Why Is Fishing Called Angling?

For many people, the terms fishing and angling mean the same thing. But although these terms are used interchangeably, they are different. As a newbie angler, you’re probably wondering why is fishing called angling.

Fishing is the act of catching fish using different fishing methods such as hand-grabbing, netting, spearing, shooting, and trapping. Angling is a fishing technique that uses a fish hook attached to a fishing line to catch fish. Fishing is called angling because people think these acts are the same. 

Keep reading to learn more about the history of angling and the difference between fishermen and anglers. 

What Is Angling?

Angling is a fishing technique that requires an angler to use a hook attached to a fishing rod and a fishing line to catch fish. In most cases, the fishing line is operated using a fishing rod, but rodless fishing methods such as handlining and longlining are also sometimes used. 

Most modern fishing rods use a fishing reel to retrieve and release the fishing line. If you aren’t a fan of fishing using a reel, try cane pole fishing or Tenkara fishing, as these two methods of fishing don’t use a reel. 

To catch a fish, an angler must use an attractive bait to attract the fish and coax it into swallowing the hook. Some anglers use artificial lures with multiple attached hooks instead of living bait to catch fish. A bite indicator like a quiver tip or a float is often used to signal the angler when the fish bites the bait.

Angling is the main fishing technique in recreational fishing, but commercial fishermen sometimes use angling methods such as trolling or longlining. 

Catch and release angling is increasingly popular with sport fishermen. Many countries have size and daily bag limits for certain fish species, meaning that fishes above or below a specific size must be released alive after capture. 

Angling shouldn’t be confused with snagging or other fishing methods that use a line and hook to catch fish. The difference between angling and snagging is that angling use small hooks and relies on the target fish swallowing the hook. 

Snagging uses very large hooks that pierce the fish’s body and gills and rarely include any bait. This fishing method inflicts severe injuries to the fish and makes it challenging for a fish to heal and survive when released alive.

History and Origin of Angling

History and Origin of Angling

People have been catching fish as a source of food for many millennia. The world’s oldest fish hook has been found in East Timor, alongside evidence that humans caught fish 42,000 years ago. 

Archeologists found two broken fish hooks made from shells. One hook was dated to approximately 11,000 years old and the other between 23,000 and 16,000 years old. 

While ancient humans used hooks and rods to catch fish thousands of years ago, the term angling was first mentioned in a book by Dame Juliana Berners called “Treatise of Fishing with an Angle,” published in 1496. Rods used for angling in Europe, at that time, were 4 feet long. 

Angling became increasingly popular in the 17th century, after the English Civil War. New books about angling were published, depicting angling as a sport for gentlemen. 

The use of modern materials and improved reel designs increased angling’s popularity further, making it one of the most popular hobbies worldwide.   

Fisherman vs. Angler or Fishing vs. Angling: Difference?

While the terms fisherman and angler are used interchangeably, there are significant differences in how they catch fish, what type of gear they use, and the purpose of fishing. 

The main differences between fishing and angling are:

Techniques Used to Catch Fish

Techniques used to catch fish are the main difference between fishing and angling. Fishermen use many fishing methods to catch fish, including hand-gathering, trapping, spearing, and netting.

Fishermen or companies fishing for commercial purposes use many different fishing methods to catch fish. On the other hand, anglers use only fishing rods, lines, and hooks to catch fish.


Most anglers catch fish for recreational purposes, and they release most of their catches. For most fishermen, fishing is a full-time job, and their main goal is to catch as much fish as possible for commercial purposes. 

Fish Species Targeted

For most anglers, the main goal is catching a specific fish species. It’s not uncommon for anglers to release all other fish that bite the hook until they catch a trophy-sized fish of certain species. 

Fishermen usually target a wide range of fish species to maximize their profits. Fishing is also focused on several fish species at one time, while anglers only target one type of fish.

Baits Used

For commercial fishing, fishermen use live bait and artificial lures to attract and capture different types of fish. When angling, most people use artificial lures designed to be effective at attracting specific fish species. 

Does It Matter Which Term I Use?

For the most part, it doesn’t matter which term you use. Whether you say, “I’m going fishing with friends” or “I’m going angling with friends,” people will understand that you’re off to try to catch fish.

Fishing is the act of trying to catch fish using different fishing methods. Angling is just one of several fishing techniques that requires a fishing rod and a hook to catch fish. 

Both terms are universally understood, so there’s no risk that someone will mistake your intent to catch fish. 


Both fishing and angling refer to the action of catching fish. Although these terms are used interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing.

Fishing refers to catching fish using different fishing techniques, such as trapping, netting, hand-grabbing, angling, spearing, or shooting. On the other hand, angling is the act of catching fish using a fishing rod, reel, and hook. 

Angling is a hobby and recreational sport for many people. But for fishermen who use various fishing techniques to catch as much fish as possible, fishing is a full-time job.