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Distinguishing Fishing from Hunting: Key Differences

Initially, you may think that fishing is the same as hunting because of all of their similarities. Conversely, you could think fishing and hunting are total opposites, and it’s laughable even to categorize them together. We’ll look at the nuances of fishing and hunting to answer this question once and for all—is fishing considered hunting?

For those that want the quick answer, we believe that fishing is not technically hunting. While both activities involve hunting animals, you can still enjoy the sport of fishing without harming the animal. Fish can almost always be caught and let go to live another day. With hunting (such as hunting deer, pheasant, or other game), the point of the activity is to kill the pursued animal. This is the crucial difference between hunting and fishing.

This being said, saying that you’re “hunting for fish” is common colloquially. We believe the act of hunting does involve stalking and tracking prey, so it still checks out to use the term hunting while looking for fish to catch.

Comparing the Definitions

To have a solid foundation, we need to look at the definitions of both fishing and hunting. In order to answer if fishing is considered hunting, we will start with the dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, to fish means “to attempt to catch a fish.”

Author Note: You’ll need a fishing license to go fishing in your region. Fishing typically evokes a sense of peacefulness and tranquility, with the image of someone sitting on a dock with a fishing pole in one hand and a drink in the other.

Hunting, on the other hand, conjures a different image. Definitionally, to hunt means “to pursue for food or in sport.” Hunting can be done for a variety of reasons, from meat gathering to recreation to predator removal. It’s much more challenging to get a hunting license, presumably because you’re responsible for carrying a firearm.

Either way, you’re likely to end up catching something when you’re fishing or hunting. The only exception to this is when you’re not fishing to eat, but instead participating in catch-and-release. Now that we’ve established a definitional baseline, let’s dive deeper into our question—is fishing considered hunting?

What Are the Requirements of Each?

As noted, both hunting and fishing require a license. Fishing, however, doesn’t require nearly as much time or training. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper to buy a fishing pole and bait than it is to buy a gun and the gear required for hunting.

The physical toll differs between the two sporting hobbies as well. Where fishing requires little to no strength or special skill, hunting requires a lot. You have to be appropriately trained before being able to hunt openly. One thing both hunting and fishing need in abundance, however, is patience.

There are a lot more places to fish than there are to hunt. Think about it. With a valid license, you can fish pretty much anywhere, because most, if not all, freshwater and saltwater areas are free for public access. You will have to be careful, though, because some sites require you to catch-and-release your fish.

Hunting, as mentioned before, can be more costly than fishing. The areas you have to go hunting are few and far between. You must be trained with a license even to be admitted to a known hunting area, and even then, you may have to pay a fee to be able to hunt there.


Fisherman in backlight

In fishing, “pinch points” are the areas where the water streamlines into a smaller space. The fish must pass through here to get wherever they want to go. This is a prime spot for anglers to go fishing, with a plethora of fish available just at the end of your hook.

Pinch points are much less common in hunting, but still possible. Instead of a river narrowing, there can be a well-known area that an animal, like deer, grazes in. When hunting, you can focus on that one area in hopes that the animal visits. Although not as common as pinch points in fishing, this strategy could prove beneficial in your hunting pursuits.


Contour and topographic maps are also useful when it comes to fishing and hunting, respectively. Whether you’re a hunter, an angler, or both, reading and following contour maps can help you immensely. Being able to read the lay of the land or river will help you best know where the animals or fish will be. Tracking slopes and deep or shallow waters will help you find, and ultimately catch your target prey.

Author Note: Although using different means, in most cases, hunting and fishing have a similar goal—to catch and ultimately kill their target. Where hunting takes tracking and monitoring, fishing mimics being prey to lead to a capture. Whether hunting or fishing, however, if done correctly, you’re guaranteed to end up with a tasty dinner for you and your family.

Both location and strategy play a big part in fishing and hunting. The difference between an experienced fisherman and an in-experienced fisherman is often their ability to locate fish. Catching a large sports fish such as a marlin requires a ton of skill and knowledge. The same logic applies to hunting. The best hunters know where to look for their prey, which in turn helps them kill more prey. Pro tip: getting a hunting drone can seriously up your hunting game. 


Another invaluable strategy in hunting and fishing is preparation. This can go hand-in-hand with contour maps, as knowing the lay of the land will help you make the best decisions when out in the field. However, you can take this a step further and actually visit and interact with the environment before your hunting or fishing trip. Familiarizing yourself with the land ahead of time gives you an extra edge when it comes time to catch your target.

An apparent difference between hunting and fishing is the type of animals you aim to catch. Hunting is popular for animals like deer, and fishing refers to, well, fish (like bass). When it comes to hunting, the primary focus is typically on one type of animal. This happens because your equipment and gear are tailored to hunting one thing at a time.

Fishing, however, offers much more variety in terms of catches. While a body of water can be known for having a specific type of fish, the odds are that’s not the only type of fish you’ll catch that day. Aside from possible bait preferences, it’s nearly guaranteed you’ll catch various fish with the same fishing pole and hook.

Is Spearfishing Considered Hunting?

Spear fisherman with speargun

Another question we get a lot is if spearfishing is also not considered hunting. If we fall back to the key differences between hunting and fishing, it can be deduced that spearfishing is indeed hunting. When you shoot a fish with a speargun, you cause it serious harm. The fish usually dies within a few minutes of being shot, if not instantly. Because you can’t catch and release with spearfishing, we believe it is considered hunting. 

While we prefer normal fishing to spearfishing, we do have several resources available avid spearfishers should check out. If you’re looking for the best pole spears, check out our pole spear buying guide. You should also consider looking at our guide to freediving fins, as having a good pair of fins will make spearfishing much easier. Another key item for spearfishing is your wetsuit. We recommend getting one fo the spearfishing wetsuits from our wetsuit buying guide.

What About Magnet Fishing?

You may have heard of magnet fishing before and wondered what it is. Magnet fishing is a technique where you use a powerful magnet attached to a rope pick-up sunken objects underwater. That’s right, it has nothing to do with catching fish. Since the magnets are strong, they’ll easily pick up anything metal that they come in contact with (as long as you can lift it). By definition, magnet fishing is not considered hunting because you aren’t looking for animals – you’re looking for inanimate objects. 

Author Note: That doesn’t mean that magnet fishing can’t be fun though! The growing popularity of magnetic fishing has been fueled by stories of magnet fishermen finding rare items like expensive jewelry and even old guns.

This in turn has intrigued many true-crime enthusiasts, who like to go magnet fishing in order to try and recover a lost weapon or help solve a local crime. With the rise of true-crime podcasts like Serial and To Live and Die in LA, millennials have grown fascinated with trying to solve cases that were never resolved.

Want to go magnet fishing or learn more? Check out our magnet fishing tips article to learn more. You can also pick up a magnet fishing kit from our magnet fishing supplies guide. We also have separate guides for the best magnet fishing rope as well as the best magnet fishing magnets. 

Is Fishing Considered Hunting? The Final Verdict

After reading this article, you should have a solid understanding of what it takes to be a hunter or angler and the different skills each hobby requires. It’s best to say that, despite their similarities, hunting and fishing are categorized differently for a reason. Fishing is not considered hunting.

Fishing and hunting competitions exist separately because what’s required in each hobby is unique from the other. If you enter a fishing competition with a deer, you’re going to get a funny look. The same goes for entering a hunting competition with a fish! While both are enjoyable hobbies, at the end of the day, is fishing considered hunting? No, it is not.

We hope you found this article useful, and we wish you luck on your fishing and hunting endeavors. If you want to get a leg up hunting, we recommend checking out our best drones for hunting buying guide. Having a drone while hunting can be a game-changer.

Happy Hunting (Fishing?)!


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