Where Did Fishing Poles Come From?

No doubt about it, fishing is big business on Lake Texoma. In 2019, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife found that between December 2018 and July 2019 that fisherman caught a half a million fish on Lake Texoma through a creel survey. A creel or angler survey consists of interviewing individual anglers, measuring fish, tracking the number of hours fished, and counting boats, fish houses, recreational craft, etc. It involves collecting a huge amount of data.

I could not find the exact figures of how much revenue the fishing industry brings into Texomaland communities, but it is a huge amount of money. News 6, out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, reported that the fishing industry reeled in $820 million in retail sales in 2019 for the whole state. In 2011, anglers shelled out $41.8 billion in the State of Texas, so that amount has to have increased a bunch. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross reported in 2016 that commercial and recreational saltwater fishing in the U.S. created $212 billion in sales, and added $100 billion the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. (1-5)

Did you ever wonder how fishing became such big business? Possibly, It all started with the Neanderthal hominids and early Homo Sapiens.

Ancient Fishing

Archeological expeditions have documented fish hunting skills in Southern and Western Europe, South Asia, and Africa when Neanderthals were alive. The Neanderthals dwelled in Europe and Asia, and Homo Sapiens evolved from Africa. The archeologists did not find any fishing poles, lines, or hooks. These species lived from around 130,000 to 40,000 million years ago. The Neanderthals ate sharks, dolphins, seal, fish, and mussels. Scientists found that Neanderthals relied heavily of seafood at a site in southern Portugal. (6-7).

The Mesolithic Age, from about 8,000 B.C. to 2,700 B.C., saw advances in fishing technology. In the Cave of Cyclope on the islet of Youra near Greece, archeologists found bone fishing hooks carbon dated to about 9,000 to 8,200 B.C. These ichthyofaunal (fauna related to fish) remains depended on the specialization of the economy in each settlement. The hooks found in the Cave of Cyclope had fractures that were attached at the shank and not at the bend or the point of the hook. Other evidence shows that Neanderthals also used harpoons and tridents. (8-9)

The Neolithic Age is when fisheries really evolved. Boats were the most important form of transportation on rivers, and settlements evolved on reservoir banks. There was no way to not go fishing. Fishing was just as crucial to human survival as hunting from then on until we come into the modern age of farming and animal hubandry.

Aristotle wrote 21 books on zoology. He described 109 fish in his works on ichthyology. Modern marine biologist have given genus or species level to 54 of the fish he identified. In classical mythology, Herodotus wrote about the tyrannical ruler, Polycrates, who took control of Samos and other islands in the Aegean Sea near Greece around 535 B.C. A fisherman caught a wonderful fish for Polycrates and presented it to him as a gift. Herodotus wrote about the exchange:

FISHERMAN: O king, when I caught this fish, I did not think it right to take it to market, although I am a fisherman by trade, because it seemed to me to be worthy only of you. So I have brought it as a gift.

POLYCRATES: You have done well and I am very pleased both with your words and your gift and I invite you to come back to have dinner with me.

The fisherman returned home feeling very proud. (10-11)

We don’t really know where the fishing rod was invented, but the Fishing Musuem Online in England says that the first fishing rods where made of hazel shoots with horsehair lines and track the first rods to 2000 B.C. Another fishing historian, Sergio Smirnoff, from the Canary Islands reports, “The hooks found in the excavations were tied, apparently, to a fishing line which was used as lianas of plants, veins, hair of animals. Over time methods and tools for fishing were improved. It is difficult to say who exactly invented the first fishing rod. There are several versions of its origin.” (12-13) The Chinese used silk lines and iron hooks to fish.

Ancient Fishing in the United States

Anthropologist Ben Potter from the University of Alaska and his team discovered human remains and chum salmon in a cooking hearth dating to 11,500 years ago in 2015. This has become the earliest known evidence that Ice Age humans used fish as a source of protein. (14) In the Mississippian Period from 360 to 320 million years ago, the ancient mound people in the Mississippi River Valley, Lower Ohio River Valley, and today’s Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi relied on fish to feed their people. They made seines to lay in the streams and rivers to catch the fish. (15)

I found many different origins of the fishing rod from around the world, and to discuss them all would be boring. Needless to say, fishing has always been big business around the world and Lake Texoma is a great example of what fishing means to modern society.

The Modern Fishing Pole

The first real modern fishing pole innovations began in the mid-1600s. In 1653, Izaak Walton, an English biographer, and Charles Cotton, a poet and English country squire, wrote The Complete Angler. This book continues to be considered a classic. Anglers fashioned free-running lines through a ring at the end of a rod. This led to the necessity of storing longer lines in order to play and catch the fish. So, the fishing reel became a reality. Thomas Barker first wrote about the use of a gaff, a landing hook, for landing big fish in 1667. A man named Charles Kirby invented the Kirby Bend, a unique fishing hook, and started a factory in Redditch, England, around the year 1730. His famous fishhook is still in use today. I found a striper guide in Tennessee who recently pulled 20 stripers out of Lake Norris with a Kirby Bend.

By the 1770s, a rod with a mounted spool underneath it had a handle to turn the line through several revolutions was in common use in England and its American colony. Kentucky watchmaker, George Snyder invented the bait-casting reel in 1810. As the fishing rod and reel evolved, elastic imported woods replaced the hard wood rods. At that time, anglers in the U.S. and England used rods made of strips of bamboo glued together. Silk, cotton, and linen lines replaced horsehair lines. Finally, in 1905, an English textile tycoon, Holden Illingworth, filed for a patent on a spinning reel. After the 1930s, a spin casting boom was afloat in Europe and the U.S. (16)

After WWII, the next major fishing rod technology developed with fiberglass. By the 1970s, rods made of carbon fiber or graphite became the mainstay. (17)


1. Orvis Bamboo 1856 805-3 Full Fly Rod Selling for $2,798

2. Orvis Bamboo 1856 805-3 Full Fly Rod

3. Fishhooks from the Cave of Clyope

1-4. Hook Preforms

5-16 Hooks Made from Bone and Antler

4. Mustad 3136 Classic Kirby Kirbed Point Hook

5. 1930 Spiral Wind Long Cast fishing reel spool Selling on eBay for $375


1. https://fishgame.com/2019/01/economic-impact-of-fishing-huge-report-says/
2. https://texasoutdoordigest.com/hunting/texas-hunting-fishing-generate-huge-revenue-for-state-economy/
3. https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/fisheries/saukrapids/creelsurvey.html
4. https://www.kxii.com/content/news/Nearly-half-a-million-striped-bass-caught-on-Lake-Texoma-since-December-513272151.html
5. https://www.newson6.com/story/5e35c3ab2f69d76f62011f04/oklahomas-fishing-industry-pumps-millions-into-state-economy
6. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/who-were-the-neanderthals.html#:~:text=The%20Neanderthals%20have%20a%20long,physical%20evidence%20of%20them%20vanishes.
7. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52054653#:~:text=Neanderthals%20were%20eating%20fish%2C%20mussels,much%20as%20ancient%20modern%20humans.
8. https://www.britannica.com/event/Mesolithic
9. Moundrea-Agrafioti, Antikleia. “Mesolithic Fish Hooks from the Cave of Cyclope, Youra.” British School at Athens Studies, vol. 10, 2003, pp. 131–141. JSTOR,.
10. Ganias, Konstantinos & Mezarli, Charikleia & Voultsiadou, Eleni. (2017). Aristotle as an ichthyologist: Exploring Aegean fish diversity 2,400 years ago. Fish and Fisheries. 1-18. 10.1111/faf.12223.
11. https://global.oup.com/us/companion.websites/9780195397703/student/archives/herodotus_polycrates/
12. http://www.fishingmuseum.org.uk/about_us.html
13. https://fishreeler.com/history-of-the-fishing-pole/
14. https://news.wsu.edu/2015/09/21/earliest-evidence-of-ancient-n-american-salmon-fishing-verified/
15. https://www.encyclopedia.com/earth-and-environment/geology-and-oceanography/geology-and-oceanography/mississippian-period
16. https://www.britannica.com/topic/fishing-recreation
17. http://www.allfishingbuy.com/Fishing-History.htm

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Fishing Report from TPWD (Jun. 19)

GOOD. Water stained; 75 degrees; 3.56 feet above pool. Striper fishing is great on live bait anchoring on humps in 20-30 feet of water and drifting flats in 15-25 feet of water. Topwaters are working early in the backs of creeks and along river channels. Catfish are good on cut shad and prepared baits. Channels are on the rocks and shallow flats in 10-20 feet of water. Blue catfish are on deep humps in 40-50 feet of water. Bass are slow on shallow crankbaits and top waters early along the banks. Look for bass in the shade during the day near docks in 8-15 feet of water. Shad fry are everywhere so downsize baits to catch numbers. Crappie are slow on jigs and minnows near docks and on brush piles using electronics to spot active fish in 10-18 feet of water. Report by Jacob Orr, Guaranteed Guide Service Lake Texoma. Water level continues to be high. Smaller striped bass are surfacing feeding on shad hitting topwaters and swimbaits. Slab bite is starting to turn on producing better quality fish in big schools in deep water. The slab bite will only improve. Report by John Blasingame, Adventure Texoma Outdoors.

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