Recreational fishing, also called sport fishing, is fishing for pleasure or competition. It can be contrasted with commercial fishing, which is fishing for profit, or subsistence fishing, which is fishing for survival.
The most common form of recreational fishing is done with a rod, reel, line, hooks and any one of a wide range of baits. Other devices, commonly referred to as terminal tackle, are also used to affect or complement the presentation of the bait to the targeted fish. Some examples of terminal tackle include weights, floats, and swivels. Lures are frequently used in place of bait. Some hobbyists make handmade tackle themselves, including plastic lures and artificial flies. The practice of catching or attempting to catch fish with a hook is known as angling.
Big-game fishing is conducted from boats to catch large open-water species such as tuna, sharks and marlin. Noodling and trout tickling are also recreational activities. One method of growing popularity is kayak fishing. Kayaks are stealthy and allow anglers to reach areas not fishable from land or by conventional boat. In addition, fishing from kayaks is regarded by some as an effort to level the playing field, to a degree, with their quarry and/or to challenge their angling abilities further by bringing an additional level of complexity to their sport. Historically, sport fishing has attracted greater interest among males. Women and girls represent barely 10% of the angling community, yet those who do enter the sport are often extremely successful, and at the highest levels of competitive angling, their results are comparable to those of their male counterparts.
The earliest English essay on recreational fishing was published in 1496, shortly after the invention of the printing press. The authorship of this was attributed to Dame Juliana Berners, the prioress of the Benedictine Sopwell Nunnery. The essay was titled Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle, and was published in the second Boke of Saint Albans, a treatise on hawking, hunting, and heraldry. These were major interests of the nobility, and the publisher, Wynkyn de Worde, was concerned that the book should be kept from those who were not gentlemen, since their immoderation in angling might "utterly destroye it". During the 16th century the work was much read, and was reprinted many times. Treatyse includes detailed information on fishing waters, the construction of rods and lines, and the use of natural baits and artificial flies. It also includes modern concerns about conservation and angler etiquette.
Recreational fishing for sport or leisure gained popularity during the 16th and 17th centuries, and coincides with the publication of Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, or Contemplative Man's Recreation in 1653. This book is the definitive work that champions the position of the angler who loves fishing for the sake of fishing.