How Well Do You Know Fishing Slang?


By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Pixabay

About This Quiz

There's nothing like spending some time at your local river or at the sea taking time to cast your line and try to hook a fish. For many, fishing is not only the ultimate pastime but the perfect way to relax and destress!

As with many other hobbies, fishing has its own set of phrases, lingo and slang terms. These describe not only the equipment used for fishing but also the types of fish you're likely to encounter, as well as the situations you might find yourself in while fishing. 

For example, did you know that fishing enthusiasts call small yellowtails "firecrackers"? What about a "dodo"? No, it's not an extinct bird but a dorado, which is a sports fish. And what if your fishing line needs a new "lead"? Well, then your line would be needing a new sinker. There are so many other examples that we could give you, but that would keep you away from the task at hand.

And that task is to see just how many fishing slang terms you're able to recognize. Some are really simple, while others might just have you scratching your head. Don't worry, there's always a hint to help you out.

It's time to sink or swim! 

If a fisherman talks about a "chicken of the sea," which animal is he talking about?

Seagulls are nothing more than scavengers in many people's opinion. They will be over in a flash as a fisherman starts working with bait. Seagulls are bold and will steal any scraps they can. They have even been known to swallow hooks with bait on them.


What is a "dog" in fishing lingo?

In fishing lingo, a "dog" is a seal. And fishermen hate seals. Why? Well, seals are intelligent and know that fish are easy targets, especially when caught in a net or on a line. Losing a fish to a seal makes fishermen angry ... very angry.


A fish that has "come unbuttoned" has done what?

Nothing frustrates a fisher more than one that got away, especially when the fish was already hooked. If it does manage to wiggle off the hook, the fish is also said to have "come undone."


While on a fishing boat, if you are told to "drop the hook," what do you need to do?

"Dropping the hook" is a little confusing, but it means to throw out the anchor. Of course, this is only for fishing when you will try to catch from a set location and not by hauling lines behind you.


If you see "foaming" in the water, what is happening?

"Foaming" indicates an area with a lot of fish activity. Larger fish are feeding on smaller fish, and all that movement to and fro disturbs the surface of the water. This is called foaming.


What type of fish are "macks"?

Mackerel are found the world over in both temperate and tropical climates. In fact, the name is applied to a range of similar fish throughout the world. They can be identified by their striped bodies and forked tails. Many other sport fish feed upon mackerel as their main source of food.


When someone spots "floats" in the water, what have they seen?

Squid are interesting creatures, that's for sure! When they spawn, they come up from deeper waters and normally hang around near on the surface laying their eggs. And where you find "floats" you are sure to find fish!


In fishing slang, what is meant by "getting worked"?

Actually, most fishermen love a fish to fight them. And while smaller fish don't put up a fight, if you hook a sport fish, you can expect to shed some sweat in your efforts to land the fish on the boat. This is to "get worked."


When the captain says the fish are biting on the "leeward" side of the island, what does he mean?

The leeward part of an island is the area that is sheltered from wind. Sometimes a leeward bay is a great place to fish. This is more of a nautical term than a fishing only one.


Can you tell us what a "fathom" is?

A "fathom" is simply a unit of measurement for the depth of a body of water. And it's easy to remember how deep a fathom is: 1 fathom the equivalent of 2 yards.


A boat changing direction to "starboard" is going which way?

A general nautical term as opposed to just fishing slang, "starboard" means right. So if fish are found off the starboard bow, they are to the right of the boat.


Of the options below, which best describes the fishing term "buzz saw"?

This typically happens on albacore and tuna finishing trips. Fisherman's lines can get crossed making it difficult to retrieve your catch.


Any clue as to what a "chummer" is?

Take a group of newbies out fishing and you are always sure to have at least one of these onboard. A "chummer" is someone who gets seasick and throws up over the side of the boat.


What does it mean if a boat captain orders "chumming" to take place?

Most fishing boats will keep fish offcuts, blood and bones in a bucket when fishing. This can be used to attract other fish, particularly sport fish or sharks, by simply throwing it overboard into the ocean.


A "coffee grinder" is what type of fishing equipment?

Fishing reels come in all shapes and sizes. A "coffee grinder" is usually totally closed with a conical front section. When the handle is turned, it seems as if the fisherman is grinding coffee, hence its name.


When fish are "chewing," what are they doing?

"Chewing" is what a fisherman wants a potential catch to do. Fish that are chewing are taking nibbles at the bait on the end of a line. It's just up to the fisherman to strike and catch them!


Can you tell us which of these options describes a "cattle boat"?

Sports fishing is a lucrative business, and some unscrupulous operators will take as many people as they can. Not only does this put those people in danger, it just means the finishing experience isn't as good as it could be, especially for a newbie.


Often seen in the ocean, what is "bush"?

Seaweed is found all over the ocean and in various forms. Sometimes, fish could be nearby -- but be careful, it could snag up the boat engines!


When a fisherman complains of "snagging," what has gone wrong?

Getting your line snagged in kelp or seagrass is no fun. In fact, instead of trying to sort it all out, many people will just cut their line, unless their favorite lure is still on the end!


In fishing slang, what fish would a "chovie" be?

Anchovies are versatile fish, brilliant to use in cooking and even better as bait when trying to catch large fish. You can even use frozen anchovy in this regard.


A fisherman "soaking their bait" is waiting for what?

In an area where fish are not that active, once a fisherman has cast in his line, he is said to be "soaking his bait". This means he is patiently waiting for a bite from a fish.


When a fishing line "sawed off," what exactly has happened?

There is nothing worse than losing a fish to a "sawed off" line. And it can happen so easily, especially when you think the fish is close to being landed. Just a little bit of friction on the hull of the boat, especially as the fish gets close to it, can cause a line to snap.


If someone called you a "sinker dunker," what would you be?

"Sinker dunkers" are novice fishermen who have brilliant luck. They are called this because as soon as their line hits the water, they somehow catch a big fish.


On long trips at sea, someone has to be the "galley bitch." What exactly is that?

Any trip at sea that is more than a day is probably going to need some who can cook. This person is affectionately known as the "galley bitch." Of course, fish might be on the menu every day!


You don't want to end up in the "green stuff," that's for sure. What is it?

No question, even on the calmest of seas, safety while fishing is of paramount importance. Anyone ending up in the ocean is bad news and will require the crew to spring into action to get them back on the boat as quickly as possible.


Which ocean fish is known as a "flattie" in fishing slang?

Why are halibut called "flatties"? Well, it's simple really. They are a flat fish that live on the ocean floor. They have evolved so that both of their eyes are on top of the fish with their mouth on the bottom near the ocean floor.


If someone on a fishing boat calls out that they are "hung," what does it mean?

A bit of a sexual innuendo, but on a fishing boat, if you shout you are "hung" it means you have hooked a really big fish.


When someone reels in "trash," what have they caught?

Things never go completely perfectly when fishing. You may think you have a great catch on the end of the line, but after reeling it in, it's a fish that you simply aren't looking for. This is known as "trash" and usually gets thrown back or used for bait.


If you caught "whiskers," what fish would you be pulling up?

"Whiskers" are good old catfish! These fish are noted for their long feelers that protrude from their mouths. Catfish are found all over the world, including America, Europe and Asia.


In fishing slang, what is a "tangler"?

Sometimes paid fishing can get a little crowded. Trying to fish on these excursions can be difficult, especially for a serious angler. These poor souls call themselves "tanglers" as their rigs often tangle with others once the fishing starts.


When a captain wants the boat to change direction to "port," which way is it going to go?

A general nautical term as opposed to just fishing slang, "port" means left. So if fish are found off the port bow, they are to the left of the boat.


Someone asking for a "stick" on a fishing boat wants what piece of equipment?

Large fish are difficult to get onto the boat. They cannot just be pulled up using the fishing line. To land them, a special tool called a gaff is used. This is a hook that is put into the body of the fish, allowing it to be pulled up onto the boat.


When fish are biting on the "windward" side of an island, where will you find them?

The windward part of an island is the area that is not sheltered from wind. This is a well-known nautical and sailing term, not just fishing slang.


On a big fishing trawler, what is the "slammer"?

Trawlers are massive fishing boats that are at sea for long periods of time. Any fish caught must be refrigerated; otherwise, they will go bad. They are kept in big refrigeration units that are often called "slammers."


If a boat was near a school of "scooters," what fish would you see?

Barracudas are ferocious fish! Long and sleek, these fish have sharp teeth that can cause real damage. Some barracuda species can grow to more than 5 feet long. Incredibly, barracudas can swim up to 27 miles an hour in short bursts.


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