Is Fishing A Sport? – A Comprehensive Breakdown

I think the point of physical exertion is largely the reason why people find it difficult to accept fishing as a sport. There are instances where fishing can be massively exerting but for the most part, people fish for leisure. This is the same reason why many people don’t regards darts or snooker as conventional sports.

Physical exertion and skill are the fundamental characteristics of sports. The Oxford dictionary defines sport as:

an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment“.

Oxford Dictionary 2023

The competition element can certainly be found in fishing, particularly among match anglers so it certainly checks that box. Anyone who’s ever fished will also tell the amount of skill that is required in order to be successful so there can’t be any disputing that. However, the issue truly stems from the point of physical exertion. Hence why I think the most reasonable conclusion is that fishing can be a sport but it rarely is.

Can Fishing Be Physically Demanding

Generally speaking, fishing isn’t the most physically intensive activity. Sure, there is plenty of fish that can put up good fights but in the vast majority of cases, it isn’t hugely demanding on the fisherman. For the most part, anglers typically fish for Perch, Pike, Carp, etc. While these fish are strong they aren’t large enough or strong enough to make you really work.

There are some cases where you could consider fishing to be physically intensive. For instance, if you were catching a Bonito or Marlin. However, most of us will never even see these animals, let alone catch them. But hypothetically speaking, I think it would be reasonable to consider fishing a sport if you catch fish of this caliber competitively against someone else.

Why Fishing Typically Isn’t Considered A Sport

As we mentioned earlier, the fact that the completion aspect and the physical aspect practically never coincide with fishing means that its difficult to make an argument that it is indeed a sport. A lot of sports like Formula 1, Golf, or even Bowling for instance are disregarded as sports because people don’t believe they are physically demanding when in actuality, it’s massively physical.

Fishing isn’t one of those instances. It’s not due to ignorance that people don’t consider fishing a sport. It’s purely down to the fact that there isn’t a lot of physical strength involved. There is some technique but it’s quite easy to get a firm grasp of. The real challenge of fishing is getting a bite, which comes beforehand.

When Can Fishing Be Considered A Sport

Whenever the physical and competitive elements of fishing coincide, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to consider it as a sport. While this certainly is rare, it does occur. For instance, if you entered a Bonito fishing competition in the Bahamas! It would be incredibly difficult to disregard something like this as it checks all the fundamental elements of a sport. It is physically intensive, requires skill, and is competitive. So at least in the eyes of the Oxford dictionary, it would be considered a sport.

I know lots of people who would also consider match fishing as a sport. This is a style of fishing where you have to be quite active. The winner is the fisherman who has the most weight in fish at the end of the competition. While I can see why this would be considered a sport, I don’t think the general public would. As an experienced angler, I can confidently say that match fishing doesn’t require large amounts of strength. There is certainly a technique to fishing and you have to understand the small nuances in order to be an effective angler. However, the physical strength used is minimal.

Is Fishing A Viable Alternative To Sports/Physical Activity

Not really. Fishing is a lot of fun but it will very rarely be intense enough to be considered physical activity. There are a handful of fish that could give you a serious workout if you were fortunate enough to have them at the end of your line, for instance:

  • Arapaima
  • Giant Freshwater Stingray
  • Wels Catfish
  • Large Species Of Sharks
  • Large Tuna
  • Sturgeon

However, these fish are incredibly rare, found in the most remote locations in the world, and require specialist equipment in order to catch them with rod and line. Most people will be catching fish like Pike, Perch, Carp, & Bass. While these fish certainly are strong, they aren’t strong enough to make you really work which means you won’t burn many calories as you would with a conventional sport.

Truthfully, the environment you’re fishing in and the species of fish that you’re targeting will largely impact the number of calories you burn during the activity. For instance, if you were fishing for Salmon in Alaska and you were wading through the cold rivers with a fly fishing rod, you’d burn a massive amount of calories. But if you were sitting in a boat fishing from crappie, I doubt it will have a significant impact.


While fishing encompasses a lot of the traditional and fundamental aspects of a sport, it can rarely be classified as one. This more often than not is dependent on the physical element of fishing, or lack thereof. Competition is often found throughout fishing and so are skill and strategy, however, its incomparable to traditional sports which is why it’s classified in the same group of activities like Snooker and Darts.

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