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When did Fishing Become a Leisurely Sport? A Quick History Lesson

When did Fishing Become a Leisurely defines the word ‘sport’ as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature”.

It then goes on to enumerate examples as “racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.” Everything seems to align with what most folks know about the word except for the last example.

Fishing doesn’t really come off as an athletic activity.

Anyone who has gone on a fishing trip would mostly recall all the sitting and waiting for a fish to bite. How is all of that an athletic activity?

We totally understand your confusion.

Compared to the other activities mentioned, fishing isn’t necessarily the first thing that will come to mind when you say the word ‘sport’ but it is definitely one.

How? Allow us to dissect its qualification.

Is Fishing a Sport?

Man fish with spinning on river bank, casting lure. outdoor weekend activityIf you’ll ask experts of word definitions, the answer is yes.

How? Looking closely into the outdoor activity, it can easily be said that it is an athletic activity that requires skill and physical prowess and it can also be competitive in nature.

For starters, it’s definitely an athletic activity. Sure, a lot of time is spent waiting and probably idling but it doesn’t take away the fact that you will need physical strength to reel in a large fish.

Many would agree that handling 60 to 100 pounds (if you’re lucky) of fish is no small feat and will require some athleticism. Hauling your gear and if you’ll go ice fishing, drill a hole into the ice, can also be quite a physically taxing task.

Skill, on the other hand, is certainly necessary in many aspects and parts of fishing. For one, you can’t really just cast a line willy-nilly.

You won’t get too far with a half-hearted throw and if you go overboard, you also will not get the best results.

Because the word ‘skill’ can also be defined as an ‘expertise’ or ‘competent excellence in performance’, it would be hard to argue against fishing being a sport.

The fact that veteran anglers are also experts in wind and weather as well as the ways of the water and fishes in certain areas cement this as a fact.

Of course, fishing can also get competitive. Sure, lots of folks do it to relax and enjoy some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives but fishing can definitely get very competitive.

There are tons of fishing derbies and competitions around the globe and they vary in scale. They’re quite complex and interesting to get to know, too.

And if you still have doubts about fishing qualifying as a sport, you’d have to argue against about 35 million people in the US who might think otherwise. Fishing is definitely considered as a sport.

In fact, it is considered as one of the most popular ones in the US, so it might be best to just accept the fact that it is.

When Did Fishing Become a Leisurely Sport?

Leisure and people concept. happy friends with fishing rods on pier by lakesideTo better understand the growth of fishing as a leisurely sport, taking a quick look at its history is also necessary. Initially, fishing is considered as a necessary activity, as it is one of the primary ways for a lot of people to hunt for their food.

However, as time went by, fishing became more of a form of entertainment more than a necessary chore.

Like other historical milestones in fishing, it can’t be pinpointed when it transitioned to a recreational activity.

However, it was definitely a leisure activity already by the time Isaac Walton published The Compleat Angler in 1653.

In fact, it may have already been the case at the time the Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle written by Dame Juliana Berner was published in 1496.

These writings contain the earliest texts on fishing as a leisurely sport.


With fishing being an important activity since the old days, it can really be hard to track the shifts and changes in its nature over the years.

This does not make it less of an exciting and entertaining outdoor activity, however.

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