once you’ve mastered tying the Uni knot, the Uni-to-Uni knot basically just requires you to tie it twice! Guess that’s why they also call it “Double Uni” 😛 . However, instead of looping your wraps around a hook like the Uni knot, you’ll be looping around the connecting end of your line on both sides. Below is another great video (4:31) demonstration:
The Uni to Uni knot is great to use if you have a damaged section of line, as you can cut out the damaged portion and rejoin the ends. Another practical application of this knot is joining a heavier leader line to a thinner mainline. This combines strength with invisibility in the water!
The Arbor knot may be the most important knot for any angler, so listen up! By properly tying the Arbor knot, you’ll ensure your fishing line stays on the reel, even if you run out of line. You’ll typically be using an Arbor knot when spooling a new reel or replacing an old line.
To tie an Arbor knot yourself, simply wrap the line around the spool and make an Overhand knot. Then, make another knot around the standing line, that the entire lane passes through. From there, finish by cinching the line so that both overhand knots get pulled tight together. Clip of any excess line. You can watch the video (1:53) below for a fantastic visual walkthrough:
While the Arbor knot is very simple to tie, take care not to over or under-tighten it. Otherwise, it could compromise the line’s strength, leading to a break, or slip out under enough tension. With a little practice, you’ll master this essential knot in no time! 😀
5) Name and identify five basic artificial lures and five natural baits and explain how to fish with them. Explain why bait fish are not to be released.
Lures and baits are your secret sauce for good fishing! Bait is anything that’s used to attract a fish, from plastic resembling insects, to flashy bits of metal, or even living worms or bugs. A lure is an artificial type of bait that’s made to mimic the appearance and movement of prey animals when pulled through the water.
Every angler has their bait type of choice, and it may take some practice to find yours. While I’m a big fan of crankbaits, many anglers prefer worms or other live baits. Determining which bait or lure to use for the situation is an extremely important lesson to learn for becoming a great angler!
First, for this requirement, we’ll be discussing the different types of lures that are out there, along with the best methods for fishing with them. Afterward, we’ll cover bait types and the biggest no-nos you should know while using them. Once you know the ins and outs of lures and baits, you’ll be ready to attract fish to your line like a pro!
Five Basic Artificial Lures
Not every fish will be attracted to every lure. So, when choosing your lure, think about the fish you’re angling for and their prey of choice. Are they more likely to be eating small minnows or bugs that fall into the water along the shore? The ideal lure will mimic the movements of your fish’s favorite food, grabbing their attention and making them much more likely to bite.
Keep in mind, lures are generally for the more experienced anglers. Successfully reeling a lure in involves different types of movement, requiring skill from the angler themselves. I’d definitely recommend using live bait when starting out, and practicing with different lures once you’re a regular fisherman (or fisher-gal)!
Now that you know the purpose of lures and how they differ from bait, below are five of the most common artificial lures, along with instructions for fishing with them:
- Soft Plastics (Plastic Worm):
- The most common form of soft plastic lure is a plastic worm that mimics a live one. However, there are many varieties of soft plastics such as grubs, lizards, and swimbaits. These lures float on their own but can be used with weights, allowing you to catch fish at all water levels.
- How to use a soft plastic lure: Cast it out and let it sink. Then, when reeling in, use a slow, twitching motion to attract fish and make the worm appear natural.
- Crankbaits (Plugs):
- Crankbaits are solid or hollowed plastic lures that resemble baitfish or other larger live bait. They usually have two or three treble hooks (3-pronged hooks) along their body.
- How to use a crankbait lure: Slowly and steadily reel it in while providing occasional pauses or light jerks on the rod. Since these lures are made to dive and wobble, this will help mimic the movements of a swimming bait fish. You can vary your pauses to make the lure look even more natural.
- Amazon Example – Crankbait Lure
- Topwater Poppers:
- Topwater poppers imitate baitfish at the surface. They are used for aggressive, large fish like bass, pike, pickerel, and panfish, which can jump out of the water to catch their prey.
- How to use a topwater popper lure: After casting, let it settle on the surface of the water. while reeling it in, periodically give a gentle twitch or “pop,” causing the open face of the lure to create a small splash. This action mimics wounded prey, attracting fish from below.
- Amazon Example – Topwater Popper Lure
- You may have heard of “fly-fishing,” which is essentially an advanced fishing method using only the “fly” type of lure. These lures are lightweight and can be hand-made to appear and behave like various aquatic insects, baitfish, or even flies when pulled through the water.
- How to use a fly lure: There are many ways to reel in a fly lure, and it all depends on the type of fish you’re angling for. In some cases, you’ll allow the fly to drift with the current, whereas in other cases you’ll reel the fly in slowly. Knowledge of your fish and its desired prey is key!
- Amazon Example – Fly Lure Kit
- Fishing Jigs:
- Jig lures are basically hooks with feather skirts. However, they’re thought of as one of the most effective lure types for a multitude of situations — and for good reason! Jigs imitate a variety of prey species on bottom water levels, so you’re likely to get bites from more types of fish. 🙂
- How to use a jig lure: After casting your jig lure, pause to let it sink. Jigs are designed to go deep and even make bottom contact. Once your jig has sunk, hop the jig along by lifting your rod tip and allowing it to fall back down. This bouncing action imitates a crawling baitfish.
- Amazon Example – Jig Lure
The downside of lures is that they’re best suited to certain environments and can get expensive quickly. This means you should always have a great idea of what fish you’re going after, along with their prey of choice. By knowing the best lure to use, along with the optimal motion to make when reeling it in, you’ll be well on the path to mastering lures!
However, for most of the Scouts reading this, using bait will be their best bet. That’s what I used when learning to fish, and probably what you’ll use too. More often than not, bait is less expensive, easier to reel in, and even more effective than lures. That’s why, in the next section I’ll be telling you all about different baits and how to use them!
Five Natural Baits
In the majority of cases, natural bait (aka: live bait) will be the most effective bait for fishing. This is because it’s near impossible for fish to resist live bait because of its familiar smells, color, and look. When using an artificial lure, these qualities are very difficult to mimic.
It’s worth mentioning that you should always handle bait or lures with clean unscented hands. Fish have a very strong sense of smell, so even minor scents of human can throw off the bait’s scent and cost you some catches.
Natural bait can either be foraged or purchased. Often, in the area you’re fishing, you’ll find bugs, worms, or small fish you can scoop up in a net, and these are perfect baits to use. Alternatively, to get a bunch of live bait at once, you can visit a fishing supply store or even place an order online!
The best baits to use will differ depending on the area you’re in, so ask other fishermen what they’d recommend and test out a wide variety. Below are 5 popular types of natural baits to consider using:
- Worms: Probably the most universally recognized bait, almost no fish can resist the draw of a wriggling worm! Worms come in various types, but it is best to fish using local worms that are either dug or store-bought. Simply thread your worm onto your hook so that it’s secure and you’re off to the races!
- Minnows: While minnows never look like much of a meal, they can be quite filling to larger fish. Minnows can be found at bait shops or caught in the water using a net. You do need to hook minnows in a certain way, otherwise, they will lose some appeal to the fish you want to catch. To bait a minnow, you must drive the hook through both lips from the bottom up, or through their back, right before where the tailfin begins.
- Baitfish: In addition to minnows, practically any small fish can be used as bait for larger fish. As an added tip, baitfish can be hooked in particular ways to help catch specific fish. For instance, hooking baitfish through the nose allows for slow-trolling bait. Hooking baitfish through its breastplate will make the fish dive into deep waters.
- Insects (Bugs): Almost everything that crawls could be used as bait too! However, specific insects can be used to catch certain types of fish more effectively. For example, grasshoppers are commonly used for catching trout. Other examples of bait insects include crickets, grasshoppers, or maggots but, like worms, insects are universally recognized fish bait.
- Shrimp or Crustaceans: Shrimp and crustaceans are another type of bait, and can be used frozen or live, although live shrimp and quarter-sized sand crabs tend to work best. To use shrimp as bait, hook them through the tail or head so that their natural movements can be mimicked. For crabs, you’ll need to hook them through their body.
When using baitfish, even smaller minnows, you must never release them into the water. Just because the fish are meant to be eaten by larger fish does not mean that they will be. In many cases, baitfish will be invasive to your area and will harm the natural ecosystem if released into the wild.
Often, baitfish can reproduce aggressively and eventually take over an ecosystem. Baitfish also sometimes carry diseases, which could spread to local fish if the baitfish are released into the wild. Last but not least, it’s illegal in most areas to release baitfish, so be sure not to do it when fishing!
Leave No Trace
6a) Explain the importance of practicing Leave No Trace techniques. Discuss the positive effects of Leave No Trace on fishing resources.
While fishing, always remember the rule of Leave No Trace. This means leaving any area that you use in the same condition or better than you found it. A great fishing spot is like a treasure of nature, and it’s your duty to ensure it’s preserved for other anglers to enjoy in the future!
To make sure you leave no trace, keep your supplies in an organized container. You’re far less likely to lose something or make a mess if you store your supplies in a container like a tackle box. I keep a few small trash bags in my box and pack out any waste I create, making sure to clean out and re-organize my tackle once home.
Here are a few more Leave No Trace techniques that you should always practice when fishing:
- Protect local fish and wildlife:
- Refrain from overfishing, and be sure to release the fish you won’t eat promptly to minimize harm. Also, don’t leave carcasses or bait around for wildlife to eat.
- Make sure to wet your hands before handling fish to protect their sensitive slime coating. It’s also a good idea to use cut-proof rubberized gloves when handling fish to avoid injury.
- Clean up after yourself:
- Pack out any trash you create! In my experience, lazy anglers are especially bad at cleaning up extra fishing line that has been broken or cut off. Make sure to clean up the lines you cut and, if you want to do a good deed, pick up any discarded lines you see in the area, as those can entangle wildlife.
- If you’ve hung up your line and cut it from your rod, don’t put yourself in danger by trying to retrieve it. Also, beware of any hooks that still may be attached to the lines you’re picking up (especially rusty ones!).
- Use designated fishing spots:
- Many bodies of water have some designated fishing spots and piers, especially in popular areas among anglers. These not only control where fishing happens but also prevent damage to the environment.
- Shore banks can be extra sensitive to trampling. These serve as nesting areas, and the vegetation may be more vulnerable since it’s so close to the water. While it may be tempting to fish from anywhere, stay on the trail and use designated spots.
Following these main Leave No Trace principles will create enormous positive effects on fishing resources. If everyone put these practices into action there’d be more fish, less pollution, and better fishing experiences for all. So, be sure to follow Leave No Trace, and encourage others to respect the environment whenever you can. 🙂
6b) Discuss the meaning and importance of catch and release. Describe how to properly release a fish safely to the water.
Probably the best way to ensure you leave no trace is to practice catch and release. This is when you return the fish you caught back into the water if you won’t be eating it. Fishing is fun, but removing too many fish from a body of water could lead to overfishing and damage the delicate ecosystem.
All responsible fisherman practice catch and release, so you should too! This sustainable method keeps fish populations up, leading to better fishing in the future. However, even if you release your catch, there’s no guarantee the fish will survive. That’s why proper catch and release methods are essential to ensure the survival of your fish:
- Don’t keep your fish out of the water for too long (not even for pictures):
- You should keep a fish out of water for no longer than a few minutes, with 7-10 minutes being the absolute maximum.
- When possible, try to remove the hook with the fish partially submerged in water.
- Remove the hook gently (or leave it in, if absolutely necessary)
- Below is a great video (1:51) showing you how to remove a swallowed fish hook with needlenose pliers through the gills.
- If you absolutely can’t dislodge a hook, it’s best to cut the line as close to the hook as possible, especially if the fish has been out of the water too long. Research shows that fish can dislodge hooks in a matter of days.
- Place the fish gently in water and let it swim off:
- Some fish can be killed if thrown too hard against the water.
The only exception to catch and release is if you’re going to clean and cook the fish. The good news is that you’ll have the opportunity to do this in requirement 10! However, before taking any fish home, make sure you’re aware of your local fishing regulations. Some places only allow catch and release to protect the fishing ecosystem.
Certain fish also require special licenses in order to keep them. For example, in some places, you need a special trout card to catch trout. This varies by state, but violating these laws can lead to a hefty fine if caught. As I said above, reference your state’s fishing rules and regulations before fishing. More on this in the next requirement…
7) Obtain and review a copy of the regulations affecting game fishing where you live. Explain why they were adopted and what you accomplish by following them.
Fishing regulations vary by state laws. This means you probably have different regulations than I did when I completed this badge. These can also change over time, so make sure to check online for any updates to your local fishing regulations before embarking on a big trip.
Since I can’t do a quick overview of every fishing regulation for all 50 states, you should check out this awesome list of every state’s fishing licensing and regulation laws. Just click your state and you’ll see up-to-date info on local game regulations, fish size limits, pricing for licenses, and more!
This requirement is entirely based on your research. However, a great place to start is by Googling “(your state) fishing regulations history.” From there, note down any interesting facts that you discover like when your fishing laws were put into place or what species are protected. Afterward, discuss what you learn with your counseler! 🙂
8) Explain what good outdoor sportsmanlike behavior is and how it relates to anglers. Tell how the Outdoor Code of the Boy Scouts of America relates to a fishing sports enthusiast, including the aspects of littering, trespassing, courteous behavior, and obeying fishing regulations.
Fishing is an activity that should be enjoyed by all. This means you should always be mindful and respectful toward other anglers. Just like the Scout Law says, “A Scout is Courteous.” So, make sure that when you fish you are a good sport. Do not brag about your catch, and be congratulatory towards people who make a nice catch.
Additionally, you should be courteous towards strangers who might be fishing in the same area. Below are a few points you should always keep in mind when fishing near others:
- Minding someone’s space:
- Do this especially for fishing since the other angler probably established their circle. Not only are you disrupting their space, but are at risk to get hooked.
- Do not cross lines or cast where someone else has cast:
- Not only can this cause entanglement, but it unfairly takes the attention of fish away from the angler who arrived first.
- Keep your noise in check:
- Not only does being loud or blasting music disturb other anglers near you — it could also work to scare off fish! Just like the Outdoor Code says, make an effort to keep your noise under control to be considerate toward those around you.
- A Scout is obedient:
- You must obey all laws and regulations while fishing. Never trespass on any property to fish and be mindful of no fishing signs on bodies of water. These rules exist to protect you and the environment.
Also, avoid littering at all costs. You may never even dream about intentionally littering. However, accidental littering is just as damaging, and very common when fishing. Make sure you have a container for your fishing equipment and try not to lose any items. The last thing you want to do is accidentally leave a hook that someone could step on! 🙁
Finally, respect and obey all authority figures including, but not limited to, rangers. They have an interest in not only preserving the land but also protecting you. Following these rules are the basics of the Scout BSA Outdoor Code, and will surely help you to act with integrity on any fishing outing!
9) Catch at least one fish and identify it.
The United States is home to a wide array of native and invasive fish. In fact, it’s estimated that there are over 1000 species of fish in North American freshwaters alone! With all those options swimming around out there, you’re bound to catch someting. So, now it’s time to put what you learned into action!
Because of the abundance of native species, I obviously won’t be listing them all. However, you can easily use the Fishmap site that lists all species of fish in the United States by zip code location! It’s an older website but one of the best out there for classifying fish species, and is sponsored by The North American Native Fishes Association.
Before you get out there and start catching some fish of your own, I wanted to give you some final rapid-fire fishing tips that should make reeling in your big catch even more certain! Below are some of my best fishing tips to keep in mind:
- Keep tension on your line: This means reeling in when the fish comes toward you and letting the line run when it’s pulling away hard. Avoid giving the fish consistent slack, as a lack of tension can allow it to dislodge the hook.
- Be patient: It may take some time for the fish to tire out. If you rush, some stronger fish can break your line. So, if there’s a strong pull on your line, let your fish make its runs so that it will tire out gradually.
- Use a landing net: When the fish is within reach, have a landing net ready to secure it. A Scout buddy can help with this. Scoop the fish up in a smooth motion from below. Losing a fish once it’s reeled in is the worst, so take care not to let it thrash and escape.
As a final bit of advice, do your own research. Ask your counselor and other local anglers questions! Not only will this help you fulfill your requirement, it will also help you learn more about the wildlife in your area. Fishing is a great way to appreciate the nature around you, and learning helps to enhance the experience!
10. If regulations and health concerns permit, clean and cook a fish you have caught. Otherwise, acquire a fish and cook it. (You do not need to eat your fish.)
This requirement is probably unlike anything you’ve ever done before. It was for me, and to this day I still remember cleaning my first fish! However, this is a super useful skill that will serve you for the rest of your life, especially if you like eating fish and want to make it as a dish for your Cooking merit badge. 😀
Included below is a great video (10:57) that will walk you through how to filet most small-medium freshwater fish in the United States. The same principles apply to saltwater fish too. Once you learn the basic technique, it’s actually pretty quick and easy to do!
Once you’ve got your fillets ready, here are some great recipes you could consider. I personally breaded and fried mine, and it was delicious! Now, I think you’re about ready to catch and eat a fish of your own. Best of luck, Scout. You’ve got this!!
Congratulations on Finishing the Fishing Merit Badge!
Congrats, you made it to the end! Fishing is a fun and challenging hobby that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. By learning these basic fishing skills, you’re now ready to begin confidently catching some fish of your own while having a great time in the outdoors. Well done. 🙂
If you found this post helpful, I’ve also written guides to many of the other Eagle-required merit badges. I’d definitely recommend checking out my comprehensive difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge if you haven’t seen it already.
Hope this resource helped you to answer every requirement on your Fishing merit badge worksheet in your own words! Come back to ScoutSmarts soon because I’m constantly uploading new articles to support Scouts like yourself. Until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey!