Anglers often have heated and contentious arguments about whether their fishing is a sport or a recreation. You will sometimes hear comments that come across as a little demeaning or denigrating, such as ‘oh, carp fishing is just a hobby. While on the other end of the spectrum there are viewpoints such as ‘for those of us who take it seriously, it is a sport like any other and requires just as much skill’.
What is the truth of the matter is there is room for both points of view?
As owners of bait selling company British Baits, we have some customers who see their fishing as a hobby and others who are dedicated professionals and think of it as a sport. We feel both are valid points, fishing gives you what you want to take out of it.
Looking at the Oxford Languages definition for a hobby after a Google search, it states that a hobby is “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure”. There are other definitions online that restrict hobbies to something done outside of working time.
Recreational fishing certainly fits both of those definitions for the vast majority of anglers. Many partake of the pleasures of fishing on a regular basis, and everyone is doing it for fun or relaxation or the sheer joy of the hunt. The assumption is that it is not a hobby for the occasional angler, just like playing Bridge once every six months does not make it a hobby of the authors but instead an ad hoc, alternative form of relaxation.
Turning to the definition of sport, again using online search engines, we find ‘an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.’.
Fishing can certainly have a very competitive element. There are tournaments and competitions held regularly around the world at all levels, club, local, national, and even international. This certainly addresses the need to compete against others as part of the definition of a sport.
Anyone who has ever been strapped into a fighting chair with a heavy rod that has a large marlin or tuna on the end of it for hours on end will know the sheer exhaustion and effort that needs to be expended. Fishing in the UK and fighting a large carp or pike needs an undeniable amount of physical exertion.
In terms of the skill required to fish successfully, there are many areas of knowledge to be mastered if one wants the highest level of success. You have to have knowledge of the best times and baits, the locations to go to. Once a fish has taken the bait, when and just how hard to pull to firmly sink the hook, how much play to give the fish to run, and when to judge that it is tired enough to start reeling in. All of these aspects are, without a doubt, skills that must be both learned and polished with practice.