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Fishing Merit Badge Guide

Fishing Merit Badge – Robert S. S. Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, claimed fishing as one of his favorite pastimes.

As the Chief Scout of the growing Scouting movement during the early 20th century, Lord Baden-Powell traveled the world to attend jamborees and provide leadership and inspiration.

Everywhere he went, his fishing rods, reels, and fishing kit went with him. Baden-Powell’s biographer E. E. Reynolds wrote, “When he needed to get right away from everything and everybody, he would go off for a few days’ fishing.”

In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell offers this advice to the young fisherman: “Every Scout ought to be able to fish in order to get food for himself. A tenderfoot [beginner] who starved on the bank of a river full of fish would look very silly, yet it might happen to one who had never learned to catch fish.”

It’s no surprise that fishing remains a favorite pastime on Scout outings.

Fishing Merit Badge Requirements

fishing merit badge requirements
  1. Do the following:
    • Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while participating in fishing activities, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
    • Discuss the prevention of and treatment for the following health concerns that could occur while fishing, including cuts and scratches, puncture wounds, insect bites, hypothermia, dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and sunburn.
    • Explain how to remove a hook that has lodged in your arm.
    • Name and explain five safety practices you should always follow while fishing.
  2. Discuss the differences between the two types of fishing outfits. Point out and identify the parts of several types of rods and reels. Explain how and when each would be used. Review with your counselor how to care for this equipment.
  3. Demonstrate the proper use of two different types of fishing equipment.
  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.
  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.
  6. Do the following:
    • Explain the importance of practicing Leave No Trace techniques. Discuss the positive effects of Leave No Trace on fishing resources.
    • Discuss the meaning and importance of catch and release. Describe how to properly release a fish safely to the water.
  7. Obtain and review the regulations affecting game fishing where you live. Explain why they were adopted and what is accomplished by following them.
  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.
  9. Catch at least one fish and identify it.
  10. If regulations and health concerns permit, clean, and cook a fish you have caught. Otherwise, acquire a fish to clean and cook it. (You do not need to eat your fish)

Freshwater Fish

type of fresh water fish

Fish are highly specialized aquatic creatures, amazingly constructed for living in the water. Here are some interesting facts about fish.

  • They are cold-blooded their body temperature is about the same as the water around them.
  • Not all fish have scales, but all fish are covered with thin skin.
  • Scales are protective plates that are covered by the skin. When a scale is lost, its “pocket” can become infected before the skin heals over and a new scale develops.
  • Scales develop annual rings much like those of a tree. A fish’s scales can help determine its age.
  • The muscles and fins of fish are designed to propel them through the water in search of food and to help them escape from enemies.
  • Fish breathe mainly through gills that take oxygen from the water and send it into the bloodstream while simultaneously removing carbon dioxide from the fish.

Most fish reproduce by the female laying eggs that themale fertilizes in the water. The females of some species may lay millions of eggs, while some other species lay only a few hundred.

Fish have the senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch, as well as other special senses to help them survive.

Lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams are home to many hard-fighting species. Fishing can be done from the shore, dock, while wading, or by watercraft such as a motorboat or canoe.

1. Walleye and Perch

walleye fish

Walleye and perch are among the finest game fish in North America. The walleye is particularly prized because it grows to a large size and is very tasty.

Many anglers troll for walleye, using minnow-like lures weighted down deep, jigs tipped with live bait, spinner-and-bait combinations, or just live bait with a slip sinker.

Slowly trolling over sunken bars, alongside ledges and weed beds, and over sand flats (particularly those parallel to the breakline) can be effective.

Yellow Perch

Yellow perch are abundant and willing to bite almost anytime. These fish provide a lot of action when a school is located. The most popular method of perch fishing merit badge is with minnows, worms, or leeches on a small hook below a bobber.

Tiny jigs, 1⁄8 to 1⁄16 ounce, with a piece of worm on the hook, often do the trick. In the spring, perch gather where streams enter lakes and where there are dams in rivers.

They may be taken in large numbers with a streamer fly or a small spinner fished on a fly rod.

2. Largemouth Bass

No fish was more aptly named than the largemouth bass. Its jaw extends well back past its eye, and when it opens its mouth to swallow something, it seldom misses.

Because of its ability to take a wide variety of lures and because it often strikes explosively on the surface, the largemouth is one of the most prized and highly sought game fish in North America.

The first reels and casting rods made in the United States were tailored to bass fishing.

largemouth bass fish

Largemouth can be caught on bait-casting, spin-casting, spinning, and fly tackle. They will hit floating lures, floating-diving lures, and bottom-bumping jigs.

Weedless spoons and spinnerbaits that will not snag on vegetation when fished through the lily pads, often are productive. Pork rind lures, pork “eels,” and plastic worms also are effective.

Largemouth also will hit bait of live minnows, frogs, leeches, and crayfish, which are life forms that are naturally found in their habitat and are part of their accustomed diet. In the South, largemouth grows to 20 pounds or more.

In the North, 10 pounds is a record-breaker. The largemouth is structured fish, meaning they hang around the brush, fallen trees, weed beds, and ledges, usually in fairly shallow water.

Where they are heavily fished, they become cagey, and the angler must be careful, quiet, and skillful to be successful.

3. Smallmouth Bass

Averaging between 4 and 6 pounds, the smallmouth bass has been described as “pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims.”

Many anglers will argue for other species, but there is no question that this snub-nosed, jut-jawed warrior of the cold water is a foe to test the tackle of any angler.

smallmouth bass fish

Smallmouth once was confined to the eastern United States but have been stocked over all of the northern states, much of Canada, and parts of the southern United States.

Nightcrawlers, leeches, minnows, frogs, and hellgrammites (a type of aquatic insect larvae) are all-natural food for this fish.

It also will hit a wide variety of spinners, floating-diving lures, surface lures, flies, plastic worms and bugs, and jigs.

However, unlike the largemouth, which often will hit a fast-moving lure, the smallmouth likes its bait moving slowly, with frequent pauses and twitches.

When it does strike, however, it strikes like lightning. The battle is spectacular, playing out as much above the surface as in the water.

Its preferred hangouts are fallen trees, underwater cabbage beds, rock ledges, and deep boulder piles.

In the spring the smallmouth is up in the shallows, but in the summer, it may be down 10 to 30 feet. In the late fall, the smallmouth schools at 40 feet.

4. Striped Bass

Striped Bass Fish

In salt water, striped bass range along the East Coast from Maine to North Carolina, and are a favorite of anglers who fish in the surf.

Originally a saltwater species, several hundreds of these fish were trapped while spawning in the Santee River when the dam was built for South Carolina’s Santee-Cooper hydroelectric project in 1938.

Surprisingly, the stripers adapted to freshwater, spread over the reservoir, and grew rapidly, some to more than 40 pounds.

Since then, they have been successfully stocked in a number of reservoirs, creating a new inland game fish sport. Striped bass are strong fighters and usually are taken on light saltwater tackle.

Most stripers are caught on live shad minnows, although casting heavy jigs and spoons can work well when the fish are feeding.

Anglers locate schools of stripers by watching the seagulls circling swarms of baitfish chased to the surface by feeding bass.

5. Panfish

This year, a million American young people will be introduced to the sport of fishing, and most of them will catch a species of panfish. Aptly named, the many species that make up this category are some of the tastiest in the frying pan.

They also are fun to catch, and some are ferocious battlers, despite their relatively small size.


6. Catfish

Smooth-skinned and scaleless, long, lean, and built for power, the catfish family is widespread in North America. Catfish are found in clear, icy waters of the North as well as the warm, muddy streams and bayous of the South.

They are highly tolerant of water temperature fluctuations and can withstand turbid water, even some pollution. They are relatively easy to catch, are fierce fighters, and make for fine eating when properly prepared.


Be careful: All catfish have sharp spines in the pectoral and dorsal fins that can cause a painful wound to the unwary or careless angler.

7. Northern Pike

Big, sharp-toothed, and mean-tempered, the fish that make up the pike family have a common trait: They strike first and ask questions later.

Northern Pike Fish

Most common is the northern pike, found over a large part of North America. They may grow to 50 pounds. All of the pikes prefer large, flashy lures such as spinners, spoons, silvery floating-diving plugs, and noisy surface baits.

They strike big minnows and will readily take strips of sucker meat or frozen smelts.

8. Brook Trout (Char)

Trout are cold-water fish, that need water of fewer than 70 degrees. For sheer beauty, the members of the trout family are hard to beat. They are sleek, without large scales, colorful, and designed to swim in moving stream waters.

Brook Trout Char Fish

A dark-green back with yellowish tracks, spotted sides with bright-red spots, red fins, and a white underside mark this all-American warrior.

Brook trout are found anywhere from tiny beaver brooks to the great rivers of the North. In lakes, it grows to 7 or 8 pounds, but the average brookie weighs less than a pound.

9. Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout Fish

Aptly named for the bright red streak down its silvery side and its bluish-green back, the rainbow trout is not only a handsome fish but also one of the most spectacular leapers among freshwater species.

There are many varieties of rainbow trout, some growing to more than 20 pounds. The migratory steelhead, a fish that spawns in streams but spends most of its life in saltwater or the Great Lakes, is a cousin.

10. Lake Trout and Salmon

While salmon always have been a popular sport fish in salt water and in the coastal rivers, new fisheries occurred in the Great Lakes when coho salmon were first stocked in Lake

There are now chinook and pink salmon to catch in this Great Lake, along with native lake trout.

Fishing Gear and Craft

Before you head out to fish a lake or stream, you’ll need to pack a tackle box, a landing net, and other necessary gear. To ensure an enjoyable day of fishing, be sure you dress for the weather conditions.

1. Tackle Boxes

Tackle Boxes

Carrying cases for lines, leaders, hooks, lures, reels, and other pieces of equipment come in a wide range of sizes.

New, rugged, noncorrosive plastic tackle boxes have largely replaced the old metal boxes used years ago. All tackle boxes are designed to keep the items separated so that they do not become tangled.

Some anglers keep all their tackle in a large box, using smaller boxes to carry whatever they will need for one day. Some have separate boxes for spinning, spin-casting, bait-casting, saltwater, and fly-fishing equipment.

A well-ordered tackle box makes fishing easier and is the mark of an experienced angler.

2. Landing Nets

Landing nets come in a variety of sizes from small, light, trout nets that hang from a cord around the body to huge boat nets.

The type of fishing an angler will be doing determines the type of net to be used. You can land some fish by hand, but using a landing net ensures that the fish will not slip and get loose.

If the fish is to be released unharmed, it is better to reach down with the fingers or with pliers and slip the hook lose while the fish is in the water.

3. Stringers

In cool weather when the water is cold, some species of fish may be kept alive on a stringer until the day is over. Stringers with individual snaps are best, keeping the fish separated and allowing them more breathing room.

4. Accessories

Fillet Knife. A good, sharp knife with a long, thin, flexible blade is essential for cleaning fish. It should be kept secure in a sheath when not being used.
Sharpener. A sharpening system capable of honing a razor’s edge should be available at home. For fishing trips, a small steel or diamond-edged sharpener will touch up the blade when work needs to be done. Such a sharpener also can be used to touch up hook points that get dull.
Line Clipper. Anglers always should use some type of cutter or knife to cut monofilament lines, never the teeth. A fingernail clipper on an elastic cord is a handy item.
Long-nosed Pliers. Use these pliers for taking hooks out of fish and for straightening bent hooks. Pliers should be equipped with side edges for cutting hooks.
Reel Oil. A can of oil and a small tube of gear grease will keep reels running smoothly and make them last years longer.

5. Clothing

Since fishing is an outdoor pastime, wear clothing suitable for the season that will protect you from the elements.

Rain gear. Fishermen discover quickly that rain often accompanies some of the best fishing. The best outfits are matching rain parkas and pants in earth tones, made of waterproof and windproof fabric.

Lightweight rain gear can be rolled into a small package and stowed in the pocket of a jacket or pack. Ponchos will do a good job of shedding rain, but they provide poor coverage on windy days and make casting difficult.
Fishing vest. This handy many-pocket garment is useful for carrying hooks, leaders, flies, lures, bait, and other items.

The fishing vest helps keep an angler’s hands-free. While it is not a necessity, it is convenient for the angler who can afford one. When shopping for a fishing vest, think about the weather conditions you will encounter.

Be aware of the bulk your filled pockets may create. You might want to consider a vest that comes with a personal flotation device built-in it will inflate if you pull a cord.
Footgear. Sneakers or leather boots are suitable footwear for boat fishermen, but the wading angler needs to pay careful attention to the feet. In cold weather, or in icy trout streams or surf, hip boots or better yet, chest-high waders help keep the legs dry.

In warm streams during summer, it may be tempting to wade barefoot, but wading with bare feet invites injuries from broken glass, rusty nails, or even a spiny sea urchin. To avoid foot and leg injuries, wear a pair of old shoes and old jeans.
Fishing Clothing

6. Fishing Craft

Almost any kind of watercraft can be used for fishing. Some boats lend themselves more readily to angling than others, and some boats are designed specifically for fishing.

Bass Boats. These crafts are unique to a special kind of angling. The seats are high to make casting easier.

They have a large motor to get from one spot to another and a smaller electric motor that may be used to guide the boat stealthily along the shoreline.

Canoes and Kayaks. These are at the other end of the watercraft spectrum light, portable, low in price, and nonmotorized.

They are excellent fishing craft because they make it possible to stalk silently and to maneuver quickly when a trophy fish is hooked. Remember, however, that it is unsafe to stand and cast in canoes and kayaks.

The following information can help you answer the fourth requirement of the fishing merit badge.

Knots for Fishing

Contrary to the thinking of many novice fishermen, a simple overhand knot will not do in most fishing situations.

Although a knot may seem insignificant and hardly noticeable to the observer, it can be, and quite often is, the crucial factor between success and failure.

1. Improved Clinch Knot

This is the universal knot for tying monofilament to a hook or for tying hooks and swivels any object having an eye to the line. Because monofilament is slippery, it needs a knot that will jam against itself and hold tight, yet not cut itself.

Run the end of the line through the eye, double the line back, and make five twists around the line through the eye, leaving a loop. Run the end of the line through the loop where the line joins the eye and then pass the line through the large loop.

Partially close the knot and moisten it a little with water before securing it tightly against the hook eye.

2. Palomar Knot

This basic knot serves the same purpose as the improved clinch knot. Double the line to make a 3 to 4-inch loop, then pass the end of the loop through the eye.

Hold the standing part between thumb and forefinger and tie a loose overhand knot in the double line with the other hand.

Then pass the hook through the loop and pull on the doubled line to tighten the knot, guiding the loop over the top of the eyelet. Clip the tag end.

3. Uni Knot

4. Uni to Uni Knot

5. Arbor Knot

arbor knot

Locking the line on the reel spool takes a knot that will cinch up tight and not slip if a fish takes the line to the end.

The knot at the terminal end is pulled tight first, then the other, and the loop snugged up against the spool.

Artificial Lures

While some anglers prefer the natural attraction provided by live bait, others favor artificial lures that can be bought in sporting goods stores or made meticulously by hand.

1. Jigs

jigs artificial lures

Hooks with lead weights molded into the head called deadheads or jigs are the basis for a whole range of popular artificial lures.

The advantage is in having a single-hook lure that is compact but that can carry enough weight to be easily cast by a bait rod or spin rod.

Jigs also are adaptable to a variety of styles that allow them to imitate food that fish recognize.

2. Plastic Worms

plastic worms artificial lures

Made of soft, pliable plastic, these artificial baits can be made to swim, wiggle, and dance underwater with an action fish cannot seem to resist.

Four good ways to use plastic worms are:

  • Worm-and-jig with an artificial night crawler trailing out behind a bare hook.
  • A plastic worm impaled on the hook of a regular bucktail hair jig.
  • A Texas rig, which uses a sliding sinker with the hook stuck through the head of the worm and the point buried back in the worm body
  • And a plastic worm on a weedless hook with a split shot clipped on the line for casting weight.

2. Spoons

When fishermen noticed that minnows and certain other aquatic creatures glistened in the sunlight, the idea of making lures out of shiny metal was born.

Spoons are made by cutting pieces of metal to shape, hammering them out so that they wobble in the water, and polishing them to a high shine.

Various colors of enamel are added to some; others are given gold or silver finishes. They are called spoons because most of them are shaped like the lower part of a teaspoon.

3. Spinners

A spinner is made by hammering a piece of metal very thin, drilling a hole in one end, and mounting it on a strip of wire. The metal blade spins around the wire shaft, glinting like a live minnow swimming in the sunlight.

Spinners may be rigged with hair flies, feather streamers, or live bait. Sometimes they are used along with the blade and hook.

Most spinners work best if retrieved slowly, just fast enough for the blade to revolve without being a blur.

Spinners are sometimes rigged with jigs for deep fishing. These might have snaps that can be clipped to the eye of the jig.

4. Plugs

The first plugs minnowlike replicas were carved out of wood. Some still are, but most are made of plastic by lure manufacturers.

Floating-diving plugs rest on the surface until reeled in. They are designed to wiggle in the water like a minnow.

Some plugs are made to run deep. These may be either all metal or weighted with metal and plastic. Some have a long bill in the front that causes them to head for the bottom when reeled in.

They also are effective lures when trolled behind a boat. Surface plugs are made to imitate either a frog hopping across the top of the water or a large, injured minnow that is flopping around in distress.

Bass, pike, and muskellunge are species most often caught on these gurgling, popping, and sputtering lures.

5. Flies

Flies are tied to represent insects, crabs, shrimp, mulberries, and tiny minnows the preferred food of trout, salmon, and many other game fish such as bass, panfishes, carp, and pike.

The fish are deceived into taking the imitation of their food. Some flies can also simulate hatching insects. Flies are made of hair, feathers, wool, chenille, and many other materials, all held together on the hook with thread and glue.

Other types of Artificial Bait that you can use:

  • Dry flies
  • Wet flies
  • Streamer flies
  • Nymphs
  • Bass bugs
  • Cork minnows
  • Hair mousse
  • Cork bodied frogs
  • Rubber legs
  • Panfish bugs.

You can also read about Tips on Selecting Bars, Reels, and Laurels at the following link.

Cleaning, Filleting, and Cooking Fish

There are as many recipes for cooking freshly caught fish as there are anglers. Proper cleaning and preparation of a fish before cooking will help ensure success with whatever cooking method you choose.

1. Cleaning Fish

Following these step-by-step instructions for cleaning a fish will make this messy task more manageable.

  • Step 1 – Cover the area with brown paper or newspaper. Keep a plastic bag handy for any waste. Make sure you have a sharp knife.
  • Step 2 – Rinse the fish under clean, cool water.
  • Step 3 – Skin the fish, or remove the scales using a scale remover or sharp knife. (Hold the fish firmly by the head and run the dull edge of your knife from tail to head until the fish feels slick.) If you skin the fish, it won’t need to be scaled. To skin, the fish cut down the backside and loosen the skin around the fins. Remove the skin with pliers; pull the skin down from head to tail and cut it off at the tail.
  • Step 4 – Starting at the anal opening near the tail, cut through the belly to the gills.
  • Step 5 – Open the belly and remove the entrails and gills from the fish. (Don’t burst the stomach.) Scrape out the kidney line (it is reddish-brown) along the underside of the backbone.
  • Step 6 – If you want, remove the head by carefully cutting down through the backbone.
  • Step 7 – Remove the tail and pull off the dorsal fin (along the top of the fish) with a quick tug.
  • Step 8 – Rinse the fish well under cool running water.

2. Filleting Fish

Keep in mind that not all fish should be filleted. A trout, for instance, needs only to be cleaned. Removing the meat of some fish from the bones and skin makes it easier to cook and to eat. Here is one way to do it.

  • Step 1 – Lay the fish on its side and make a cut just behind the gills down to the backbone, but not through it.
  • Step 2 – Start at the cut made in step 1 and run the point of the knife alongside the backbone, down to where it starts to click along the tops of the ribs. Cut alongside the ribs, working back toward the tail until the entire side of the fish is free from the ribs and backbone, but leave it attached to the tail.
  • Step 3 – Lay the side flat and hook a forefinger under the skin near the tail. Run the knife into the meat next to the skin and hold the blade against the inside of the skin at an angle of about 45 degrees. Holding the blade steady, gently lift the forefinger holding the skin and pull. The skin will slide out, leaving a boneless, skinless fillet. Repeat on the other side of the fish, and you will have two fillets.

3. Cooking Fish

There are dozens of ways to cook fish. The following recipes can be prepared at home or on the trail.

A. Fish Chowder

To make fish chowder, begin by cutting about 2 pounds of fillets into pieces an inch or so square. Brown half a pound of diced bacon in a large pot, then add a couple of diced onions and four to six diced potatoes.

Salt and season the fillets, and lay the fish on top of the mixture. Fill the pot with water just up to the top of the fish and bring it to a boil.

Place 2 teaspoons of pickling spice in a cheesecloth bag, tie a string around it, and hang it in the pot. Allow the liquid to simmer for one hour.

Then remove the spice bag and add about a quarter-cup of margarine or butter and 2 cups of milk. Stir to mix all the ingredients and then serve.

B. Foil Baked Fish

Place a whole fish or large fillet inside a sheet of heavy aluminum foil. Salt and pepper the fish. Lay two strips of bacon over the top of the fish.

Add a slice of lemon, if you wish. Fold the foil lengthwise into a pouch, then fold over the edges, sealing them.

Take another sheet of foil and do the same, giving the fish a double layer. Bake in an oven or on hot coals for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.

C. Fried Fish

Allow the fillets to drain on a paper towel or similar absorbent material until they are fairly dry. Salt the fillets, then mix a pancake batter or batter made of one egg and 1 cup of self-rising flour.

Add a bit of milk to thin the batter. Do not make the batter too thin. You also can bread the fish by dipping the fillets in beaten eggs thinned with milk and then rolling them in seasoned cracker crumbs or cornmeal.

To cook the fish, make sure the oil in the frying pan is sizzling hot. Then dip each fillet in the batter and drop it into the oil, being very careful not to splatter the hot oil.

When one side of the fillet is brown, flip it over and brown the other side. Remove from the oil and allow the fish to cool a little on a paper towel. Serve hot.

I'm a Mechanical Engineer and lifelong Eagle Scout. My passion for scouting guides my writing, aiming to inspire fellow Scouts on their path. Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your journey to Eagle!