Writing over a quarter of a million words about fishing on this site I realized that there’s really only one word I use to call people who fish. If I want to refer to men and or women fishing singularly or in a group, I call them anglers.
It’s getting tiring, I have to say. I want to say fishermen. Fisherman. Fisherwomen. Fisherwoman. And I think Fishers should be the word we all use instead of angler.
What Is an Angler?
Where did the word angler even come from and how does it relate in any way to fishing?
I had to look it up.
Angler was originally a last name, and came to mean “fisherman” by about 1500, from the verb angle, “fish with a hook,” from the Old English angel, which means “angle,” but also “fishhook.”vocabulary.com
Wow. That clears up absolutely nothing at all. It’s basically a joke that for 500 years we’re all calling each other anglers. Someone who works with geometry should be an angler, not someone who fishes.
Other People Who Fish (and what we can call them)
So this got me thinking about all kinds of different words I have for people who go fishing. Some of it is slang. Some of it may be common in some places. There are especially lots of funny characters I see at Florida’s Fishing Piers. I just want to cover a handful of them. OK, something like a couple of handfuls.
These are the hired help on a charter with at least 25 tourists (usually 50) to Florida, most of whom will never own a fishing rod, they just use a rented baitcaster once a year so they can foul it 6-7 times before they get the hang of it.
The bait ballers are the guys running around from tourist to tourist getting angry at every one of them for fouling the reels and not reeling fast enough or pulling hard enough on grouper that are going to jump in a hole.
Then these guys walk around with a hat or bucket, expecting a tip at the end of the trip when you’ve caught 3 fish, paid $75, puked over the railing twice, and didn’t keep any fish to eat at home.
Oh, I almost forgot – they’re ‘ballers’ because they run around making sticky balls of sand around your bait so when you drop it in the water, the sand flies and the fish get excited. They always hang out by the hot girls and make their bait balls.
These guys have a spoon-ladle slinger thing they use to throw smelly slop into the ocean every 15 minutes by the clock. They don’t fish without their chum, and they always have it in a big 5-gallon paint bucket.
These guys (always guys) are a mixed lot. Some of them come to the pier or bridge drunk or drinking. They’re hiding it, or they think they are. Everyone that’s near them knows they’re drinking.
They may sleep next to the pier or in the forest close by. They have a shopping cart for their stuff and there’s a helluva lot of stuff in it. Mostly other people’s throwaway items they scavenged and figured out how it would help them fish.
These guys have advice for anyone who asks or doesn’t ask, and they think they’re the life of the pier.
Fishaholics live for fishing. They’re already retired or homeless or both and they fish daily because fishing is their life. The family has probably disowned them or doesn’t know where to find them.
This should be the standard word for people who fish. Anybody who fishes. But when I search for it, it is very rarely used. People who run are called runners. People who read are called readers. People who dance are called dancers.
People who fish are FISHERS. Aren’t we?
The problem arises when we realize that we’ve been calling everyone who fishes, fishermen for WAY too long. Women were typically included in the word fishermen, but they didn’t feel so good about it. Go figure! So many things are like this. Firemen. Policemen.
We can’t say this anymore unless we’re talking just about MEN. FisherMEN. FisherMAN. Stop including women in this. Give them some respect for fishing’s sake.
This sounds stupid, doesn’t it? It’s just because nobody ever uses it. It should be used and yet nobody says it, not even women. It just sounds awkward. My vote is still for Fishers.
Since we’re talking about people who fish, let’s cover some other names for people that you may not hear often or maybe never at all.
These are old guys that sleep in the clothes they just fished in, and then do it again tomorrow. And for the next few weeks. These guys smell like fish. They have stains all over themselves and they figure nobody really notices.
Nobody does because they can’t stand the smell and leave them to have their own spot. These guys are also called pier-rats, but they’re older so fishfarts seem more apropos.
Fishfarts catch their own bait when they have to. They much prefer to wait around the pier to see if anyone is going to give away extra bait. They also will use just about anything for cut bait so they don’t have to buy bait.
Fishfarts will walk around the shallow area by a pier and pull out snagged artificial lures so they don’t have to buy them.
On a pier, on a bridge, on something that is over the water. Usually, it’s the highest pier you can imagine. The fish-dude or fishette catching the fish just can’t be bothered to drop a net in on a rope to pick up the fish safely and sustainably. They have no idea if the fish is big enough to keep, and they do this move anyway.
They reverse cast that caught fish up 20 feet or so and let it fall 10 feet onto the hard concrete pier making a sickening flopping sound. They watch it convulse on the pier and talk about it with a buddy for at least a minute before measuring it with dry hands and some markings on a rod or someone’s shoe.
They finally realize it’s too small or not in the slot and they throw it back over the edge where the fish probably has a 70% chance of dying of shock.
These are kids 4 years and under who came to the pier to disrupt everyone’s fishing. They tend to stick to their own family’s rods, reels, bait, and knives, but if you’re packed on a pier or bridge like sardines, you’re going to have a run-in with one of these little toads.
Even if they’re the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen, just ignore them. PLEASE just ignore them.
See fishfarts above.
Fishrats are technically savvy and are geared toward one thing only – catching more fish than anyone else on the pier. They arrive early. They arrive with at least some of the latest gear and artificial lures. They don’t talk much, but they listen carefully to all conversations in earshot.
They watch everyone catch everything and they know what it was caught on, how deep it was, and how long it sat there. They put this into their mental treasure chest of fishery data and pull it out in a split second as needed.
Fishrats will b.s. like the rest of the pier fishers but he’s (it’s always a he) different because he has an agenda he’s working on. He is finding out the sum total information available on that pier or in that spot and he will use it to his utmost advantage.
Fishing to fishrats is a competition. As far as he’s concerned, there will be a winner on that pier that day.
You know who they are. They’re everywhere. You’ll hear them before you see them. Sometimes people get fed up, but it’s a fishing pier. What can you really do?
These are guys that will take the first opportunity, and ANY opportunity to stick part of a cast net in their mouths and peer over the side of the pier, boat, bridge, sea wall, or ANYTHING just so they can throw that damn net again.
They live for this. They like fishing. They LOVE licking that dirty net and throwing it out there so everyone can watch.
Almost always guys, but a girl (see Pier-hunny) may have tagged along to look pretty or something. They’re almost always in their teens but there are some especially annoying guys in their mid to late twenties who can’t seem to find anything better to do than run the pier like their own personal boat.
Pier Bros are usually in a tribe of 3 or more. They are locals, they’ve been to this spot hundreds of times and they know what you should be using and not using, and they’ll tell you about it. They’ll argue with you about it.
They can’t control a fish to save their lives so they’ll be running up and down the pier when they hook something yelling ‘coming over’ or ‘let me under’ or other nonsense which means basically, they can’t reel a fish in from where they were and they’re letting it roam all over both sides of the pier to jerk everyone around.
The phrase ‘muscle the fish in’ is lost on them. They can also be called Pier Pansies, Pier Puppets, or Fish puppets.
Girls who are at least fifteen and are at the fishing pier to accompany Pier Bros who are in their element at their pier. Pier-Hunnies look around to see who is looking at them and then give them nasty looks.
This can be anyone from the age of 9 up to about 48. By 49 years of age the guy (it’s always a guy) turns into a fishfart, plain and simple.
PIer-rats are on the fast track to becoming fishfarts and they appear to be ready to do anything to reach that goal.
Men or women, they come to the pier and know only the most basic fishing logic and have a rod/reel combo they bought at Walmart. They sheepishly glance around and try to get clues from others just what in the hell to do to catch a fish.
They won’t talk. They’re usually a male/female couple that just talks to each other quietly and pretend that nobody else is on the pier except they’re looking around to see what others are doing so much you KNOW they’re interested in what everyone else is doing.
They’ll go home without a fish when nobody is looking.
These men and women will cast some cut bait out on a heavyish rig or multiple rigs and let it sit there until they leave 4 hours later. They won’t check to see if the bait has been stolen. They don’t seem to care. They’ll slouch down in a fold-up chair and pull their hat down over their eyes and have a pier-nap that can last all day and into the night if you let ’em.
These guys are always young – under 21 – and they like fishing but they love surfing. They’ll go to a pier with their fishing stuff and a surfboard. If the waves are even 1 foot high, they’ll be out there surfing beside the pier pissing everyone off by scaring fish, ripping up lines, and hitting on our daughters on the beach.
That’s probably all I have for now. This was supposed to be a short post about what to call people who fish and I got carried away!
If you can add to this list in some way, please do! Send it here.
[Images from unsplash. Disclaimer – none of the images has anything to do with the people in this article, just for illustrative and humorous purposes.]