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Call Me “Angler”

The politically correct world in which we are supposed to live is crazy.

Yes, that insanity even applies to fish and fishing.  If you have read my blog for any time you know that I mostly blog about fish and the folks who pursue them.  In doing that I try to remember that political correctness dictates the use of gender-neutral terms.  Even though the term “man” or “men” would be gender-neutral when referring to a group, that use has been deemed to be sexist.  So, to refer to a group of folks who pursue fish I can say “fishermen and fisherwomen”, but I cannot simply refer to all of us who like to get fish slime on our hands as “fishermen”.  Honestly, the sex of my fellow fish-chasers makes no difference to me.  There was even a former United States president, President Hoover that said “All men are equal before fish.”  I guess ole Herbert was politically incorrect too.

So, if “fishermen” is sexist and it is cumbersome to say “fishermen and fisherwomen” all the time, what are the alternatives?  I guess one could simply use the term “fishers”, but as an outdoors-person and biologist, when I hear of fishers I think of certain furry members of the weasel family that roam the north woods.

Fisher_(animal)Fishers have a hankering for porcupines and snowshoe hares, but in spite of their name, ain’t much on the fish front.

So, the most common gender-neutral term applied to us fish-squeezers is “angler”.



What in the world is an angler?  From what I have been able to gather, the term “angler” goes back hundreds of years, back even before old fishermen like William Shakespeare and Izaak Walton.  Apparently, “angle” referred to the bend of some ancestral fisherman’s or fisherwoman’s hook.  Those who employed those angles were called anglers.


When I think of angles I am transported back in time, not quite hundreds of years, but way back to my old geometry class in junior high or whenever it was (actually my kids think that was hundreds of years ago).  I wonder if I am an acute, obtuse or a right angler?  No one I know has ever accused me of being cute, especially when I am sporting my beardage.  I will admit to sometimes being obtuse, maybe even when discussing terms such as “angler”, and once in awhile I catch a big fish and everything is right!

However, the fact remains that I do not go around talking like ole Bill Shakespeare or Zak Walton, their fishing buddies referred to them by those names, so why would I call my fishing buddies “anglers”?  I imagine translating that term, angler, user of an angle, to the 21st century would result in something like “hooker”, user of a hook.

Whoops, I am betting referring to fish pursuers as “hookers” is not going to be any more politically correct, especially when I tell my wife that I am going fishing with a bunch of my hooker buddies.

A particular wise hooker friend of mine, that is a friend who likes to use hooks, not the other kind, once said that fishing is mostly about understanding fish.  So, again returning to my educational roots, this time in science, I can recall a few Latin words and combining forms I learned.  Seems as though I remember that adding “-ology” to a word means the study of . . . . BIology is the study of life.  GEology is the study of rocks (“GEE” is the Latin word uttered whenever one gets hit in the head with one, a rock that is).  “ICHTHYology” is the $64,000, formal word that refers to the study of fish.  I suppose that could apply to those of us who spend hours on the water trying to catch said fish, but in reality ichthyologists tend to be nerdy types who sport white lab coats and spend a lot of time indoors fussing over the proper 256-year old scientific name for one fish or another.  I know some nerdy fishermen and fisherwomen, but most of us dress much more casually, spend a lot more time on the water, and are way more concerned with the merits of Sonny’s Super-Sticky versus Bowker’s.

Come to think of it, ICK-thyologists might be an appropriate descriptor for connoisseurs of stink baits.

Maybe we should just create some new words?  Afterall, it was not long ago when no one knew what a “selfie” was, or a “turducken” for that matter (hey, there’s an idea, a selfie taken while eating a turducken, wonder if I could get my 20 seconds of fame by being the first to do that?).  I think I will just call all muskie chasers “muskie-ologists”.  Bass-ologists for the men and women who prefer to fish for bass.  Catfish-ologists. . . , oh never mind, those who pursue catfish tend not to care what you call them as long as you do not call them late for supper–they care less about political correctness than anyone else I know.

Argh, there I go again.  Now I am guilty of the political correctness sin of stereotyping.  Sorry to all the catfishermen and catfisherwomen I just offended.

That still does not solve the problem of what term to use to describe all of us who pursue fish regardless of sex or preferred species, of fish that is.  I guess “fish-ologists” might be all inclusive, but I think we need to raise it up to a higher level of respectability.  Isn’t that what this is all about?  Political correctness and respectability?  Let me see. . . , ah yes, here it is, another root word for “fish”–pisca.  I believe I would like to be collectively known as a piscatologist.  Come to think of it, it is the weekend and I have to work on my degree.  To all of my fellow piscatologists, male and female. . . .



About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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