What comes to mind when you think of fishing? Is it trolling behind a boat, or casting a long line for a saltwater gamefish? Is it fly fishing, catfish noodling, or something else entirely? “Fishing” has many different meanings; there are lots of different types of fishing.
Today, we’ll go over the different types of fishing and explain what each one is. How many have you tried?
There are many different fishing styles, all of which require various tools and techniques to perform.
Angling refers to any type of fishing that involves a line and a hook. Usually, there is bait and a sinker on the hook to control where the hook goes in the water column. Angling can be done from the shore, from a dock, or from a boat or other watercraft. If you’ve ever gone fishing, then congratulations– you’re an angler.
When you go bottom fishing, you are likely pursuing crappie, bass, catfish, or suckerfish– essentially, bottom feeders and fish that like to hang out in patches of weeds near the bottom. This technique requires weights on your line to drop the baited hook down to where these fish like to feed.
Fly fishing is a style of fishing that involves presenting a realistic bait to predatory fish like trout and salmon. It can also be effective for carp, bass, and other fish that come to the surface to feed. Fly fishing can be done from a boat, from the shore, or by standing in the water while wearing waders.
Hand gathering refers to the act of picking up marine organisms with your hands. This is still considered a type of fishing, although you rarely acquire actual fish this way. Instead, hand gathering is a great technique for getting clams and other shellfish. You can even get lobsters and crabs this way, if you’re willing to dive for them.
Fishing doesn’t have to stop in the winter! Ice fishing involves drilling a hole in surface ice and dropping baited lines into the water. Ice fishers typically move a fishing shelter out onto the ice that’s heated with a portable heater to deal with the winter temperatures. Ice fishing is a great way to fish on a lake that doesn’t have a boat launch, and gives you access to areas that might be challenging to reach in the warmer months.
Kite fishing is an unusual fishing style that uses a kite to troll a lure through the water. This can let you access offshore water without a boat, and is sometimes used by people with mobility issues to get access to hard-to-reach bodies of water.
Historically, kite fishing has been practiced in China, Australia, and other southeast Asian and Pacific countries. Today, kite fishing is also used in sportfishing for big fish like marlin, kingfish, and others, which you can see in action in this video:
Netting is the primary method used in commercial fishing that uses nets to capture many fish at once. It is an ancient technique; the oldest known net weights date back to 29,000 years ago. There are many types of net available, including:
- Drift nets: unanchored nets that catch fish near the surface and high in the water column
- Gill nets: nets with a special mesh that catch fish by the gills
- Hand nets: small, hand-held nets that are used on smaller vessels to catch fish for small-scale sale and consumption
- Throw nets: round, weighted nets (sometimes called cast nets)
- Trawl nets: large, anchored, weighted nets that are towed through the water by a boat
Noodling is a unique fishing style where anglers use their hands or feet to lure catfish out of their muddy holes in a river or creek bottom. The catfish bite down on your fingers; it’s an unconventional style of fishing most popular in the southern US. Noodling can also be called hogging, dogging, or tickling, among other names.
Noodling is a beloved pastime, and catfish noodlers take great pride in their ability to tease out lunkers. Here’s a video showing catfish noodling in action:
Nymphing is a type of fly fishing where you present your fly just below the surface of the water. Nymphing works on most waters, unless you have a really weedy stream bottom. The flies used in nymphing are very small and represent the larval and pupal stages of insects.
Spearfishing is a style of fishing that encompasses using any pointed projectile to catch fish. This is usually practiced in shallow water, where you can see the fish. Of course, the fish can also see you, so you have to be fast and precise. Spearfishing is done while wading or while on a boat. One style, speargun fishing, is practiced entirely underwater.
The spears used in spearfishing come in many different styles, including:
- Bow and arrows, exactly what it sounds like
- Gig, a small three-pronged spear used primarily to catch frogs
- Harpoon, a long tool with a barbed end
- Hawaiian sling, a sling separate from the spear that throws the spear a greater distance than a person can on their own
- Pike poles, two poles with smaller, curved spikes that are frequently used while ice fishing
- Pole spear, a spear with a sling attached
- Spearguns, which come in many styles and are used by divers underwater
- Trident, a three-pronged spear
Spin fishing is possibly the most well-known fishing type; it’s the fishing style that many people start with. To go spin fishing, you need a rod, reel, bait, and hook. It’s as simple as that! Spin fishing is a great way to introduce new anglers to the sport, as it’s very familiar and accessible to most people.
Trapping involves placing baited traps at the bottom of the body of water to catch fish and crustaceans. This is the most common method for catching lobster, crab, and eel. This method can also be effective for predatory fish.
Trolling is a fishing style where you cast a line that moves slowly through the water. Trolling can be done from a slow-moving boat or from the dock or a bank. If you’re standing while trolling, you will cast and then reel the bait in slowly to entice fish.
These types of fishing require specific techniques and are often subcategories of other types of fishing. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with a certain type of fishing, it can be fun to specialize and try some of the subdisciplines of each type.
Bowfishing is a specific type of spear fishing that uses a bow and arrow. It’s another ancient technique that is extremely popular in the modern era, and is very popular for gar, carp, and other large fish. Bowfishing is also used as a method of controlling invasive species; since you see the fish you’re targeting, you know exactly what you are trying to catch.
This video explains bowfishing and lets you see it in action:
Casting refers to fishing with a long, flexible rod used to throw your line away from where you’re stationed. Casting is a sport in and of itself; you can compete in casting tournaments where your accuracy and distance are measured, no fish involved.
Droplining is a specialized angling technique that refers to dropping a long fishing line straight down. This is most commonly seen in commercial fishing, as it is a good way to target fish that can be found by the seabed or living in underwater trenches. Droplines usually have several hooks and a weight at the bottom of the line.
Euro nymphing, also called tightlining, high-stick nymphing, and a myriad of other names, is a specialized nymphing technique that uses heavy flies, tungsten hooks, and a short leader. This technique is performed at close quarters and the line remains tight throughout the drift.
Here is a video of Euro Nymphing in action:
No fishing pole? No problem. When you go handlining, you use a single fishing line that’s held in your hands. It’s practiced from boats, docks, and the shore. It’s similar to droplining
Longlining is a commercial method of fishing that uses an extremely long line with many baited hooks to catch fish. These hooks hang from the line on branches called snoods, and these lines are pulled up on winches rather than poles. The method commonly used to catch swordfish, tuna, and halibut for the industrial fish market.
Jigging is a style of angling that is frequently used while spin fishing. Jigging refers to the type of lure; a jig is a hook molded into a lead sinker that is then covered by a soft rubber lure. It’s an all-in-one bait that is highly effective for voracious predatory fish like bass, walleye, muskellunge, and pike.
Pitch fishing is a specialized casting technique. This method is great for spooky fish because you cast the line in at a low angle so that it enters the water quietly. Pitch fishing is great for shooting under docks and around jetties, because it involves tight control over the direction and placement of your cast.
Remote Control / Drone Fishing
Remote control fishing is a very modern style of fishing that involves using a drone or a remote controlled boat to catch fish. This style of fishing is somewhat controversial and the legality varies from state to state.
Slabbing is a type of bass fishing that involves tossing a flat, heavy lead lure that’s painted to look like a baitfish. It’s most effective when you use a fish finder to find a whole school of fish. This type of fishing has some very specific use-cases, but when it works, it works really well.
Surfcasting is done into the waves off of a saltwater beach. It requires a long pole and the ability to cast a long distance.
Tenkara is a type of fly fishing that originated in the mountain streams of Japan. Tenkara rods are long and use a very short amount of line– and no reel. Tenkara lines are tied directly to the tip of the rod, and tenkara anglers get quite close to the fish.
Trotlining is another multi-hook fishing technique, but instead of being a line that drops down, a trotline goes across the surface of the water. This technique is great for fishing across rivers. Trotlines are often set and checked later in the day for more passive fish acquisition.
Winter Fly Fishing
While most people think of ice fishing as the primary method of winter fishing, you can fly fish in the winter, too. Winter fly fishing requires great care and safety precautions due to the cold water. You also need to be particular about what you offer the fish; they will be slow and sluggish, and less likely to feed unless the bait presented is irresistible.
Fishing By Vessel
These types of fishing require a certain type of watercraft to accomplish.
Canoe fishing is done from a canoe. Because canoes drift easily and are usually paddled or propelled slowly, this type of fishing synergizes well with trolling. Canoes are also a silent way to sneak up on spooky fish– just paddle slowly and carefully.
Kayak fishing is performed from a kayak, and requires a good sense of balance and equipment management. Since kayaks have limited space and you can’t stand up in one, you need to be choosy about what equipment you take with you.
The upshot is that kayaks are highly maneuverable and can get you to tight locations very easily– and because they’re small and silent, they’re great for sneaking up on fish.
Standup paddleboard fishing, or SUP fishing, is another stealthy fishing method that provides a higher vantage point than kayaking or canoeing. It requires open water, like the ocean or a lake. Standing up on a paddleboard takes some getting used to, but it’s a great way to catch big fish.
Here’s a video showing some impressive SUP fishing catches in action:
Trawling, not to be confused with trolling, involves huge nets dragged by large commercial fishing boats called trawlers.
Fishing By Location
You can fish anywhere there’s a body of water with fish in it. You don’t have to go to the ocean or to a distant river– you’d be surprised how many locations are fishable.
Bank fishing is done on the edge of the water. You stand on the bank of a river, stream, lake, creek, or other body of water and drop or cast your line into the edge of the water to catch fish coming to feed in the shallows.
Wading simply refers to walking into the water. This is often done by anglers wearing waders, wet waders, or simply regular clothes.
Freshwater fishing happens in lakes, ponds, and rivers. This type of fishing is often heavily regulated to ensure healthy stocks of fish for generations to come. However, fish licenses are usually very easy to get and relatively inexpensive. Many states hold license-free days or special promotions, especially if you’re planning on fishing with kids. Some subcategories of freshwater fishing include:
- Pond fishing
- Lake fishing
- Small stream fishing
- Tailwater fishing (below dams)
- Big river fishing
- Alpine lakes
- Man made reservoirs
Flats fishing refers to fishing in areas of shallow water, usually inches to a couple of feet, where the depth stays constant. Anglers travel all over the world for flats fishing. The excitement of site seeing fish, and catching exotic species like bonefish, GT, tarpon, redfish, permit, and other species.
Hatchery fishing takes place at fish hatcheries, which are maintained in the United States by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The fish are bred to be stocked and caught, and many fish hatcheries allow anglers to come and fish onsite. It’s a great way to practice new techniques and introduce fishing to kids, especially because at a hatchery, you are basically guaranteed to catch some fish.
Rock fishing has you fishing off of the rocky edges of jetties, bluffs, cliffs, and other stone formations. This can be a dangerous type of fishing, especially if the rocks are slippery.
Saltwater fishing can be done at the beach or out on the open ocean in a boat. Many techniques can be used for saltwater fishing, including fly fishing, trolling, spin fishing, spearfishing, and more.
Speargun fishing takes place underwater while scuba diving or free diving. There are threaded, lined, and breakaway varieties of speargun. Speargunning can also be done without taking fish– competitive speargun target practice is also its own sport.
Many city dwellers might be surprised to find out how much good fishing there is in urban areas! From New York’s Central Park Lake to Chicago’s Montrose Harbor to LA’s McArthur Park, lots of municipal waters are stocked with fish for anglers. If you live near a city and want to go fishing, check out the local angling scene– you’d be surprised what you can fish up!
Want to see what kind of fish you can pull from downtown waters? Here’s a video of how exciting it can be to go fishing in a big city:
Fishing for a Purpose
Some types of fishing are done for a specific purpose. Some of these types of fishing are less accessible to the everyday angler.
Catch and Release Fishing
Catch and release fishing involves releasing the fish after you’ve caught them. A lot of fly fishing is catch and release. Unless you’re planning on keeping your fish, you should always use barbless hooks for easy removal.
Charter fishing involves renting a boat and hiring a captain or guide to take you out on the water. Charter fishing is a great way to find fish in a new area or to try a new type of fishing, as charter packages often include equipment rental.
Commercial fishing is an industrial process that involves catching huge quantities of fish or pursuing extremely large, valuable fish for sale on the open market.
Competitive fishing is fishing for a prize. Prizes are awarded for the amount of fish caught, weight and size of individual fish, and more.
Fishing for fun? That’s recreational fishing! This can include any technique, any location, and any style. All that matters is that you’re doing it for fun, rather than commercial sales.
Tournament fishing is a type of competitive fishing that’s fast-paced and fun– and big tournaments are sometimes quite lucrative for the winners. Bass and crappie tournaments are sometimes even televised, and tournaments are often sponsored by outdoor companies, boat manufacturers, and other commercial interests.
How many of these types of fishing have you tried? Maybe your next new favorite fishing style is somewhere in this list!
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about