Frequently Asked Questions

What is lifelist fishing?

Lifelist fishing is the ongoing pursuit of new species of fish via hook and line fishing. Lifelist anglers keep a list of the fish species they have caught, and usually also document each species through photography. The fishing “lifelist” can be formatted as a written list, table or database, captioned photo album, website, blog, or some combination of these. Lifelist fishing can be an intimately personal quest, but the hobby can also be competitive.

Why lifelist fishing?

Put simply, the goal of lifelist fishing is to catch as many species of fish in one’s lifetime as possible. At a deeper level, anglers engage in the hobby of lifelist fishing for a variety of reasons. Like all recreational fishing, lifelist fishing allows participants to immerse themselves in nature, which can bestow spiritual and health benefits, provide entertainment value and allow friends to create great memories together out on the water. The challenge of lifelist fishing is that to catch new species you must constantly explore different habitats, try new angling techniques, research fish distribution patterns, and often travel to places that you might not otherwise visit. Lifelist fishing requires constant learning and an ongoing exploration of the nooks and crannies of our planet. Lifelist fishing has without doubt made my life richer, less predictable, and more enjoyable. Many of the unique individuals I have met through my pursuit of new fish species have also become some of my very best friends.

What qualifies as a legitimate addition to one’s lifelist?

Because lifelist fishing is a personal quest, individual anglers are at liberty to define what they count as a catch. Sites like roughfish.com and specieshunters.com allow registered users to upload their lifelists, including pictures. This can, of course, encourage competition among lifelist anglers and as a result attempts have been made to define and standardize some basic lifelist fishing rules. It is generally accepted that a fishing lifelist should be composed of species that were caught legally and by hook and line recreational fishing.

A set of rules I that personally follow, and which I believe are generally accepted by other lifelisters, include:

The fish must be recognized as a valid species (for example, by the American Fisheries Society or counterpart organization for other regions, or by generally accepted peer-reviewed scientific literature). Subspecies, variants and hybrids do not count towards one’s species tally (but they can be noted elsewhere).

The fish must be caught legally. Species caught via illegal techniques, using illegal baits, in areas closed to fishing, outside of legal seasons, or for which fishing is banned do not count (if you observe these activities please report them to help protect our fishes and our sport)! Even in cases where it is technically legal to fish for them, I personally refrain from targeting and encourage other anglers not to target any species regarded as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. However, non-legal or endangered/threatened species are sometimes caught incidentally while fishing legally for other species, in which case counting the species is left to the individual angler’s discretion. In any case such fish need to be promptly released alive.

The fish must be fair-hooked using hook and line. Fish caught by methods such as snagging, netting, grabbing by hand, explosives, spearing, etc. do not count. The key is that the fish went for the lure or bait of its own volition. To count, the fish must be hooked in the mouth. Most anglers would accept gar caught using hook-less rope lures as a valid catch, as these fish are “hooked” by the rope fibers that tangle in their teeth when the gar bites the lure. Examples of valid hook and line methods include rod and reel, tip-up, hand-lining, micro-fishing (see below), and fly-fishing.

Where did the term lifelist fishingoriginate?

I am not sure, but I think various anglers have adopted the term from the birding community. I independently started keeping a fishing lifelist when I was about 9 years old. The first time I saw the term used on the internet was around 1998 at roughfish.com. Many anglers now display their fishing lifelists online through personal blogs or through a variety of other fishing websites. Related terms include angling lifelist, species list, etc.

Can you define the terms “lifelister” and “lifer”?

Throughout lifelistfishing.com I use the term “lifelister” in reference to a person that is a lifelist angler.

I use the term “lifer,” especially in my blog posts, in reference to a new species, or a potential new species. For example, when I’m out on the water fishing with other lifelisters, we commonly shout out “Got a lifer!” when we pull in a new species or we might ask “how many lifers have you caught so far this trip?”

What is micro-fishing?

Lifelist anglers are more preoccupied with catching species of fish they’ve never caught before than with catching trophy fish. Many fish species only grow to a maximum length of a few inches. Micro-fishing is the pursuit of these tiny species (often shiners, darters, barbs, tetras, gobies, sticklebacks, etc.) using scaled-down tackle – usually a very tiny hook on light monofilament line baited with a fleck of worm, an insect, ant egg, or other suitably small morsel. Obviously these small fish (referred to as “micros”) don’t put up a fight on hook and line, but fishing for them can be surprisingly fun, addicting, time-consuming, and sometimes frustrating. Many micro species are among the most stunningly colored fish and frequently these are popular aquarium species. With modern digital photography excellent photos can be captured, which helps anglers identify their catches. Check out microfishing.com for more information.

Can visitors add their own content to lifelistfishing.com?

No. I created this site to serve as my personal online space for sharing my lifelist angling adventures, and for providing a brief introduction to the sport/hobby. If you desire a place to share and compare your lifelist with other like-minded anglers, there are already some great sites out there for that and I do not intend to duplicate or compete with them. I highly recommend roughfish.com and specieshunters.com!

However, if you maintain your own lifelist fishing blog or related website let me know and I will happily add a link to your site.