Differences between fishing in America and Britain
European anglers who have travelled to fish in Britain and America may have been confused by the differences of the sport in these two English speaking countries. But its not only terminology that differs. It is also the way that anglers go about hunting the fish that is often different. As goes for all areas of life, there is always something to be learnt from reading about how things are done differently, but nevertheless successfully in other parts of the world.
Coming to Britain, anglers will find a distinction between three general areas of fishing:
Sea Fishing No confusion here. This simply means fishing in salt water.
Game Fishing If you are out game fishing in Britain, you are after fish from the salmon family. Thus it is not to be confused with the American meaning of game fishing. The Atlantic salmon, brown or sea trout and rainbow trout count among the most common game fish in British waters. Though unfortunately rainbow trouts rarely breed in Britain. Grayling, of course, also belong to the salmon family, they are, however, usually not considered game fish since their time for spawning is in spring. Instead they count as coarse fish.
Coarse Fishing This category comprises all remaining freshwater fish not belonging to the salmon family. Some of the species included in the British category of coarse fishing are classed as game fish in America like the northern pike or the yellow perch. The other big group of coarse fish belongs to the carp family. These fish, in fact, make up for the biggest part of the catch of British coarse anglers.
If you are sea or game fishing in Britain there is, in fact, not much difference to other countries. Trout waters in Britain, however, usually allow only fly fishing.
On the other hand, coarse fishing in Britain and America are two quite different pasttimes. Some of the differences will be explained in the remainder of this article.
Catch and Release Coarse anglers in America usually release their fish and return them into the water. In Britain this rule is even stronger. In most British waters it would be against the rules to kill coarse fish except for bait. Catch and release is an old tradition in British angling and has been practised for more than 100 years.
The big challenge for British coarse anglers is that the fish get used to baits and techniques. You have to work on your methods if you want to remain successful, the fish become much harder to catch as time goes by. Particularly carps seem to have good memories for baits they fell for. This difficulty and their ability for a hard fight makes the carp the most popular coarse fish in Britain.
Boats British waters are not anything as big as lakes and rivers in the US. Accordingly boats are not as common in British angling as in the States - apart from sea fishing, of course. In fact, boats are prohibited on most UK waters. Even trout fishing is usually in upland lakes or in the relatively few water supply reservoirs and only fly fishing is allowed. Trolling is also often prohibited, even if there is enough space. It does not seem to suit British mentality as many anglers consider it unsporting. It is just the pike anglers that practise trolling.
If boats are used on lakes in the UK, they are what in America are called jon boats, powered by oars or small outboards up to 6 hp. Sonar units are becoming more and more popular.
Some trout fisheries also allow pike fishing in the winter, although they usually insist that all pike are killed because they hunt the trout. This usually leads to an explosion of small pike that eat even more trout in the end!
Static Fishing The vast majority of British coarse fishing is static. In other words the bait is not moved - even slowly. (The main exception is float fishing in a river). One way of comparing the two styles is to say that Americans hunt for their fish, Brits trap them. This means that we have to attract the fish by something other than movement, and the normal way is to use groundbait (chum), which in some U.S. areas is actually illegal. This groundbait is often cereal based which has several advantages including being able to be used at long range, or may simply be the same as the hookbait, in which case it's called loose feed.
For smaller fish maggots are a widespread form of bait. It is available for sale in almost every coarse fishing shop. Fine tackle is required if you want to fish just one or two maggots on the hook. Otherwise these will not behave in a natural way. Accordingly, small hooks like size 20 or so and light lines around 1 lb are the most common equipment of a British angler in this field.
Carp anglers generally avoid to use smaller fish as bait. Hooking those often scares the Carp rather than attract his attention. So-called boilies are the bait most often used for carps. As the name tells, they consist of boiled paste which forms a hard skin protecting it against being pecked by smaller fish.
Distance Fishing American anglers are often surprised at the range at which British anglers fish. The reason for the greater distance in Britain is simply that there is less fishing from boats. Carps in particular are also very good at learning to avoid dangers looming at the bankside of the rivers and lakes. Thus, British casts are usually measured in yards rather than in feet. It is quite common for carp anglers to fish at a distance of more than 100 yards. As a result rods in Britain a generally a bit longer than in the US in order to be able to cast such long distances. The most popular size is 12 feet.
Match Fishing Match fishing is a competition in which the angler with the highest total weight of fish caught wins. There are of course many more smaller fish than big ones which is why match anglers usually aim to catch a larger number of small fish. You need quite a bit of expertise and a long rod is also useful to fine tune your control of the tackle. Graphite poles are common to enable the angler to develop maximum tackle control at short ranges.
Baits and Lures The prefered use of baits rather than lure is probably the biggest difference in the outlook of British anglers compared to their American counterparts. Two reasons may be behind this: Firstly, there are only few predatory fish species at home in the UK, mainly pikes and perches. On average, however, both grow to a bigger size in Britain than in the States, although the maximum sizes are similar. But there is a higher proportion of fish around 20 pounds. Many anglers in Britain grow up using bait because there are only few predatory fish. They may, however, be hooked if they tried lures!
The second reason has to do with catch and release. Fish are that are returned are much better at learning to avoid lures than bait. Lures always have hooks on them, bait has not. It is rather often part of their usual diet.
Confusing Terms American English differs in many ways from British English. This is also true for angling. There is in fact quite a number of terms in Britain that will cause confusion for the American angler. Here is a list of them:
British / American English
bank / shore bite / strike bivvy / tent blanked / skunked buzzer / electronic bite alarm carbon or carbon fibre / graphite drogue / sea anchor float / bobber gag / jaw spreader (banned on many U.K. waters) grinner knot / uni-knot groundbait / chum hooklength (or tail) / snell half blood knot / clinch knot lobworm / night crawler rings / guides rod rest / sand spike run / strike from a big fish running lead / slip sinker slider or sliding float / slip bobber specimen / trophy or lunker stringer string that dissolves in water containing bait to strike / to hook tip ring / tip-top trace / leader tucked œ blood knot / improved clinch knot water knot / surgeon's knot weight / sinker