Common fishing terms

Fishing is a popular hobby for many people. It can be relaxing and enjoyable to go out on the water with your friends or family, hoping to catch some fish. There are plenty of terms that you will come across when fishing, so it’s important that you know what they mean! Here are some common fishing terms to help get you started.

Most Common Types of Freshwater Fish


One of the fishing terms used to refer to fish species in the Salmonidae family, including species such as the Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout. These fish are found worldwide in both saltwater and freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, etc.


A freshwater fish with two dorsal fins, typically found in bodies of water such as rivers and ponds. The term “bass” refers to many species of fish including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, white bass, and others.


A freshwater fish with two dorsal fins, typically found in bodies of water such as rivers and ponds.


A common species of sunfish native to North America. These are usually found in warm waters like the Great Lakes, the United States east of the Rockies, or Canada east of Manitoba. They can also be caught by fishing in areas that have lily pads growing nearby.


A species of non-migratory fish that has whisker-like sensory organs on its face is used to detect prey. Catfish are often used for food; they are found worldwide in both fresh and saltwater. Some people even keep them as pets.


A freshwater fish is identifiable by its large head, flat snout, and “whiskers.” Carps are usually caught in the late summer.

Black Crappie

A member of the sunfish family native to North America. It typically lives near the water with vegetation. This type of fish is not known for being particularly active, but it will bite a lure.

Most Common Types of Saltwater Fish


Bass are also found in saltwater. Saltwater species include the Japanese seabass and the Blackfin seabass.


A type of predatory fish characterized by a streamlined body and strong dorsal and anal fins. They have mostly been fished for food, but recreational anglers also enjoy catching tuna.


A type of saltwater fish that is frequently caught by fishing boats. Mackerel are usually between 1 ft and 4 ft in length, have a shiny silver color with blue or green tints on top, and have dark stripes running vertically along with their bodies.


An ocean-going species of fish found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. This fish has a flat snout, a long dorsal fin that runs the length of its back from head to tailfin, and bright silver scales.

Alligator Gar

A type of saltwater fish with a large triangular-shaped body and long jaws. This species is typically found in rivers and is known for its fierce appetite.


A highly migratory species of saltwater fish is found in all tropical regions of the world, excluding the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is easily identifiable by its long bill and a long dorsal fin that runs nearly the entire length of its back.

Fishing Gear

Fishing line

A thin cord made of nylon or similar materials is used for fishing. The diameter of a fishing line is typically measured in pounds or test, which refers to the line’s breaking strength.


An item used for fishing that consists of a long, pole-like item and a handle. A fishing line is attached to the rod’s tip and is then lowered into the water to catch fish.


A cylindrical item with a handle typically holds most of the fishing line, which attaches to the fishing rod. The reel’s job is to wind up any excess line, so the fisherman doesn’t have to.


A round object that floats on the surface of the water; it’s attached to a fishing line and is used as an indicator to let you know when you’ve caught something (i.e., touched the bobber means there’s a fish on your hook).


It is a type of fishhook with a sharp, curved end that has either one or two barbs. This is used to impale the fish you’re trying to capture and then remove from the water.


An invertebrate is typically found in soil that’s edible and commonly used as a troll for fishing.

Fishing lure

A type of artificial fishing troll that imitates the look and movement of prey. They can be cast by hand or with a reel and are made in various shapes and sizes depending on what type of fish they’re intended to catch.


A heavy metal object attaches to a fishing line and submerges a hooked or artificial bait. Sinkers can be split, egg, bullet, bell, or mushroom-shaped.


An item with a sharp end attached to a fishing line and used to catch fish by impaling them to the hook. Fishhooks come in many different shapes and sizes.

Landing Net

A large net typically held by two people used to carry a fish from the water onto dry land. It’s most commonly used for catching saltwater species such as tuna.

Gaff Hook

An item with a pointy end, typically made of metal, is attached to a handle used to catch big fish. There are many different types of gaff hooks, depending on the type of fish you’re after.

Fly Rod

A light fishing rod is used to catch trout and salmon, among other species of fish that are considered game fish. Fly rods can be made from materials such as fiberglass or bamboo and consist of a long, slender pole with grips on the end.


A type of fishing reel mechanism that’s mounted on a rod or holder and held in one hand. It typically sits to the side of you rather than behind you as a spinning lurch does.

Terminal Tackle

The items are used at the end of a fishing line to attract fish and anchor the hook. This includes jigs, spoons, spinners, hooks, sinkers, swivels, bobbers, and leeches.


A method of fishing where the angler repeatedly reels in line with a jig attached and then lets it back out again, hoping a fish will take the jig on one of the reel’s up or down movements.

Baitcasting Reel

A fishing lurch with a handle attached to the cranked spool is also known as a bait caster. This is used for catching large fish such as Bass, Northern Pike, and Musky.

Fly Reel

A type of fly fishing lurch used to hold the line is made of two different-sized arches connected in the middle with a spool for holding the line. Beginners typically use this because they are easier to operate than spinners and bait casters.


A device that’s used to travel on the water uses pontoons, oars, paddles, and an engine.


A type of fishing involves attaching lures to your line and letting it out and reeling in again in hopes a fish will bite between reels up or down movements.


A type of lurch used to catch fish typically made out of metal and has a wire attached to a spool with colorful plastic blades. The user attaches the line to the end of the spool, so when the wire spins, it makes a clicking noise that attracts fish.

Fishing Poles

A long rod made out of wood, metal, or bamboo that’s used to cast a line and hold a lurch. Depending on the type of fishing, they can be made out of different materials such as fiberglass or bamboo.

Terminal Tackle

The items used at the end of a fishing line attract fish such as lures, hooks, and bobbers.


An artificial lure is used in the water to attract fish. These come in different shapes, colors, and sizes, depending on where you’re fishing and what type of fish you want to catch.

Types of Fishing Water


A body of water that’s surrounded by land and does not have an outflow.


A natural stream of water that flows towards a larger body of water, such as an ocean or lake. This is where the fish typically breed and feed during certain times of the year.


The part in a river where the freshwater meets the saltwater. This is an area where fish typically feed and spawn because of the varying levels of salinity.

Fishing Methods

Catch and release

Catch and release is a fishing technique where you return the fish back into the water after you’ve caught it. This is to protect the species from being overfished and help them maintain a healthy population.

The above common fishing words are mostly based on the preferred method of fishing by each individual. If you are new to fishing or simply trying to learn more about it, these are fishing words that you will want to know if you want to become a better angler and communicate with other fishers.


The type of fishing where you attach artificial lures onto your line and use a spinning lurch to catch fish.


A method of fishing that uses a baitcasting lurch and a baitcasting rod. The angler casts the line by rotating the handle of the lurch, rather than with their arm like you would if throwing a stick.

Fly Fishing

A method of fishing where the angler uses a fly rod to cast a weighted or unweighted fly into the water to catch fish.

Shore Fishing

A type of fishing where the angler stands on land to cast their rod at fish in the water.


A type of fishing where you attach lures to your line and lurch it behind a boat. The purpose is to attract fish with the lures color, movement, sound, or smell.


A simple type of fishing involves tying hooks onto your line and then holding on to the rod while waiting for a fish to bite.

Fishing slang

Fishing slang is a type of fishing jargon used by anglers to communicate with one another.


An angler is a person who fishes with a rod and line. It’s another word for fisherman.


A term for albacore tuna.


A term for barracuda.


When the topwater is disturbed because a big fish is chasing little fish.


Another term for a bonito fish.


Another term for a seal.


Breezers are fish that are swimming in the area, but likely just passing through. They typically don’t bite.


Candy refers to the preferred bait for whatever you’re trying to catch that day.

Cattle Boat

A cattle boat is a phrase for an overcrowded boat that is usually rented for the day and has as many as people will fit on as possible in order to pay a discounted rate per person.


Another term for a sea gull.


Another phrase for anchovies.


A chummer is a seasick person.


A huge kelp pattie.


Guys who get to ride on the boat for free because they’re friends with the deck hand.


Another term for amall sardines.


Dinks is another term for little fish.


These are large sardines.


Similar to bowser, dogs is another term for seals.


Used to describe trolling or the braking mechanism in your reel.


An odd term for someone who keeps losing fish.


Firecrackers are small yellowtail fish.


A term used for halibut.


When there is a lot of big fish feeding on little fish. The disturbance on the topwater is so great it creates a “foam” on top of the water.


Footballs are little tuna.


In contrast to footballs, gorillas are large tuna.


Another term for kelp beds or where your line gets tangled.


Exclaimed when you have managed to hook a fish.


When you’ve hooked a big fish.


A term for large barracudas.


Longfins are albacore tuna.


Huge trout or bass.

Mack Attack

When mackerel eat all of your bait.


A nickname for mackerel.

Make Bait

When you’re too cheap to buy bait so you catch it yourself.


A guy who doesn’t look behind him before casting.


Large yellowtail.


Another term for floating kelp which usually has a lot of fish hiding under it.


Small baitfish that you accidentally catch. They tend to die almost immediately after being caught. Can be used as bait.


An area with a lot of fish. Usually attracts seals.


Small yellowtail fish.

Sea Dog

Another term for a seal or sea lion.


A big fish that has a large head.


Another term for skipjack tuna.


When you’ve hooked a fish.


When you have cast your trolling bait and you’re moving the boat at a slow pace in order to catch fish.

Soakin Bait

Once you’ve cast your bait and you’re waiting for a bite.


When fish are scared or finicky. When they are teasing.


When all of your fishing line is gone from the reel.


Another term for fishing line.


Another term for yellowtails.


An angler on an overcrowded boat. See Cattle Boat above.


A large fish.


Generally refers to bait or fish floating on or near the top of the water. Can also just refer to the top layer of water.


When you immediately catch a fish after casting. Easy peasy.


Can be any type of live bait, not just worms.


Can refer to yellowtail or yellowfin tuna.