Appalachia Fishing

Appalachian Fishing Vocabulary

Photo provided by Mary Shipman of Oldentimes Blog

Photo provided by Mary Shipman of Oldentimes Blog

Lets look at some Appalachian fishing words.

*Fish hook: not only can it be used to catch fish, it was once used to describe a debit charge on your paycheck stub. I’ve never used fish hook as a debit indicator, but with all those ‘cash your check before you get it’ places-I think it could come back in fashion soon.

*Fish rain: a heavy rain accompanied by a strong wind that picks up small fish and showers them on nearby land.

*Night crawler: an earthworm. We always call fishing worms night crawlers.

*Hornyhead: a small fish found in freshwater; sometimes called a knotty or a stoneroller.

*Silverside: a minnow (minner) or any small silver fish.

Ever heard the words above? Got any to add to the list?



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    July 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    We call them night crawlers in Maryland also.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    This time of the day I’m usually not hitting on all cylinders. I just thought of a name like minners, hornny heads, and the like. If someone mentioned this fish name for carp, I missed it. Some of the boys up the road were talking about catching carp and they called them a name that was very descriptive but one I had never heard. They called them Bugle mouth Bass. You know, if you look at them their mouth does look like a bugle when they first come out of the water!

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    July 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I have always fished since I was a small girl. We have Adams Ck. that ran by our house and still does. We would use a cane pole or straight stick and thread to tie the hook and a red worm. We never used the the wiggler worms that was under leaves they wiggled so much they would break into pieces and the fish didn’t bite them. In the creek we also had the same little fish as the man told aboute in two or three comments above. We called them “Molly crawl on the bottom” they were cute little things and we never caught them. I never fished in the big river which was the Oconalufty Ri., a mile from our house till I was grown.
    I married and we went into the Army and retired after 21+ yrs. and returned home. That is when started fishing so much. My brother would take me to Graham Co., Little Snowbird, etc. to fish and every where through the briers and the bushes where a rabbit wouldn’t go. I don’t like to sit down to fish. I love to trout fish in the streams from the head of Straight Fork to where Three Forks join at the high bridge. Only Enrolled Cherokee can fish this part. I caught my biggest trout on Sraight Fork. It was a 19″ 4 lb.Brown Trout. My legs were so weak by the time I got it in my net I thought I would fall or die. Never was so happy and that did me good. It is hanging on the wall. It’s my bragging fish.
    Have you ever been wading with your waders on and step on a slick rock and your feet slip out from under you and you go up and go splat on a big flat rock and get the wind knocked out of your lungs and all you can do is just lay there and look and see your husband way, way up the creek. All you can do is, ‘Damn” I’ll never get up from here. But, I survived that one and many more.
    I always loved to fish on opening day on Nantahala River an above the power plant.
    I liked the story about Frank Young and Maisie Queen Young,by Jim Casada. They were dear friends of mine and Maisie was part of my family. She filled out my family tree and my Paw Fisher [Thurman] was a brother to her mother. I loved her and miss her.
    I don’t fish to much any more because I’m afraid I might fall down the bank or on a slick rock. I had to have a Pace Maker put in 2 yrs. ago and that little box is precious to me, I thank the Lord each morning for it.
    I can go to the Tribal Ponds in Big Cove and fish any time. I like to fish in the winter in the ponds, even when they freeze over and start to melt. To many people in the summer and the water is to low.
    Tipper, I enjoy this every day. This is habit forming just like fishing. I enjoy trying to out smart the fish and catch them.
    Thank you for being just you. I don’t get to write something each time, but I fool around and forget.You know one of those senior moments, but you are to young to be a senior.
    “Hillside Walking”

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    I use night crawler all the time. Def familiar with stoneroller and silverside and minner though we also used shiner for silverside. I’ve heard the others too but don’t use them

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    July 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Housewife’s definition of a fishing pole: A stick with a worm on each end. My wife never said that, her Ma was the best fishing buddy I’ve ever had, and I miss her! Your wife can’t complain how long or often you fish when you take her Ma with you!

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Never heard of a fish rain though I’ve seen a few that made the water in the road run uphill in front of my house, and never seen a horny-head in fresh water but when I was in Florida I had a little shrimp boat and we’d drag up dogfish from the bay bottom; got to be the ugliest fish ever. Lemme tell ya about nightcrawlers, though: The preferred method for catching nightcrawlers was to wait until a dew formed on the ground then go out with a flashlight with half-dead batteries, cover most of the lens with your fingers and pick the big worms up off the ground…But…some of us enterprising kids had a more scientific method. Remember the crank telephone? the ‘phone company converted to dial phones and they tossed thousands of the old oak phones on the town dump; the thing that you cranked was a magneto, it generated electric current, enough to make you wish you hadn’t held those wires that your buddy asked you to. We took one, attached long wires to it with metal rods at the end and we’d push the rods into the ground about 25-50 feet apart and crank the livin’ out of the magneto. In a few minutes we had a worm convention on the ground before us, the big ol’ fat ones that lived deep down were there as well as the usual size nightcrawlers. We sold them for a nickel a dozen to the city folks, and made enough to buy us a sody-pop and some real hooks for when we went fishin’.
    I’ve seen it done with a 6-volt electric fence battery and coil from a T-model Ford, too but it was fun making our own electricity and if we took the battery of the fencer it would be our luck that the cows would get out and we’d catch a dose of what-fer and another one of willer tea for letting that happen.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 27, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Thanks for the definition of minnow ladies. Kinda thought it was a minner!
    I remember heading up to Almond Elementary School with flashlight and a bucket right after dark after it had rained. Night crawlers would come up on the sidewalks and paved areas and we could pick them up with ease. And the playground was full of them too, but we had to be quick because they could pull back in their holes in a flash. We kept them in what we called Lunchroom Buckets. It was a No. 10 can that the school got food in. They were good for worms, lizzards, blackberries and strawberries and pretty much anything you wanted to keep in them.
    Tipper-I’m sorry my name seems to show up more than yours on YOUR site. You need to slap me and tell me to sit down and shut up!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    July 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I always wanted to see a fish rain, or rather wanted to be in one. I always liked playing in the rain and when my granddaddy told me about it I thought that would be great fun! p.s. I’m sure it would be even today 🙂

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo
    July 27, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I know that worms were to be found under bricks and rocks that we used to line the playhouses we built outdoors. When my Daddy and Uncle Early would go fishing, I would bring them worms, carrying them between two sticks that I found under bricks and rocks. They always thought that was funny for some reason. I did not want to touch the worms (so I carried them between two sticks).

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    July 27, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Not being a fishing person, I can say that I have heard of only the night crawler. I’m learning lots fishing stuff this week. Thanks for the great stories.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    July 27, 2012 at 9:26 am

    I more to add…
    Before my husband and I got married and after…
    We would pour lead heads, and tie Hadacols…until I was told to stay away from the smell of the melting lead after I became pregnant…
    I wish I had a nickle for everyone I tied…We had a little rig, that held the lead and hook and thread the sped up the process…I used to tie them without all that contraptions…
    Before hand they were dipped in paing, put on a line to dry, and then I painted a eye on each one..
    Back in the day some were sqarish rectangle shaped heads…Later we used all size hand made molds of different sizes…We used squirrel tail, dyed or natural…
    Later we used all color of dyed fur or later synthetic fur of different colors…Much later, flourescent paints were used to dip the Hadacols in…In later years they begin calling them Doll Flys…so we started calling them doll flys instead of Hadacols…We had a friend that lived in the foothills of the Smokies that always wanted me to tie him trout flys…I did a few with what I had to work with…By that tine I was busy with two baby boys and no time to do much tying of anything except diapers..
    By then we were on the lake with our young babies, and using up the many Hadacols and Doll flys we had left over…Later those little wormy jelly things were being used…very cheap bait to catch crappie…Sometimes I wished I had tried to keep up and learn more about tying trout flies…It is an art..and you know how I love art…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I was just about to ask the same question Ed asked. What is a minnow? They are called minners around here. I call the big fat ones I catch in the creek ‘chubs’. Is that an Appalachian fishing word?

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    July 27, 2012 at 9:04 am

    How about…
    “Lunker”….Large large Bass or any very large fish.
    “Slick”…A fish which doesn’t
    measure as a keeper for the stringer.
    “Worm Fiddler”…Fiddling for worms in the woods, with a saw, on a cut off sapling…Grandpaw was doing this before it was ever on TV..
    “Wigglers”…worms that move or wiggle constantly even while on the hook..or “red worms.”
    “Red Worms”…The ones we dig out in under the compost or rocks, etc. also called “wigglers” by some..
    “Minners” A small fish sold in country grocery stores near the lake…some “flat landers” call them “Minnows!
    “Cull”…A live fish you don’t keep. Cull before you takem’ home!
    “Pappaws Fish”…The big “Carp” that Pappaw catches, no matter which lake he is on, was a source of much teasing and embarrassment to him, ’cause he would always yell, “I’ve got a biggen’ this time!” Much to his dismay it would be the old “Carp. I swear it seemed that carp would be in any lake we fished and he would catch it…
    “Drum”…The silver bottom feeder fish. While you were taking it off the hook, would emit a drumming sound, that delighted the kids…
    I’ve got a million of them…
    but not enough room..
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Ed, your mystery fish may have been the infamous snail darter which held up the Tellico Dam Project for two years. We always called them creek chubs. The Nantahala River above Beecher Town Powerhouse is full of them, they have also been found in other rivers in TN & AL.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    July 27, 2012 at 8:16 am

    I’ve heard and used a couple of those. I’ll add “stump-knocker”. We referred to little bream as stump-knockers. Never really thought about why though.
    Ed I’m not at all surprised by that story. I’ve heard similar tales about birds sitting on a cattail and getting hit by ’em.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    July 27, 2012 at 7:39 am

    MY Greatuncle Ike used to take me seining minnows before we went fishing. I Looked forward to the minnow catching more than the fishing. We caught fascinating little minnows. Probably some of the ones you call horn heads. They had a big mouth and looked kind of like a toad with fins. We never fished with them. He preferred the little shiners.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Like Ed’s story! Sounds believable to me.
    Re: vocabulary–do you have “noodling” in your area? Some folks call it “hand-fishing.”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 27, 2012 at 7:15 am

    fish rain, I haven’t heard expressed exactly that way, but I sure have seen it. Fish flopping in the grocery store parking lot, big ones too. At least5 miles from the nearest lake or river.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 27, 2012 at 6:16 am

    We used to catch a little fish in Licklog and Wiggins Creeks that we called a crawleebottom. It would just sit on the bottom of little pools , all of a sudden move a couple of feet then be still again for a while. The biggest ones were about 4 inches long and had big fins right behind it’s head. It was a real dark muddy color. Maybe one of you freshwater marine biologists can tell me what is was.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 27, 2012 at 6:04 am

    What is a minnow?
    I ’bout let the week of the fish go by without telling my fish tale. You see, my brother in law has a fish pond that covers about an acre. He has it stocked with several species of fish and well as bullfrogs and snakes.(He didn’t actually put the snakes there, they kinda liked the place and moved in.)
    Anyway my son and I used to go there frequently to catch ’em and throw ’em back. Late one afternoon I was fishing off the side of the pier, trying to natch on to of those big bluegills that live under there. I wasn’t really caring if they bit or not. Sorta dozing off. Suddenly I hear a splashing sound and looked up just in time to see a little fuzzy black puppy running along bank and a big largemouth bass flopping on the bank just behind it. If I hadn’t seen it with my own two(4) eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. The puppy, of course, skedaddled. The bass flopped around a while and finally got back in the water. Draw your own conclusions, I’m just stating the facts.
    I am apt to make up stories from time to time just for the fun of telling them but this one is for true. If I’m lying, I’m dying!

  • Leave a Reply