Recreational fishing, also called sport fishing, is fishing for pleasure or competition. It can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is fishing for profit, or subsistence fishing, which is fishing for survival.
The most common form of recreational fishing is done with a rod, reel, line, hooks and any one of a wide range of baits. Other devices, commonly referred to as terminal tackle, are also used to affect or complement the presentation of the bait to the targeted fish. Some examples of terminal tackle include weights, floats, and swivels. Lures are frequently used in place of bait. Some hobbyists make handmade tackle themselves, including plastic lures and artificial flies. The practice of catching or attempting to catch fish with a hook is known as angling.
Historically, sport fishing has attracted greater interest among males, with women and girls representing barely 10% of the angling community. The earliest English essay on recreational fishing was published in 1496, shortly after the invention of the printing press. The authorship of this was attributed to Dame Juliana Berners, the prioress of the Benedictine Sopwell Nunnery. The essay was titled Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, and was published in the second Boke of Saint Albans, a treatise on hawking, hunting, and heraldry. These were major interests of the nobility, and the publisher, Wynkyn de Worde, was concerned that the book should be kept from those who were not gentlemen, since their immoderation in angling might "utterly destroy it". During the 16th century the work was much read, and was reprinted many times. Treatyse includes detailed information on fishing waters, the construction of rods and lines, and the use of natural baits and artificial flies. It also includes modern concerns about conservation and angler etiquette.
Recreational fishing for sport or leisure gained popularity during the 16th and 17th centuries, and coincides with the publication of Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, or Contemplative Man's Recreation in 1653. This book is the definitive work that champions the position of the angler who loves fishing for the sake of fishing.
More than 300 editions of The Compleat Angler have been published. The pastoral discourse is enriched with country fishing folklore, songs and poems, recipes and anecdotes, moral meditations, and quotes from classic literature. The central character, Piscator, champions the art of angling, but with an air of tranquility also relishes the pleasures of friendship, verse and song, and good food and drink.
The early evolution of fishing as recreation is not clear. For example, there is anecdotal evidence for fly fishing in Japan as early as the ninth century BCE, and in Europe Claudius Aelianus (175–235 CE) describes fly fishing in his work On the Nature of Animals, as
"a Macedonian way of catching fish... They fasten red (crimson red) wool round a hook, and fix on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in colour are like wax. Their rod is six feet long, and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and maddened by the colour, comes straight at it..."
But for the early Japanese and Macedonians, fly fishing was likely to have been a means of survival, rather than recreation. It is possible that antecedents of recreational fly fishing arrived in England with the Norman conquest of 1066. Although the point in history where fishing could first be said to be recreational is not clear, it is clear that recreational fishing had fully arrived with the publication of The Compleat Angler.
Big-game fishing started as a sport after the invention of the motorized boat. In 1898, Dr. Charles Frederick Holder, a marine biologist and early conservationist, pioneered this sport and went on to publish many articles and books on the subject noted for their combination of accurate scientific detail with exciting narratives.
One method of growing popularity is kayak fishing. Kayaks are stealthy and allow anglers to reach areas not fishable from land or by conventional boat. In addition, fishing from kayaks is regarded by some as an effort to level the playing field, to a degree, with their quarry and/or to challenge their angling abilities further by bringing an additional level of complexity to their sport.
Sport fishing methods vary according to the area fished, the species targeted, the personal strategies of the angler, and the resources available. It ranges from the aristocratic art of fly fishing elaborated in Great Britain, to the high-tech methods used to chase marlin and tuna. Sport fishing is usually done with hook, line, rod and reel rather than with nets or other aids. Even sports fisherman discard a lot of non-target and target fish on the bank while fishing 
In North America, freshwater fish include snook, redfish, salmon, trout, bass, pike, catfish, walleye and muskellunge. The smallest fish are called panfish, because they can fit whole in a normal cooking pan. Examples are perch and sunfish.
In the past, sport fishers, even if they did not eat their catch, almost always killed them to bring them to shore to be weighed or for preservation as trophies. In order to protect recreational fisheries sport fishermen now often catch and release, and sometimes tag and release, which involves fitting the fish with identity tags, recording vital statistics, and sending a record to a government agency.
Most recreational fishers use a fishing rod with a fishing line and a hook at the end of the line. The rod may be equipped with a reel so the line can be reeled in, and some form of bait or a lure attached to the hook. Fly fishing is a special form of rod fishing in which the reel is attached to the back end of the rod, and heavy line is cast with a complex, repetitive whipping motion to deliver the ultra light artificial fly to its target. Another less common technique is bowfishing using a regular bow or a crossbow. The "arrow" is a modified bolt with barbs at the tip, connected to a fishing line so the fish can be retrieved. Some crossbows are fitted with a reel.
Fishing tackle is a general term that refers to the equipment used by fishers. Almost any equipment or gear used for fishing can be called fishing tackle. Some examples are hooks, lines, sinkers, floats, rods, reels, baits, lures, spears, nets, gaffs, traps, waders and tackle boxes.
Tackle that is attached to the end of a fishing line is called terminal tackle. This includes hooks, sinkers, floats, leaders, swivels, split rings and wire, snaps, beads, spoons, blades, spinners and clevises to attach spinner blades to fishing lures.
Fishing tackle can be contrasted with fishing techniques. Fishing tackle refers to the physical equipment that is used when fishing, whereas fishing techniques refers to the ways the tackle is used when fishing.
Rules and regulations
Recreational fishing has conventions, rules, licensing restrictions and laws that limit the way in which fish may be caught. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) makes and oversees a set of voluntary guidelines. Typically, these prohibit the use of nets and the catching of fish with hooks not in the mouth. Enforceable regulations are put in place by governments to ensure sustainable practice amongst anglers. For example in the Republic of Ireland, the Central Fisheries Board oversees the implementation of all angling regulations, which include controls on angling lures, baits and number of hooks permissible, as well as licensing requirements and other conservation-based restrictions. Regulations notwithstanding, voluntary catch and release fishing as a means of protecting and sustaining game species has become an increasingly common practice among conservation-minded recreational anglers.
In addition to capturing fish for food, recreational anglers might also keep a log of fish caught and submit trophy-sized fish to independent record keeping bodies. In the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Specimen Fish Committee verifies and publicizes the capture of trophy fish caught with rod and line by anglers in Ireland, both in freshwater and at sea. The Committee also ratifies Irish record rod caught fish. It also uses a set of 'fair play' regulations to ensure fish are caught in accordance with accepted angling norms.
Recreational fishing competitions (tournaments) are a recent innovation in which fishermen compete for prizes based on the total weight of a given species of fish caught within a predetermined time. This sport evolved from local fishing contests into large competitive circuits, especially in North America. Competitors are most often professional fishermen who are supported by commercial endorsements. Other competitions are based purely on length with mandatory catch and release. Either longest fish or total length is documented with a camera and a mandatory sticker or unique item, a practice used since it's hard to weigh a living fish accurately in a boat.
Sport fishing competitions involve individuals if the fishing occurs from land, and usually teams if conducted from boats, as well as specified times and areas for catching fish. A score is awarded for each fish caught. The points awarded depend on the fish's weight and species. Occasionally a score is divided by the strength of the fishing line used, yielding more points to those who use thinner, weaker line. In tag and release competitions, a flat score is awarded per fish species caught, divided by the line strength. Usually sport fishing competitions award a prize to the boat or team with the most points earned.
In Australia, a self-administered standard for the environmental assessment of tournament fishing has been proposed as an alternative and possible pathway to the ISO 14001 international standard. The standard assesses environmental, social, economic, and public risk factors. Tournament organizers may apply for voluntary certification. In some US states, fishery agencies and competition organizers create their own codes of practice.
The recreational fishing industry consists of enterprises such as the manufacture and retailing of fishing tackle, the design and building of recreational fishing boats, and the provision of fishing boats for charter and guided fishing trips.
"Pay to fish" enterprises provide anglers with controlled access to stocked lakes, ponds, or canals. These provide fishing opportunities outside of the permitted seasons and quotas applied to public waters. In the United Kingdom, commercial fisheries of this sort charge access fees. In North America, establishments usually charge for the fish caught, by length or by weight, rather than for access to the site although some establishments charge both types of fees.
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