Fishing in Movies

3 Glaring Mistakes About Fishing in Movies, TV and Video Games

These are the most common fishing mistakes in movies, TV and video games.

Just like with hunting, inaccurate portrayals of fishing have carried over into the mainstream media over the years. Movies, TV and video games have all paid homage to the pastime at one time or another.

We already covered these kinds of errors with hunting in the same mediums. We're thankful to say they happen a lot less in fishing movies, but these common mistakes still drive us crazy.

1. The Stereotypes

Maybe it started with Spencer Tracy in the film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's book "The Old Man and the Sea," or maybe it was Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon's cantankerous characters in "Grumpy Old Men." In any case, why are fishermen always stereotyped as being old curmudgeons with nothing better to do than fish and be angry at the world?

They're often quite fatalistic, too, like Henry Fonda in "On Golden Pond." It seems the only time you get a younger character is when angling becomes their job in the commercial fishing industry. See George Clooney and the rest of his shipmates in "The Perfect Storm."

Rarely is the film like "A River Runs Through It," that actually shows people younger than the age of 50 out hitting the water. We're not saying we hate these portrayals, but come on Hollywood, young people like to fish, too!

We admit we actually enjoy some of the more corny, extreme stereotypes like the sea captain in the Simpsons or his complete rip-off character in Family Guy, Sheamus. The character of Quint in "Jaws" is a total trope, but is also probably the coolest fishing character ever, even if he does end up shark chow at the end of the film.

Sometimes fishermen are painted as total buffoons like Joe Pesci and Danny Glover in "Gone Fishin'." We get that it's comedy, but rarely do you get a fishing film that takes chances with its characters like "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," a movie with a grounded approach to smart fishing characters. In the critically acclaimed movie, Ewan McGregor stars as a fisheries expert working to bring salmon fishing to Yemen as a way of approving diplomatic relations. This is a strange concept, but a noble goal for the character.

2. Unrealistic Equipment (or improper use of it)

Movies, TV and video games show some absolutely ridiculous methods of fishing and they're usually successful. How about that episode of "King of the Hill" where Hank and his buddies unwittingly use crack cocaine as a successful bass bait? At least Mike Judge got most everything else right about fishing in this episode.

Then there was that cliché scene of Paul Hogan using dynamite to fish in lower Manhattan in "Crocodile Dundee II." Yeah, go ahead and try that in real life and I doubt the police helicopter just flies away. In "The Simpsons Movie," Homer utilizes a bug zapper to electrocute every fish in the lake. That just sounds unbelievably dangerous.

What's with everyone holding baitcasting reels upside-down like in the "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" clip above? What makes this more annoying is the trend is usually reversed with spinning reels with the fisherman holding them upright and reeling backwards to bring in the fish. On what planet does that feel like a natural way to fish? Didn't anyone do any research? All you have to do is go to YouTube for five minutes to see what fishing with these reels looks like.

But perhaps the most ridiculous equipment example I found while researching this article was from the 1962 film "Follow that Dream." You haven't seen a ridiculous fishing scene in a movie until you've watched Elvis Presley fight a tarpon on a cane pole using a bent diaper pin as a hook. Yes, really. Well, at least he baits the "hook" near the end. Nothing is sillier than seeing people fishing and being successful using only a plain hook.

3. Fishing is Easy (or extremely difficult)

Why is it always so easy for fishermen in the movies, TV and video games? The characters go fishing and almost always have success. Video games particularly seem to fall into this trap. Maybe it's because dedicated fishing games seem to have lower budgets and less realism as a result.

Other games are realistic in almost everything but the fishing aspect. It is way too easy to pile up stacks of fish in "Skyrim" or "Horizon Zero Dawn" using nothing but your bow. Most bow fishermen and women will tell you, it's never that easy!

One more recent game, "Far Cry 5" is set in rural Montana and actually has a fishing mechanic included. Yes, it's possible to land a sturgeon while fly fishing, but it's VERY uncommon to actually do it.

The other extreme is to portray fishing as ridiculously difficult. Survival films especially play this up like in the adaptation of Gary Paulsen's classic youth novel "A Cry in the Wild." Brian struggles with trying to find a way to catch fish before he finally figures out how best to spear them.

It leaves us wondering why there never seems to be any midway point between these two extremes when portraying fishing in media.

Thankfully for us, fishing in these popular mediums never seems to get skewered and butchered as much as hunting does. We do hope anyone planning to include fishing in their story or video game does something to combat some of these common inaccuracies, though.