Glossary of Fishing Terms


Action– The bend in a fishing rod when it loads up when hooked into fish.

Adult Salmon – In freshwater and Marine Areas 2-1 and 2-2, Chinook 24″ or more in length; coho 20″ or more in length; and pink, chum, and sockeye salmon 12″ or more in length, are adults.

Anadromous Waters – Inland waters, such as rivers and sloughs, that migrate from the ocean which are fishable.

Angler – Another name for Fisherman.

Angling (Hook & Line Fishing)– Fishing for personal use (not for sale or barter) with a line attached to a pole capable of being held in hand while landing fish, or a hand-operated line without a rod or reel.

Artificial Bait – Looks, feels and smells just like live or dead bait, but is manufactured with either man made or natural materials, or a combination of both.. Artificial Lure – Something resembling a fish’ food of prey, usually manufactured out of a man made materials to attract fish.

Bangin – Also see Bottom Bouncing or Twitching. A Technique of using a heavy type of jig or similar lure by allowing it to knock and bounce off of rocks along the bottom in the water.

Bank Fishing –  Fishing from shore or the bank of a river.

Bait– Anything that attracts fish by scent and/or flavor. This includes any device made of feathers, hair, fiber, wood, metal, glass, cork, leather, rubber, or plastic, which uses scent and/or flavoring to attract fish or wildlife. 

Bait Ball – A large group of baitfish swimming tightly together.

Bouyant Lure– A lure that floats on the surface of fresh water when no additional weight is applied to the line or lure, and when not being retrieved by a line. 

Bulldoggin – When a hooked fish tries swimming straight away or down to get away or hide and bury itself in cover without changing directions and jumping out of the water in an attempt to shake loose of the hook, as in just trying to break clean free with brute force.

Burn – or Burnin, means to retrieve a lure quite fast through the water. Butt – Bottom end of a rod where the hand grip is.

Buzzbomb – A lead kite shaped lure with a hole drilled through the middle that mimiks a swimming fish when being retrieved.

Catch-and-Release Fishing– A type of fishing where all of the fish caught are immediately released back into the water. 

Closed Waters– A body of water where fishing is prohibited. 

Crankin – To fish with a crankbait or similar type of lure and simply retrieving it with any variety of winding speeds or a variation of.

Daily Limit– The maximum number or pounds of fish, shellfish, or seaweed of a given species and size which a person may legally keep in a single day.

Dead Sticking – To cast out a lure or bait and allow it to sit in a desired target zone for a set amount of time before reeling it back. See dead stick fishing for tips and techniques for this finesse tactic.

Designated Harvester Companion Card– This card allows the licensed person with a disability to receive assistance from another licensed individual for fishing or harvesting shellfish. The designated harvester companion must have their license and the Designated Harvester Companion Card in their possession when assisting the person with a disability. 

Drift Fishing – Using the wind and current, or a trolling motor, to drift along the water with your fishing rods set out.

Eddy – A swift swirl of water that forms behind structure in the water, like rocks or wood pilings, due to the natural flow of current.

Fan Casting – Making multiple casts sweeping from one side to another in a circular or semi circular patten.

Finessin – Tactic that is often used with a deliberately slow retrieve and/or various rod popping techniques in order to entice sluggish fish to bite.

Fishing – also see Angling above. To take fish by way of hand, or using a hook with live bait, dead bait, or artificial lures, which is attached to fishing line spooled on a reel and rod. Fishing

Float– Plastic or cork bobber.

Fly– A lure on which thread, feathers, hackle, or yarn cover a minimum of half of the shank of the hook. Metallic colored tape, tinsel, mylar, or bead eyes may be used as an integral part of the design of the fly pattern.

Forage Fish– or Bait Fish, includes anchovy, sand lance, herring, sardine, and smelt. 

Freshwater Area– Those waters within any freshwater river, lake, stream, or pond. On the bank or within 10 yards f any freshwater river, lake, stream, or pond. On or within any boat launch, ramp, or parking facility associated with any freshwater river, lake, stream, or pond.

Frog Water– Stagnant waters with low to no current.

Gaffing– Attempting to take fish by impaling fish with a hook attached directly to a pole or other device.

Grabbling – Hand fishing, noodling.

Grand Slam – To catch three different species of fish in the same outing.

Hatchery Salmon– Means a Chinook or Coho with a clipped adipose fin and having a healed scar at the location of the fin.

Hatchery Steelhead or Trout– Means a steelhead or cutthroat with a clipped adipose or ventral fin and a healed car at the location of the clipped fin.

Head of a Fish– Forward of the rear margin of the gill plate.

Hook – A hook may be single-point, double, or treble. See Freshwater or Marine Area gear rules in WDFW regulations for limitations. 

Barbless – A hook from which all barbs have been deleted when manufactured, filed off, or pinched down.

Single Point – A hook with only one point. 

Double – A hook with two points on a common shank.

Treble – A hook with three points on a common shank. 

Hung up – Also see snagged ,To have your lure or bait caught on something in or out of the water. Sometimes your sinker can also be wedged under water structure like a rock pile.

Impoundment– Body of water formed within a section of a river or creek that has been dammed off, such as lakes and reservoirs.

Island – Body of land form within an area of water. Islands are often thought of as being visible above the waters surface, however, there are many islands below the surface which are also referred to as humps.

Jack Salmon– Chinook and Coho salmon that return at a younger age than most members of their species. For freshwater and in Willapa Bay (area 2-1) and Grays Harbor (area 2-2), a jack salmon is a Chinook less than 24″ in length or a Coho less than 20″ in length. 

Jigging – Technique of dropping the rod tip to point downward, then sweeping the tip upward in a fast or slow motion to bring the lure shooting up in a sporadic fashion. By dropping the rod tip back down the lure is often meant to flutter back downward. Repeat.

Kokanee– Freshwater resident sockeye salmon. Where the sea-run (sockeye) and the resident (kokanee) forms occur together, refer to the WDFW Special Rules for the size differences between kokanee and sockeye. 

Leader– An extension of line containing a hook or lure which is attached to the main line.

Length – The shortest distance between the tip of the nose and the extreme tip of the tail, measured while the fish is laying on its side on a flat surface with its tail in a normal position. 

Lunker – Term used when classifying an exceptionally large fish.

Lure– A manufactured article, complete with hooks, constructed of feathers, hair, fiber, wood, metal, glass, cork, leather, rubber, or plastic, which does not use scent and/or flavoring to attract fish.

Marine Area– Those waters contained within the boundaries of Washington State, within Puget Sound, Hood Canal, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands, the Strait of Georgia, and the Pacific Ocean, including estuaries seaward of the river or stream mouth (see Mouth definition).

Maximum Size (max. size)– The largest size of fish or shellfish that may be kept. For fish, the maximum size refers to the length.

Minimum Size (min. size)– The smallest size of fish or shellfish that may be kept. For fish, the minimum size refers to the length.

Mouth – Unless otherwise defined, the mouth of a stream, river, or slough is a line projected between the outermost uplands at the mouth. Outermost uplands are those lands not covered by water during ordinary high water.

Noodling – Handfishing, fishing bare handed. Most popular for catching catfish, however, other species of fish are also targeted this way too.

Open Face Reel – Is a reel without a cover or encasing surrounding the line on the spool, also known as a spinning reel.

Pegging – An alternative way other than using a stopper to hold a bullet weight in place on fishing line. This consists of breaking off a tooth pick into the head of the sinker. PFD – Personal floating device, life jacket.

Pilons – Structure usually constructed of concrete or wood used to support bridges, piers and docks. Also known as pillars.

Playing Fish – Reeling a fish in as you wear it down in order to properly land it.

Plug – Any type of artificial swimming lure such as crankbaits, jerkbaits, stick baits, poppers, lipless crankbaits, etc.

Poacher– An individual who takes fish or other species of game against what the laws and regulations allow for.

Possession Limit– The number of daily limits allowed to be kept in the field or in transit. 

Presentation– The business end of your fishing tackle; baited hook or lure.

Processed– Fish or shellfish that have been subjected to heat (including kippering, smoking, canning, and boiling). 

Riprap – Rocks and boulders that run along the waters edge and shoreline in a continuous and consistent manner.

Run ‘n Gun – Moving quickly along the water while making multiple casts and retrieves without spending much time in any one spot. Also moving from one fishing spot to another and to another after just a few casts.

Salmon– Includes Chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, pink, and Atlantic salmon.

Salmonids– Fish of the family salmonidae, includes: salmon, trout, and whitefishes. 

Selective Gear Rules– Only unscented artificial flies or lures with one single-point, barbless hook are allowed. Up to a total of three artificial flies or lures, each containing one single-point, barbless hook may be used. Bait is prohibited; fish may be released until the daily limit is retained. Only knotless nets may be used to land fish except where specifically allowed under Special Rules for individual waters. If any fish has swallowed the hook or is hooked in the gill, eye, or in the tongue it should be kept is legal to do so.

School – A small or large group of fish. “Set” the Hook – To swing the rod tip in a direction that immediately gathers any slack in the line, forcing the hook to follow and penetrates the fish’ mouth.

Sinker – Weight attached to fishing line used to get the bait or lure down in the water.

Slow Roll – Technique used by slowly retrieving a lure, most commonly with spinner baits.

Snagging– Attempting to take fish with a hook and line in such a way that the fish does not voluntarily take the hook(s) in its mouth. In freshwater, it is illegal to possess any fish hooked anywhere other than inside the mouth or on the head.

Spawn – The reproduction cycle that fish go through – building a nest, laying eggs, and gaurding the nest until the eggs hatch.

Stacked Up – A term used for when are suspended in one place waiting to move further up stream.

Stationary Gear Restriction– The line, weight, lure, or bait must be moving (not stationary) while in the water.

Steelhead – A sea-run rainbow trout 20″ in length and over.

Stick ups – Old brush or timber that is slightly exposed above the waters surface.

Strike– When a fish attacks, bites, or attempts to bite it’s prey, bait or a lure.

Suspended– When fish are positioned anywhere within the mid section of water – not on/near the bottom, nor the top of the water column.

Tale Bitter – A Fishing the bites at the tale or just short of the tale of the lure or bait.

Test – A from of measurement that indicates the tinsel strength of fishing line. Line strength is determined by stretching the line at a per pound basis before it reaches its weakening point or breaking.

Trailer – Usually a soft plastic bait added to the back hook at the end of a lure to add to its profile for added attraction for enticing fish, most commonly added to jigs and spinnerbaits.

Trailer Hook – Also known as a trailing hook, which is an extra hook added to a lures existing hook. Most often used on cut plug herring set up or super bait for tale bitters.

Trolling– Fishing from a vessel that is underway and under power.

Trout – When used in this pamphlet, the term “trout” includes rainbow trout, steelhead, brook, brown, cutthroat, tiger, golden, lake trout, Dolly Varden/bull trout, and kokanee, as well as landlocked Chinook, Coho, Atlantic salmon, and grayling.

Trophy Fish – An exceptionally large fish big enough that an angler would want to stuff it and put on a wall.

Weight– The weight of fish or shellfish before cleaning them and the wet weight for seaweed on which daily and possession pound limits are based. 

Wild Chinook and Coho– Wild Chinook and Coho have an unclipped adipose fin.

Wild Steelhead and Cutthroat– Wild steelhead and cutthroat have unclipped adipose and ventral fins.

Yo-yoing – Like the jigging technique – using the rod by dropping the tip downward to allow the lure to flutter down, then sweeping the rod tip upward to shoot the lure buck upwards a few feet, then repeat.

Zooplankton – Tiny organisms floating in waters that juvenile fish feed on.