Glossary of Fishing Terms Lingo, Slang, and Jargon Explained
Fishing, an age-old pastime, comes with its own unique set of terms, phrases, and slang. Our “Glossary of Fishing Terms” is perfect for both beginners and experienced anglers. Whether you want to learn fishing vocabulary or refresh your knowledge of fishing terminology, we have you covered.
Explore a spectrum of fishing terms, from essential phrases for catching fish to the lively slang shared by anglers at the water’s edge. With this guide, every piece of fishing terminology becomes clear, enhancing your angling experience and knowledge.
Fishing Terms List: A to Z Vocabulary for Every Fisherman in Order
Explore the diverse vocabulary of fishing – slang, terms, and phrases – that capture the spirit of the sport. Next time you’re fishing or talking about it, you’ll have the right words to use.
Understanding Basic Fishing Terminology
Before diving into the different fishing techniques and methods, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the key terms associated with fishing equipment. Here are some essential terms you should know:
- Rod: A long, flexible pole used to cast and reel in the fishing line.
- Reel: A mechanical device attached to the rod that holds and releases the fishing line.
- Line: The strong yet thin cord or string used to cast and catch fish.
- Lure: An artificial bait used to attract fish.
- Hook: A sharp and curved device attached to the end of the fishing line to catch fish.
- Sinker: A weight attached to the fishing line to help it sink deeper into the water.
Now that you’re familiar with the basic fishing equipment terms, let’s delve deeper into the world of fishing techniques and methods. Understanding these techniques will help you become a more skilled angler. Here are some common ones:
- Cast and Retrieve: This technique involves casting the line into the water and retrieving it slowly to mimic the movement of prey, enticing fish to strike. It requires precision and control to effectively imitate the natural movement of bait.
- Trolling: Trolling is a method where the fishing line is trailed behind a moving boat to cover a larger area and attract fish. It is commonly used in open waters and allows anglers to target a variety of fish species.
- Fly Fishing: Fly fishing is a technique that involves casting a lightweight fly into the water, imitating insects to entice fish. It requires skill and finesse to accurately present the fly and manipulate it to mimic the behavior of natural prey.
- Ice Fishing: Ice fishing is a method where anglers fish through holes drilled in frozen bodies of water, often utilizing specialized gear. It requires patience and knowledge of fish behavior in cold conditions.
- Surf Fishing: Surfers enjoy casting their lines from the shoreline into the ocean, targeting fish in the surf zone. It requires understanding of wave patterns and knowledge of fish species that inhabit the coastal areas.
As you delve deeper into the world of fishing, you’ll realize that different fish species have their own specific terms. Understanding these terms can greatly enhance your fishing experience. Here are a few examples:
- Bass: When referring to bass, you may come across terms such as “topwater plug” (a type of lure) or “bedding” (when bass create nests for spawning). These terms are important to know when targeting bass in different seasons and water conditions.
- Trout: Trout fishing terms include “hatch” (the emergence of aquatic insects) and “holding pool” (a part of a river where trout gather). Knowing these terms can help you identify the best fishing spots and choose the right flies or lures.
- Salmon: Salmon fishing enthusiasts often use terms like “spawning run” (when salmon swim upstream to reproduce) and “smolt” (a young salmon). Understanding these terms can help you plan your fishing trips during peak salmon runs and target specific life stages of the fish.
Advanced A to Z List of Fishing Vocabulary
- Action: Refers to the rod’s flexibility or bending properties, usually described as slow, moderate, or fast, indicating how much and where the rod bends.
- Anal Fin: The fin located on the underside of a fish, just behind its anus.
- Angler: An individual who fishes, whether for sport, recreation, or sustenance.
- Artificials: Refers to man-made fishing lures and baits.
- Backlash: In baitcasting reels, when the spool turns faster than the line can be paid out, leading to a tangled mess.
- Back-cast: The part of the casting motion where the line and rod are moved backward before the forward cast.
- Baitcaster: A type of fishing reel designed especially for casting baits.
- Bail (Bailor): The semi-circular, metal arm on a spinning reel that guides the line back onto the spool.
- Bailling: The act of using live bait in fishing.
- Barb: A small backward-facing point on a fishhook that prevents a fish from coming unhooked.
- Barbless Hook: A hook designed without a barb, which makes catch and release easier and less harmful for the fish.
- Bird’s Nest: Another term for backlash in a baitcasting reel.
- Bait: Anything used to attract and catch fish, including live organisms or artificial lures.
- Bladebait: A type of hard lure that has a metal blade or blades which vibrate when retrieved.
- Blind Cast: Casting without a specific target in sight.
- Bobber: A floating device attached to a fishing line to indicate when a fish takes the bait. Also known as a float.
- Bottom Fishing: A fishing method where weights are used to sink the bait to the bottom.
- Bottom Bouncing: A technique where a baited rig is bounced off the bottom of the water body to attract fish.
- Braid: Refers to braided fishing line, known for its high strength relative to its diameter.
- Breaking: When a fishing line snaps or a rod breaks under pressure.
- Breaking Strength: The maximum amount of force a fishing line can withstand before breaking.
- Bunker: A type of forage fish often used as bait, also known as menhaden.
- Buzzbait: A topwater lure with a spinning blade, creating a buzzing sound when retrieved.
- Bycatch: Non-target species that are unintentionally caught while fishing for a primary species.
- Cast: The act of throwing bait or a lure into the water using a fishing rod and reel.
- Centrifugal Brake: A system used in baitcasting reels to reduce spool speed and prevent backlash by using centrifugal force. It involves brake blocks inside the reel that expand outward due to the force during a cast.
- Chatterbait: A type of lure that combines the elements of a jig and a crankbait with a metal blade that produces vibration when retrieved.
- Chum (Chumming): The practice of throwing bait or fish parts into the water to attract predatory fish.
- Chunk (Chunking): Using large pieces of bait, often fish, to attract larger predatory fish.
- Circle Hook: A type of fishing hook with a point that curves back towards the shank, designed to hook fish in the mouth corner and reduce gut hooking.
- Citation: A certificate or recognition given to anglers for catching particularly large or unique fish.
- Conventional Reel: A type of fishing reel commonly used for offshore fishing. The spool axis is perpendicular to the rod.
- Crankbait: A type of hard-bodied lure designed to mimic the action of a swimming fish when retrieved.
- Creel Limit: The number of a particular fish species an angler can keep in a day.
- Crimp: A metal sleeve used to secure fishing line or leaders without tying knots.
- Dead-stick: A fishing technique where the bait or lure is left motionless in the water.
- Deceiver (Lefty’s Deceiver): A popular saltwater fly pattern designed by Lefty Kreh, primarily used for predatory species.
- De-hooker: A tool designed to safely remove hooks from fish.
- Deep Dropping: Fishing in very deep water by dropping baits or lures to great depths using heavy weights.
- Drag: A mechanism in fishing reels that allows line to be pulled off under tension, preventing breakage when a fish pulls hard.
- Dredge: A multi-lured rig designed to imitate a school of baitfish, typically trolled behind a boat.
- Drift Fishing: Allowing the boat or bait to drift naturally with the current or wind while fishing.
- Downrigger: A device used in trolling to submerge lures to a specific depth, using a weighted ball or “cannonball” attached to a wire.
- Drop-Shot: A fishing technique where a weight is attached at the end of the line, and the hook is tied above it.
- Dry Fly: A type of artificial fly designed to float on the surface of the water, imitating insects.
- Fang Hook: A type of double hook with two prongs or “fangs”.
- Feathering: A method of casting and retrieving a lure in quick, short motions to mimic the fluttering of a baitfish.
- Flipping: A casting technique used to accurately place baits in specific spots, especially in cover, without a traditional overhead cast.
- Float: Another term for a bobber, which is a floating device used to suspend bait at a specific depth and signal when a fish bites.
- Flourocarbon: A type of fishing line that is nearly invisible underwater due to its similar refractive index to water, and is also more abrasion-resistant than monofilament.
- Fly Fishing: A fishing method using artificial flies as lures, which are cast with a special type of rod and line.
- Freespool: A reel setting that allows the spool to rotate freely, facilitating the casting or letting out of line.
- Foul Hook: Catching a fish by hooking it somewhere other than the mouth, like the body or fins.
- Gaff (Flying Gaff): A large metal hook attached to a pole used to land big fish. A “flying gaff” has a detachable head tied to a rope.
- Gear Ratio: The number of times the reel spool turns with each rotation of the reel handle. For example, a 6:1 ratio means the spool rotates 6 times for one handle turn.
- Hard Bait: A type of artificial bait that is solid and not flexible, like many plastic or wooden lures.
- Hook-set: The act of firmly setting the hook into the fish’s mouth by snapping or pulling the rod when a bite is detected.
- Ice Auger: A tool used to drill holes in ice for ice fishing.
- Ice Fishing: Fishing through holes in frozen water bodies.
- Inshore: Fishing in shallow waters close to land, typically within a few miles from the coast.
- Jerkbait: A type of hard bait that is jerked or twitched to imitate an injured fish.
- Jig: A type of lure consisting of a weighted head and a hook, often paired with soft plastic or natural baits.
- Jigging: A technique where a jig is dropped to the bottom and then rhythmically lifted and lowered.
- Cast-and-retrieve: Casting out a lure and then retrieving it, hoping to attract fish on the return.
- Meat: A term used to describe natural baits, such as cut bait or whole fish.
- Speed: Refers to the retrieval speed of a lure or bait.
- Vertical jigging: A technique where the jig is dropped vertically down and then jigged up and down without casting.
- Yo-Yoing: A type of vertical jigging where the lure is rapidly lifted and allowed to flutter down, resembling the motion of a yo-yo.
- Kayak Fishing: Fishing from a kayak.
- Kite Fishing: A method where a kite is used to suspend and present baits on the surface, often to target pelagic predators.
- Landing Net: A net used to safely land fish once they are brought close to the angler.
- Leader: A short, strong line segment attached to the main fishing line to prevent fish from biting through or to provide abrasion resistance.
- Lead-head: The weighted head of a jig.
- Level Winder: A mechanism on a reel that ensures the line is evenly distributed across the spool as it is retrieved.
- Lever Drag: A type of drag system on a reel that uses a lever to adjust the amount of resistance on the line.
- Lipless Crankbait: A type of crankbait that doesn’t have the protruding lip, which is often used to dive and produce a wobbling action. They vibrate when retrieved and are often used in deeper water.
- Lipping: The act of holding a fish, particularly bass, by its lower lip to control and handle it.
- Live-lining (Live-baiting): A fishing technique where live bait is used and allowed to swim freely, often to attract predatory fish.
- Livewell (Baitwell): A tank with circulating water in fishing boats used to keep bait or caught fish alive.
- Lunker: Slang for a particularly large fish, especially bass.
- Lure: An artificial bait used to attract and catch fish.
- Monofilament: A type of fishing line made from a single strand of material, usually nylon.
- Offshore: Fishing in deeper waters away from the coast, typically targeting larger saltwater species.
- Outriggers: Poles that extend out from a boat to allow multiple lines to be trolled without tangling.
- Paddle-tail: A type of soft plastic bait that has a tail which moves side-to-side when retrieved, resembling a swimming fish.
- Pelagic: Refers to fish species that live in the open water column, not close to the bottom or near the shore.
- Plug (Swimming Plug): A type of hard bait or lure, usually made of wood or plastic, designed to mimic baitfish or other prey.
- Pole: Another term for a fishing rod, though often referring to simpler, non-reel setups.
- Poor Man’s Downrigger: Using a heavy weight to get bait or lures deeper in the water without using a traditional downrigger.
- Pound-test: The breaking strength of fishing line, denoted in pounds. For example, a 10-pound test line should theoretically hold 10 pounds without breaking.
- Pounding: Repeatedly casting to the same area or specific spot, especially when targeting structure or cover.
- Propbait: A type of topwater lure that has one or more propellers, which churn the water when retrieved.
- Rod: A long, slender, and flexible equipment used in fishing. Specific parts/terms related to rods include:
- Action Rod: Describes how much and where the rod bends, categorized as slow, moderate, or fast.
- Butt Rod: The thicker end of the rod, closest to the handle.
- Guides Rod: The rings located along the rod that direct the fishing line.
- Weight Rod: Refers to the range of lure or bait weights the rod is designed to work best with.
- Reel Seat Rod: The place on the rod where the reel is attached.
- Blank Rod: The main body of the fishing rod, without any added components like guides or reel seat.
- Ferrule Rod: The joint or connector where multi-piece rods come together.
- Reel: A device used for the deployment and retrieval of a fishing line using a spool mounted on an axle. Specific parts/terms related to reels include:
- Body Reel: The main frame of the reel which houses its main components.
- Drag Reel: The mechanism that applies resistance to the spool, allowing line to be pulled off under tension.
- Crank Reel: The action of turning the handle to retrieve line.
- Handle Reel: The part of the reel that the angler turns to retrieve line.
- Spool Reel: The part of the reel where the fishing line is wound.
- Shad Dart: A type of jig resembling the profile of a shad, often used for freshwater species.
- Sinker: A weight used to sink the bait or lure to the desired depth.
- Skirt: A fringed material, often made from rubber or silicone, used on certain lures to give a pulsating effect.
- Slack Line: When the fishing line is loose, without tension.
- Sling-Shot: A method of casting where the lure or bait is pulled back, then released to shoot forward.
- Soft Plastic: Flexible, plastic lures molded to resemble various creatures such as worms, shad, or crawfish.
- Spincast Reel: A type of reel with a closed face. The line is retrieved by a push-button mechanism.
- Spinning Reel: A reel with an open-faced design. It hangs beneath the rod and line is retrieved by turning the handle.
- Spinner: A type of lure that has one or more metal blades that spin around, creating vibration and flash to attract fish.
- Spinnerbait: A lure that has a spinning blade or blades, and often a skirted body.
- Splitshot: A small, round weight that can be pinched onto fishing line.
- Split Ring: A small, circular piece of metal that’s split, used to connect hooks to lures or other tackle items.
- Spook (Spooked): A type of topwater lure that moves side-to-side when retrieved. Also, “spooked” refers to fish being scared or alerted to a potential threat.
- Spoons: Metal lures shaped like a spoon that wobble when retrieved. Specific types include:
- Casting Spoon: Designed to be cast and retrieved.
- Weedless Spoon: Designed to avoid snagging on weeds or submerged structures.
- Structure Spoon: Designed to be jigged near underwater structures.
- Trolling Spoon: Designed to be trolled behind a boat.
- Spreader Bar: A type of fishing tackle used primarily in trolling, where multiple lures or baits are attached to a single line to mimic a school of fish.
- Star Drag: A type of drag adjustment mechanism found on conventional reels, adjusted by turning a star-shaped wheel located near the handle.
- Stickbait: A type of lure, often slender and straight, that can either float or be neutrally buoyant.
- Streamer: A type of fly used in fly fishing that imitates small baitfish or other swimming prey.
- Strike: The moment when a fish bites or hits a lure or bait.
- Stringer: A line or chain used to hold fish that have been caught, often by threading through the gills and mouth.
- Stinger (Trailer) Hook: An additional hook added to a lure, often to catch short-striking fish.
- Structure: Any underwater feature or formation, like rocks, logs, or man-made objects, where fish may congregate or seek shelter.
- Surf Fishing: Fishing from the shoreline, typically in the ocean, using rods that are longer and heavier than typical rods to cast baits or lures beyond the breaking waves.
- Surface Lure (Topwater): Lures that are designed to float and be retrieved or popped on the water’s surface.
- Swimbait: A type of lure that mimics the swimming action of prey, often made of soft plastic or hard materials.
- Swivel (Snap Swivel): A small device that allows a lure or bait to rotate without twisting the line. A snap swivel has a snap attached for easy attachment or detachment of lures.
- Tackle: Equipment or gear used for fishing.
- Tandem Rig: A rig with two lures or baits presented on a single line.
- Teaser: A lure or device used to attract fish, usually without hooks. Often used in saltwater trolling to bring gamefish closer to the boat.
- Tenkara: A traditional Japanese method of fly fishing that uses a rod, line, and fly without a reel.
- Terminal Tackle: The gear at the end of the fishing line, like hooks, swivels, sinkers, and snaps.
- Thermocline: A layer in a body of water where the temperature changes rapidly with depth, often serving as a barrier where fish might congregate.
- Tippett: The final section of a fly fishing leader, to which the fly is attached.
- Treble Hook: A hook with three points, commonly used on many types of lures.
- Trolling: A method of fishing where one or more fishing lines with lures or baited hooks are drawn through the water, typically from a moving boat.
- Tube: A type of soft plastic bait that resembles the body of a squid or similar prey, with a hollow body.
- Twister Tail: A soft plastic bait with a curly tail that wiggles during retrieval.
- Umbrella Rig: A rig that presents multiple lures simultaneously, imitating a school of baitfish.
- Underutilized: Refers to fish species that have sustainable populations but are not commonly targeted or consumed.
- Upwelling: An oceanographic phenomenon where cold, nutrient-rich water rises from deep to the surface, often leading to areas of increased marine productivity.
- Vessel Monitoring System (VMS): A satellite-based system used primarily in commercial fishing to monitor the locations and activities of fishing vessels, often for regulatory and conservation purposes.
- Viviparity: A reproductive strategy where offspring develop inside the parent’s body and are born alive, as opposed to being laid as eggs. Some species of sharks exhibit viviparity.
- Water Column: The vertical section of water from the surface down to the bottom substrate in a body of water.
- Walking the Dog: A fishing technique, often used with topwater lures, where the angler imparts a side-to-side motion to the lure by twitching the rod tip.
- Weedless: A lure or hook designed in a way that minimizes snagging on weeds or underwater vegetation.
- Wet Fly: A type of fly used in fly fishing that’s designed to sink below the water’s surface, as opposed to floating on top like a dry fly.
- Year-Class: A cohort of fish spawned in a particular year, used in fisheries management to track the strength and survival of each group of offspring.
- Yield: The amount of fish that can be harvested from a fishery without affecting the long-term sustainability of the population.
- Zooplankton: Small, often microscopic, floating or weakly swimming organisms that serve as a primary food source for many aquatic animals, especially young fish.
Nautical Terms for Anglers
Speaking the nautical language can be beneficial for anglers who spend their time on boats or fishing in the open water. Here are a few nautical terms you should be familiar with:
- Starboard: The right side of a boat when facing the bow (front).
- Port: The left side of a boat when facing the bow (front).
- Buoy: A floating device used to mark locations, channels, or hazards in the water.
- Wake: The waves produced by a moving boat.
- Bilge: The lowest part of a boat’s hull, where water collects.
Understanding nautical terms is essential for anglers who navigate the open waters. When on a boat, it is important to know the difference between the starboard and port sides. This knowledge helps in communicating with other anglers or crew members and ensures a smooth and safe fishing experience. Buoys, on the other hand, serve as valuable markers in the water. They indicate important locations, such as fishing spots, channels, or potential hazards. By paying attention to buoys, anglers can navigate the water more effectively and increase their chances of finding productive fishing areas.
The wake produced by a moving boat is another nautical term that anglers should be familiar with. The wake refers to the waves created by the boat’s movement through the water. Anglers need to be mindful of their wake, especially when fishing in areas with other boats or sensitive ecosystems. Controlling the speed and direction of the boat can help minimize the impact of the wake on the surrounding environment and ensure a respectful fishing experience. Additionally, understanding the bilge, the lowest part of a boat’s hull, is important for maintaining the vessel’s integrity. Anglers should regularly check and pump out any water that collects in the bilge to prevent damage and ensure the boat’s safety.
Fishing Industry Terms
The fishing industry has its own set of jargon, often used by professionals involved in commercial fishing or fish processing. Here are a few industry-specific terms:
- Bycatch: Bycatch refers to species inadvertently caught while targeting a different species.
- Fishery: A fishery is an area where fish are caught for commercial purposes.
- Longline: A longline is a fishing gear consisting of a long line with multiple baited hooks.
- Quota: A quota is a set limit imposed on the amount of fish that can be caught in a given period.
Bycatch is a significant concern in the fishing industry. It refers to the unintentional capture of non-target species while fishing for a specific species. Bycatch can include various marine animals, such as dolphins, turtles, or seabirds. Efforts to reduce bycatch have been implemented through the development of more selective fishing gear and the implementation of fishing regulations. These measures aim to minimize the impact on non-target species and promote sustainable fishing practices.
A fishery, on the other hand, refers to an area where fish are caught for commercial purposes. Fisheries can range from small-scale operations to large industrial operations. They can be located in freshwater or saltwater environments and can target various species depending on the region and market demand. Fishery management plays a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of fish populations and the long-term viability of the fishing industry.
Longline fishing is a common method used in commercial fishing. It involves setting a long line with multiple baited hooks, which can extend for several miles. Longlines are typically used to target pelagic species, such as tuna or swordfish. This fishing technique allows for the capture of a large number of fish in a single set, making it an efficient method for commercial fishing operations. However, concerns have been raised regarding the impact of longline fishing on non-target species and the overall health of marine ecosystems.
Quotas are an important tool in fisheries management. They are set limits on the amount of fish that can be caught within a specific period. Quotas are often based on scientific assessments of fish populations and aim to prevent overfishing and ensure the sustainability of fish stocks. By implementing quotas, authorities can regulate fishing activities and promote responsible fishing practices. Quotas can be allocated to individual fishermen, fishing vessels, or fishing communities, depending on the specific management system in place.
Fishing Slang and Colloquialisms
Regional Fishing Slang
Every fishing community has its own unique slang and colloquialisms. Let’s explore some regional fishing slang from different parts of the world:
- Florida: In Florida, you might hear anglers talk about “flats” (shallow coastal areas) or “gator trout” (large speckled trout).
- Scotland: Scottish anglers refer to a fishing fly as a “flyte” and use the term “lunker” to describe a large fish.
Australia: Australian anglers often use terms like “barra” (barramundi) and “yabby” (a type of freshwater crayfish).
Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned angler, there is always room to learn new angler’s lingo. Here are some terms that can help you communicate effectively with other anglers:
- Hot Spot: A location where fish are commonly found.
- Bag Limit: The maximum number of fish a person can legally keep in one day.
- Hookset: The act of setting the hook firmly into the fish’s mouth when it bites.
- Limit Out: To catch the maximum allowed number of fish.
Fishing Terms in Different Cultures
Fishing Terms in Japanese Culture
Japanese culture has a rich history of fishing and several unique terms associated with it. Here are a few fishing terms from Japanese culture:
- Tenkara: Tenkara is a traditional Japanese fly fishing technique using a long rod, fixed line, and simple fly patterns.
- Ikijime: Ikijime is a method of quickly and humanely killing fish by inserting a spike into the brain, ensuring the highest quality meat.
Fishing Vocabulary in Mediterranean Cultures
The Mediterranean region has a diverse fishing culture with distinct terms and fishing practices. Here are some fishing vocabulary from Mediterranean cultures:
- Palangre: Palangre is a longline fishing technique commonly used in the Mediterranean, consisting of a main line with numerous baited hooks.
Calamaro: Calamaro, also known as calamari, refers to squid, a popular catch in Mediterranean waters.
The Evolution of Fishing Terminology
Historical Fishing Terms and Their Meanings
Over time, fishing terminology has evolved to reflect changes in fishing practices and technologies. Here are some historical fishing terms and their meanings:
- Angling: Angling is a method of fishing using a hook and line, which dates back thousands of years.
- Trotline: A trotline is a long fishing line with multiple baited hooks, historically used by commercial fishermen.
Creel: A creel is a woven basket used to carry caught fish, commonly used in the past for freshwater fishing.
Modern Additions to Fishing Vocabulary
With advancements in technology and fishing practices, modern fishing vocabulary continues to expand. Here are some contemporary additions to fishing terminology:
- GPS: GPS (Global Positioning System) devices have become essential tools for anglers, allowing them to accurately navigate and mark fishing spots.
- Kayak Fishing: Kayak fishing is a popular modern fishing method that involves using a specialized fishing kayak to navigate and fish in various water bodies.
- Smart Buoy: Smart buoys are equipped with sensors and technology to provide real-time data on water conditions, fish activity, and more.
By familiarizing yourself with these fishing terms, you’ll be better equipped to communicate with fellow anglers, understand fishing resources, and enhance your overall fishing experience. So grab your rod, reel, and tackle, and dive into the exciting world of fishing with confidence!