What Does "Fishing" Mean?

Fishing Is a Recreation for All

Low Section Of Man Fishing In Sea Against Sky During Sunset
Lasse Schneppenheim / EyeEm / Getty Images

Though "fishing" might seem to be a term that requires no definition, with nearly 38 million people engaged in the activity—most of them amateurs rather than commercial fishers—perhaps there is some merit to looking at defining what it means.

"Fishing" can be officially be defined as the process of catching wild fish or other aquatic species from waters, either for sustenance, as a business, or for sport. Commercial fishing is catching fish for sale, while recreational fishing is the activity of sports enthusiasts, and can be either for the purpose of eating them or the sport of catching them, or both. By some definitions, other aquatic species, such as mollusks and crustaceans, are considered to be caught by "fishing" for them, but the term generally excludes harvesting fish on commercially stocked fish farms. Nor does it include sea mammals, such as whales or dolphins. 

Evidence shows that early humans have been catching since 40,000 years ago or so. Some archaeological evidence reveals shell fragments and discarded fish bones, and cave paintings indicate that seafood were important elements of the prehistoric diet. 

Recreational fishing can be done in a variety of ways, including hand gathering, spearing, netting, trapping, and angling—the process of catching fish with hooks, lines, and rods or poles. Most people, though, consider fishing to be the act taking fish by hook and line. You can use either a pole or rod and reel to do so. Rods and reels for fishing include fly fishing outfits, spin cast fishing outfits, spinning fishing outfits, and bait casting outfits. Other forms of catching fish, such as spearing or netting, vary by location and sometimes are prohibited by law. 

How true recreational fishing began isn't clear, but the earliest English essay on recreational fishing was published in 1496 and included a considerable amount of information on choosing fishing waters, the construction of rods and lines, and the use of natural baits and artificial flies—quite similar to modern approaches to recreational fishing. 

By some opinion, true recreational fishing entered the early modern era after the English civil war with the publication of the book "Compleat Angler" by Izaak Walton in 1653—a true celebration of the spirit of recreational fishing. 

Today, fishing is often broken down into saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing.

Tournament fishing is catching fish for prizes. The rules can vary, but bass tournament fishing is very popular and includes a lot of prize money. There are also catfish tournaments, walleye tournaments, and many other kinds of tournaments in fresh and salt water.

Many people start fishing at a young age and fish all their lives. Woman fishermen now fish at all levels and also compete at the professional level in bass fishing. Fishing is not limited by sex or age. Anyone can fish, making it the most democratic of all recreational sports.