What is roughfishing?

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Susquehannock's picture
What is roughfishing?

I just read the comments on Doc Esox's walleye, and having seen how heated that got, I think that it's about time we talked about what is- and, more importantly, it seems, what is not- roughfishing. 

I would like to say that it has always been my impression that the term is all inclusive, that it is representative of the ideology that all fish- of all sizes and species, independent of who, if anyone at all, fishes for them- are inherently fascinating and valuable. If this ideal is exemplified in full, elitism, and also reverse elitism, which isn't a term that goes over particularly well on this site, should both be unacceptable.

My intent here is, of course, to create something of a debate- or at the very least, a discussion- but let's please keep it civil.

uconn fishhead
uconn fishhead's picture
I agree!

Ditto.  Although "roughfishing" could be construed as fishing only for "rough" fish (e.g. carp, suckers), it is obvious that most people on the site are just into fishing and feel that all fish are cool.

I was a fish biologist for the State of CT and when we went stream electrofishing my co-workers thought I wasn't serious when I claimed the sculpins were cooler than the trout.  (But I wasn't kidding...)

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
I think things said about

I think things said about roughfishers and roughfishing in the glossary here on this site sums it up well.

Susquehannock's picture

I hadn't ever actually looked at the glossary before. I agree, it's awesome.


Outdoors4life's picture
Where is got heated....

Nobody bashed his fish, it was the fact that he was offended nobody commented on it. He pretty much asked for the words he got. Walleyes are so fished we see tons of them and large ones too.  I love all fish but you will not see me congratulating people on common catches unless it is a milestone for them. 
I am a fisherman. That is the only designation I am but I like the roughfish community and many are great friends of mine. 

It is all perspective!

Acer Home Inspections

TXMulti-Species's picture
That glossary is an absolute

That glossary is an absolute riot! Can't believe I've never seen it before. I'm in full agreement with you, roughfishing is having respect and appreciation of all species of fish. Size, type of fish (bottom feeder, predator), taste, etc. shouldn't make the fish any less desirable. It's a pipe dream, but perhaps one day this sort of attitude can simply be called "fishing."

Susquehannock's picture

I agree. I think that most of the comments there were directed more towards an etiquette issue- the idea that a user should not comment on their own material to attract attention- than on the catch itself, but we were beginning to discuss things like the ethics of guided trips, snobbery, and the merits of walleyes in there, and I think that some of these are worth discussing.


Outdoors4life's picture
To each their own

Some beleive guided trips are not really fishing. I have had two guided trips in my life and both were horrible fishing and one was a horrible experience. Salmon on salt water is not something I can do on my own so I will hire again someday. There is a snub nose to guided trips but then I see peopel basically guiding for no fee. Isn't that close to the same? Only difference is the money aspect. 
Every person will have their opinion. My opinion is what I care about in the end of it all. I have no problem discussing and listening to other perspectives and my opion can change with what I learn. 
The comments on that particular thread was fully because soemone got frustrated that not one single person commented on their thread and that frustration lead to many things being said. I post some cool things and see very little for comments but I know that it only takes one person appreciating what they saw to make my time posting worth it.

It is all perspective!

Acer Home Inspections

Yeah for me it absolutely

Yeah for me it absolutely means embracing everything about fishing regardless of species. Love all fish species...pursue the redhorse as vigorously as you pursue the Muskie or the Smallmouth. Be happy when you catch a giant sheepshead, not dissapointed. That kind of thing...Realize there is more to life than walleyes and hand sized bluegills.


With that said, catching a huge walleye is very cool, they are amazing looking fish especially the big ones. I just get so bothered by these cookie cutter fisherman that get so hooked on one species and they basically bad mouth anything else. Here is a term we use among our group a lot:


Tourism walleye fisherman:  A fishermen who usually travels long distances with really only one goal in mind, which is to catch as many 16 inch walleye's as possible. They are particularly tickled by the "shore lunch" concept and are devestated when they catch a 35 inch pike.

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
You know, I admit I was a bit

You know, I admit I was a bit hard on the Dr.  I didn't know his whole story. And I didn't find the humor in his remarks like they were probably meant to be taken. Makes sense that he would do guided trips. Bad knees and heart problems probably don't make it easy anymore.  I didn't take in the whole story before I commented and that was wrong. I didn't mean to personally attack him. Seems like a nice guy and after hearing the whole story I'm sure he wasn't trying to ruffle any feathers here. If I could take back my remarks I would.

As far as able bodied experienced anglers paying guides to take them fishing, I do think it's a bit lame. Fishing our of the back of a paid professionals boat, often with their gear and baits. Getting your lines casted out and hooks baited. Fish cleaned for you. Well that's just not my cup of tea. And it's not really the essence of a roughfisher or roughfishing.

As far as the whole walleye thing goes. It's totally a Minnesota thing I guess. Our state fish. The hype fish here. Walleyes or bust it feels like sometimes. Much like hardcore largemouth bass fishing maniacs. Way overplayed and fished way too much for. Wanna fish for a walleye all the time? Or a bass? Or just stream trout? Be my guest. Probably not going to get many "likes" in a place called roughfish.com. Wanna take a guided trip out for bass or walleyes? Neato man. Super sweet. I've been on a handful of guided trips. None in the past 10 or so years. Guides just mostly want to do everything for you. I'm just more hands on. I want to fool the fish with my tactics and my spots.  Share a bank with another like minded angler, not a paid professional. 

Just think about the great show In-Fisherman once. Doug Stange. Travels the country fishing hot bites that guides found for him. That's all he ever does. Does that make him a super talented angler? I don't know about that.

FishNerd's picture

Here in Wisconsin, fisheries are sometimes destroyed in the name of the walleye. In lake Mendota, walleye might not even be native, yet the walleye fishermen have gone on a mission to destroy the world class channel cat fishery in a misguided effort to protect their put-and-take walleye. CMDurre has stories of bass fisheries being sacrificed because walleye numbers were declining (due to environmental degradation).

This isn't the fault of the walleye of course, but rather the walleye fishermen. This has however created some resentment towards the walleye from myself and others I know. I do have a hierarchy of how much I like certain species but I still have some respect for each of 'em.

What people fish for all depends on what they value. Some are after a meal, some just want a good fight, and some would like to catch something new. The problems come in when someone does something to infringe on someone else's values (E.g. killing fish, especially native fish, because of misinformation about what will help your favorite game fish).


2019 goals:
Burbot(x), 100 species(36), Greater Redhorse(), Grass Pickerel(x), saltwater species(x), miscellaneous exotic()

Dan Morey
Dan Morey's picture
On the Nature of Elitism

Elitism is an inherent part of all human endeavor.  Right now, in Tibet, there are two Buddhist monks sitting beside each other in a temple, both thinking, “My meditation style is way better than this joker’s.”


Take a typical lake in North America. There’s a guy with a fly rod denigrating a guy with a baitcaster who’s snickering at a dude with a spinning reel and wad of worms. And they all think they rank higher than the bowfisherman.


The only way to escape these attitudes is to avoid other fisherpeople altogether. Good luck with that.


As for species elitism, I can say as a freelancer that there’s definitely a shift occurring. In the days before Jeremy Wade, Zeb Hogan, et al., it was very difficult to sell an article on bowfin or gar. That’s not the case anymore. Heck, growing up on Lake Erie, I can remember a time (before Bassmasters was on ESPN), when smallmouth were considered “junk fish.” They still are to a certain segment of Great Lakes fishermen, but those guys are rapidly becoming a wrinkled minority.


Has this site taken things too far? Into the realm of reverse elitism? I don’t think so. No one was objecting to the guy’s walleye. The problem was that he posted 3 or 4 Notable Catches in a row, turning the front page into a one-man show. This breach of etiquette would’ve simply been ignored had he not drawn attention to it himself. 

Susquehannock's picture
TV and fishing

I hadn't previously considered the way that TV has affected people's attitudes towards fish. I agree with just about everybody else on here that River Monsters is a massive show of sensationalism, but Jeremy Wade has really been the biggest help, being the man who has certainly had the most prominent role in bringing obscure fish out into the limelight. (He has written a book, also titled River Monsters, that I have read several times and really, really enjoyed.)


TXMulti-Species's picture
"I just get so bothered by

"I just get so bothered by these cookie cutter fisherman that get so hooked on one species and they basically bad mouth anything else"

This is me with carp and buffalo, minus the badmouthing (unless it's in good fun, of course). I try to get out and get new species, I really do. The call of the carp is far too strong.

Buffalo are so cool...I have

Buffalo are so cool...I have yet to catch one, but at some point I will make it happen. Problem is I know they are picky so I have to find a place where they are known to hang out - I actually do know of a spot around where I live where smallouth buffs are suppossed to run rampant certain times of the year.

I guess I just love having success at fishing, whatever I am targetting. I find the endless species pursuits one can make to be one of the real appeals of fishing. You can shore fish a river and catch the mighty redhorse or catfish, but the next day you could go run bottom bouncers on Green Bay and limit out on Walleye...they go kayak an inland lake and throw spinner baits in the weeds for Northern Pike. The options are endless, thats what I love.

Goldenfishberg's picture
Before River Monsters there

Before River Monsters there was The Hunt for Big Fish with Minnesota's own Larry Dahlberg - great show. I owe a lot of my roughfishiness to watching that show as a yung anlger. Roland Martin has a great show too! "That there's a biggun boy!!" Old clips of Otis 'toad' Smith eating buckets of chicken and oreos on the river still ressinate in my brain late at night fishin for flats too.  

Ya just Can't catch um from the couch.

tom's picture

For me, roughfishing start with a simple question: :"What do you suppose is swimming around down there?" and the response that comes too easily: "Let's find out!"  Pitching flukes and cranks for walleye and bass is fun and all, but sitting on riverbank soaking worms or hunk of cut bait on the bottom and taking in the sights and rhythms of nature by yourself, or shooting the sh*t with a buddy or 2 wins every time for me. The excitement of seeing my rod tip ticking, thumping or straight up bending in half in its bank stick is something that will never get old or boring to me.  I'm not sure what's going on in my brain when I'm hooked up and fighting a fish, waiting to get an answer to my question as to what it was that picked up my bait, but I imagine its very similar to what a gambling addict feels when he's dealt a sure winner. 

iliketofish's picture
Still the best forum around.

     I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I'll give my two cents too for what it's worth.

     There are bound to be conflicting opinions in any fishing forum, especially the ones with high traffic volumes. This conflict, I think is what can drive some people away, or just creates "lurkers", myself included. 10 years ago, I used to post on quite a few different forums, now this is about the last one I'll post stuff on, and I don't post much here for that matter either. But I do check the forums here every day for new content, sometimes 5 or 6 times per day if I'm really bored :)

     I personally really enjoy seeing all the notable catches, regardless of my feelings for a particular species, or weather I've caught 1000 of that species before, or 0, or whatever. It's a personal journey for each person. I get a kick out of seeing what gets other anglers excited, and usually I'm right there with them. It's just fun to share in everybody's successes and failures and learn a little along the way. 

     It seems that in our roughfish community there is a spectrum of anglers and angling styles. I think most of us here appreciate all species of fish, which is why so many of us here keep life-lists. On the other side of the spectrum though, there seems to be some who are strictly (or at least heading in that direction) all about fishing for the traditional "rough fish", and staying away from "game fish". And this is certainly the place for that. It is called roughfish.com after all, not gamefish.com. While still others, focus most of their efforts on just one or a few species (be it carp, or redhorse, or whatever) as has been mentioned above. I think this diversity is a good thing. Because, while specific opinions and personal goals may vary, I think those differing perspectives make for a more engaging and lively discussion. Most of the time this varied demographic makes roughfish the best forum around. I mean where else can a guy/gal go for a one-stop-shop to learn and discuss how to catch a musky, OR a silver chub, or a bluespotted sunfish, or a spotted trunkfish or a.... Because almost no matter what it is, there's somebody here who knows how to catch it. And that's pretty cool!

     If I were to give a critique, it would be to point out that being that this is after all a fishing forum, there are still some of the same problems found in other fishing forums, just not nearly as frequent or severe. And I don't mean it as a knock on the forum or any member. I just think its ok to be honest about things. Wheather the "reverse elitism" (as mentioned above) is actually occurring, or intended (and I don't think it is intended), I think it is perceived that way from time to time. Just something to be cognizant of I think. And that probably boils down to the mission statement of the forum in general, however it's defined, and how strictly that statement is to be adhered to.

     Also, humor is hard to convey in text, and I think that causes problems sometimes. To me it was pretty clear that the Dr.'s tongue was clearly in his cheek in his initial comment on his walleye, but I don't think everybody got that it was a joke. It's easy to confuse intended humor with cockiness, or whatever, if you don't get the joke. Not sure how to fix that one though. Better jokes maybe? I know mine are pretty bad most of the time :)

     BUT, that being said, the fact that this thread/discussion exists, and has remained civil, I think is a great thing and a testiment to the community here. And I stand by my statement that this is still the best forum around!


     As for what roughfishing is to me (I just call it fishing...), it boils down to this:

               If it swims, I want to catch it! If I've caught it before, I want to catch a bigger one!


     Sorry for rambling for so long :)


J Dunfee
J Dunfee's picture
"Roughfish" isn't going to be

"Roughfish" isn't going to be a term in 20 years, anyway.