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16 Different Styles of Fishing: A Complete Guide

For tens of thousands of years, people worldwide have been fishing. Fishing used to be one of the primary sources of survival 40,000 years ago, and many types of fishing had been invented long before we were born.

man fishing on a boat

Now, as the world continues to modernize, fishing is more of a fun activity to enjoy. As a bonus, after an eventful fishing day, those who fish get to come home with plenty of delicious food. 

Over time, fishing enthusiasts have created different fishing methods with updated gear for both saltwater and freshwater regions.

There are techniques for those who want a challenge and practices to make fishing a more leisurely activity.  

a commercial fishing boat at the dock

If you’ve been relying on the same fishing methods for years, it may be time to switch things up. Below are some of the most common types of fishing to give a try on your next trip.

All the Different Styles of Fishing

  1. Fly Fishing
  2. Trolling
  3. Spearfishing
  4. Ice Fishing
  5. Jigging
  6. Bottom Fishing
  7. Bait fishing
  8. Netting
  9. Saltwater Fishing
  10. Spin Fishing
  11. Angling
  12. Noodling
  13. Kite Fishing
  14. Handlining
  15. Longlining
  16. Freshwater Fishing

Fly Fishing

A fly fishing rod is typically lengthy and has more flex than a standard fishing rod. You’ll need to have excellent casting and line control skills to do this type of fishing.

man casting a fly rod

The aim is to trick the fish into recognizing lures as their food. Once you cast the line, the fly will sit on top of the water and (hopefully) attract fish. 

Most fly fishers aim to catch salmon, grayling, or trout, but you can catch various fish species. Other freshwater fish you may catch include carp, bass, panfish, and pike. 

You can also go fly fishing to catch saltwater fish such as redfish, tarpon, snook, striped bass, and bonefish.

person holding a fly fishing rod

Historians believe that fly fishing began near the 2nd century in Rome. Although they didn’t have the same modern gear we have, they would use a similar method to mimic a fly sitting atop the water.

You can go fly fishing in most bodies of water, including rivers, lakes, and the ocean.

Trolling

Trolling is a technique that is common amongst most fishers. This method of fishing gets its name from the boat motor, a trolling motor. The goal is to move the lines through the water and attract fish to that area.

trolling rods on the back of a fishing boat

Fishers use the trolling method to catch large species of saltwater fish, such as tuna or marlin. They may also troll inshore in search of kingfish or bluefish. 

Other anglers may use an umbrella rig to troll if they do not have a boat.

When trolling in freshwater, anglers may catch various bass, walleye, salmon, and trout species.

Trolling dates back over 4,000 years ago. Aboriginal peoples would search for salmon using a fishing line made from woven cedar spools and fish hooks made of wood.

salmon trolling rods

However, O.G. Schmidt would invent the first trolling motor in 1934, which he created so that fishers would have more boat control.

Spearfishing

Spearfishing takes every outdoor enthusiast’s interests and combines them into one activity. When spearfishing, these adventurists combine boating, fishing, hunting, and scuba diving skills all into one.

pole spear for fishing

This fishing method is arguably the oldest type of fishing. It dates back thousands of years to when early civilizations would craft harpoons out of sticks to penetrate fish.

Not all states allow spearfishing, so it’s important to check local regulations. However, plenty of rivers and lakes will enable the sport where those interested can practice.

Freshwater spearfishers will typically catch char, pike, carp, catfish, trout, bass, and salmon, to name a few. Many people enjoy hunting large fish in the ocean, such as tuna, for a challenge.

spearfishing gun

Saltwater spearfishers are searching for big fish, but they’re also searching for the hundreds of feet below the surface. 

Spearfishing in this manner is highly challenging and requires many skills, so don’t do this as a beginner.

Ice Fishing

Frozen lakes? No problem; it’s still possible to enjoy a day of fishing! When ice fishing, individuals will catch fish through a small hole in the ice over a frozen solid pond or lake.

people ice fishing on fort peck lake in montana

Heated tents to stay warm while ice fishing is popular among many ice fishing enthusiasts. 

Aside from that, necessary tools include a fishing rod, bait, lures, a cooler, and a spud bar to determine how thick the ice is.

Archeologists believe that ice fishing was required for the survival of natives. 

They have found evidence suggesting that people have been using this method in parts of North America for over 2000 years.

close up of ice hole and fish caught while ice fishing on harding lake

Wisconsin is famous for ice fishing, and people catch roughly 14 million fish during the cold seasons. It’s also a common sport in other northern states, like Minnesota and Canada.

Fish you can catch under the ice may include bluegill, walleye, bass, lake trout, and northern pike.

Jigging

Jigging is the perfect fishing method for semi-active fishermen. While jigging, anglers will quickly lift the rod to create similar movements as prey.

a man jigging on a fishing boat

The lure will also have elements to make a life-like action.

There are generally two jigging methods. In the first method, the fisherman casts the rod and creates a jigging motion as they slowly reel in at a horizontal angle. 

Others will jig as the line drifts.

While it’s unsure if people were jigging thousands of years ago, we know anglers were trying this method in the late 1800s. 

The Wiggle Worm was invented in 1877, and companies have improved upon it ever since.

person holding a walleye caught jigging

“Wiggle Worms” are still popular today as they have more movement on their own. Jigging is a popular strategy that fishers use to catch just about any fish species out there.

Most commonly, anglers who enjoy jigging aim to catch bass, trout, salmon, and bluegill.

Bottom Fishing

As the name suggests, bottom fishing is a method fishermen use at the bottom of large bodies of water, such as the ocean, deep rivers, and lakes. 

an electric fishing reel casted out

Bottom fishers aim to catch bottom-dwelling fish such as catfish, crappie, and suckerfish. Unlike other types of fishing, this method does not use a float on the line.

Like many other forms of fishing, this method dates back thousands of years. Historians believe bottom fishing began as early as 1376 when this was a well-known controversial method.

Bottom fishing was also a Hawaiian tradition that goes back to ancient times. 

Ancient Hawaiians would aim to catch bottom-dwellers, such as Hawaiin pink snapper, using woven fibers for the line and stones to sink bait.

fishing from a boat with a hummingbird fish finder

Now, fishermen have the technology to create a better bottom fishing experience. Fiberglass boats, fish finders, depth gauges, and more allow anglers to catch more fish with less hassle.

Bait fishing

Bait fishing, also known as still fishing, is the traditional form of fishing. A fisher will impale bait on a hook, such as worms, small fish, insect larvae, or insects.

multiple pinfish in a bucket

Because ancient societies didn’t have the rods and technology we have today, they had to be crafty with their tools. 

Archaeologists have found tools and lines that date back to 2,000 BC and found that ancient Egyptians and Chinese would make fishing lures with bone or bronze.

There are opportunities to enjoy bait fishing worldwide and in both freshwater and saltwater. Fishermen can catch just about any type of fish, so long as they use the correct bait.

For example, worms as bait will attract sunfish, trout, bass, carp, walleyes, and catfish. Minnows tend to lure in salmon, pickerel, crappie, and catfish.

person holding a shrimp for fishing bait

Shrimp or crab will draw in saltwater species like black drum, redfish, and tarpon. Eels will improve the chances of catching bigger saltwater fish, such as tuna.

Netting

Netting, or cast-net fishing, involves using a net that fishermen can cast over a large area to catch multiple fish. 

person throwing a cast net to catch fish

The nets have attached weights to sink them to the bottom and trap the fish quickly.

This fishing method is another fishing type that goes back thousands of years. For example, ancient Hawaiians would use nets made of plant fibers to catch multiple fish.

Now some fishermen use netting to catch small fish to use as bait. Some aim to catch game fish such as bass, walleye, or trout.

Netting is a more common practice in marine waters where fishermen aim to catch bonefish, snapper, grouper, or redfish. 

person throwing a cast net off a boat

Many fishers will use the netting method worldwide to gather massive fish quantities. This technique is most commonly used in commercial fishing. 

On a smaller scale, fishermen may use a small net to grab a fish swimming near the shore or boat.

Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater fishing is a method that takes place in any saltwater area near a shore, off of a pier, or by boat. 

person using a saltwater rod and reel combo on a pier

Many fishermen enjoy spending time on ocean shores to let the waves move their bait around to attract fish.

With saltwater fishing, anglers may catch various fish species, including bass, bonefish, tarpon, or bluefish. They may lure in mackerel, flounder, grouper, or snapper when traveling by boat.

At the end of the 20th century, fly-fishing in saltwater was one of the most common fishing methods. Charles Frederick Holder caught a 183-pound bluefin tuna off a motorized boat.

Since his impressive catch, big-game fishing in saltwater grew in interest. Other big-gain fishers may attempt to catch swordfish, marlin, or tuna. Some even try to reel in a shark.

catching tarpon

Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is arguably one of the most popular places for saltwater fishing. 

Other saltwater fishers may fish off the coasts of Texas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Alaska, or other states near the ocean.

Spin Fishing

Spin fishing is a method in which fishermen use a spinning lure that tempts the fish to bite. Freshwater and saltwater anglers can enjoy spin fishing as long as they have the right rod.

person fishing for spotted bass

Bache Brown developed the first spinning reel in the 1930s. After World War II, he traveled to France to work on his invention, which he’d eventually take back to sell in the United States.

Anglers can catch various types of fish with spin fishing, though some species are more likely to be influenced by this method. Popular freshwater fish include salmon, walleye, bass, and trout.

Using a spinning reel, some fishermen will troll offshore to catch larger species such as tuna or mahi-mahi. However, it’s essential to use a big enough reel and a rod to withstand larger weights.

person fishing on lake amistad in texas

Spin fishing is a method anglers use just about anywhere, including on a boat, shores, or piers.

Angling

Sometimes fishermen, in general, are referred to as anglers, though this is different from the fishing method, angling. 

person tying a hook onto their fishing line

Angling is a technique that utilizes a hook attached to a fishing line to catch fish. 

In Old English, “angle” means “fish with a hook” or “fishhook,” depending on its use. Although angler is a common word to describe fishermen, it doesn’t necessarily mean they fish using a hook.

Fish hooks have been around for thousands of years. Ancient peoples made fish hooks out of snail shells. 

Archaeologists discovered these sea snail hooks in Sakitari Cave, and it dates back to over 22,000 years old.

In America, fish hooks date back to roughly 11,000 BP. 

grouper caught on a fishing line in miami from a pier

Now anglers can choose between dozens of styles of hooks to catch desired fish. Saltwater fish may include swordfish, marlin, grouper, or tuna. 

Anglers can catch bass, catfish, or trout in freshwater.

Noodling

Noodling is a fishing technique that only requires one tool: your bare hands. Noodlers will place their arm inside a fish’s mouth and pull the fish to land. 

Catfish Noodling

James Adair, a historian, discovered that Native Americans would use the noodling technique as far back as the 1770s. However, it’s unknown who originally titled this technique “noodling.”

Typically, noodlers will aim to catch catfish. This practice is most common along the Mississippi River. It’s also a popular sport in other southern parts of the United States.

Noodling is illegal in most states within the US. There are 16 states where noodlers can attempt to catch fish with their bare hands, primarily in southern and midwestern states.

a catfish underwater

Although catching fish with no equipment isn’t an ideal way to fish for most, it may be a technique that could come in handy. 

Knowing this skill is impressive and helps a skilled noodler survive if lost.

Kite Fishing

Kite fishing is a method that involves using a line that hangs from a kite with bait attached. Kite fishers will use their kites over a body of water until a fish takes the bait.

person fishing offshore on charter boat

By using a kite, individuals can reach fish that they would usually only be able to catch by boat. Although they typically fish offshore, some set up their kites off a fishing boat. 

Surprisingly, kite fishing has been around for hundreds of years. In the 1500s, European explorers witnessed fishermen using a makeshift kite and fishing line.

Anglers who use this technique typically aim to catch fish that spend their time toward the top of the water. They may catch tuna, kingfish, snapper, or wahoo. 

person fighting marlin on a fishing charter

In some cases, caught fish may turn into bait that results in catching a shark. South Floridians are the most common kite fishers who set out to catch pelagic species of fish.

Handlining

Handlining sometimes referred to as handline fishing, is a method where fishers will hold a fishing line rather than using a standard fishing rod.

a handline spool on a dock

The fishing line typically has a weight to drop the line deeper into the water and will usually have bait or a lure at the end. 

This technique dates back to the 1800s. Back then, they would either use a fishing line and hook or attach squid as bait to the hooks to lure in fish. 

Fishermen would use rowboats to areas where they could catch plenty of cod before heading back to land.

Now, anglers who use the handlining technique may catch panfish, walleyes, and other small to medium freshwater fish.

a person fishing with a handline

Some anglers prefer to handline from the shore or off a boat depending on their desired catch. 

Handlining is more common in areas where freshwater fish reside, such as lakes, rivers, and ponds. 

Longlining

Longlining, sometimes called longline fishing, is a method that involves using a long mainline with multiple hooks spaced out off of branch lines. It is typically only used for commercial fishing.

a longline fishing rig

Typically, fishermen use hooks with bait to attract specific fish species either in midwater or at the bottom. This technique requires some skill and a lot of attentiveness. 

If fishermen get distracted while longlining, they risk accidentally hooking birds, unwanted fish, or other animal life. 

Longlining began in Hawaii in the early 1900s when Japanese fishermen used this method to fish in the waters near Oahu.

multiple fishing hooks for longlining

In Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, longlining is a common practice to catch tuna. These longline fishermen will drop lines hundreds of feet to catch large fish.

Longline fishers usually aim to catch swordfish or tuna but may catch wahoo or mahi-mahi. Unfortunately, they may snag sharks, sea turtles, or marlins without close attention.

Freshwater Fishing

Freshwater fishing takes place in ponds, lakes, creeks, streams, or rivers. No matter what fish you aim to catch if they are in one of the bodies of water mentioned above, they are freshwater fish.

girl fishing at a lake in california

The attraction of freshwater fishing is that it’s available to nearly everyone. No matter where someone may live, they’re likely in an area with a body of freshwater.

There are thousands of freshwater fish, so freshwater fishermen will use specific bait, lures, and hooks to catch their preferred fish species. In most cases, these anglers will need a license.

Some examples of fish found in freshwater regions include catfish, largemouth bass, trout, walleye, pike, and salmon.

Archaeologists have found artifacts that suggest freshwater fishing has been around for roughly 500,000 years.

a yellow bass caught on a fishing line

In Europe during the Middle Ages, fishing in rivers was only allowed for the religious. By the 11th century, Europeans would pioneer the development of fish farming.

Final Thoughts

There is a style for practically everyone between fishing with no gear and fishing with specialized equipment. 

Some of the most common types of fishing include fly fishing, bait fishing, spin fishing, and trolling.

Fishers can enjoy different fishing methods, whether they enjoy freshwater or saltwater fishing. Different fishing techniques yield different results. 

Some types of fishing allow anglers to sit back and relax while they catch smaller fish, while others are more vigorous and catch large fish.

If someone is interested in fishing, they’re sure to find a method that best suits their preferences and whatever species they’re targeting.

Rocco Smith

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