However, the sport of fishing, as we know it today, is a comparatively recent development. The first known English book on the subject of fishing was written by a 15th-century nun. The most famous fishing book of all, Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, was published in England in 1653 and was enormously effective in its own day in popularizing the sport. It was also during the 17th century that improved fishing tackle began to be developed along modern lines in Europe. In America the earliest colonists fished mainly for food, but later settlers turned more and more to fishing as a sport. An estimated 30 million people in the United States alone now spend 3 billion dollars annually for more than 400 million man-days of fishing. The modern sport is highly specialized, offering a wide variety of tackle and techniques adapted to particular kinds of fish and fishing conditions. The basic appeal of angling is the excitement of a fair contest between man and fish. Therefore, the equipment used should be of a size, weight, or design that gives the fish a sporting chance to escape either by its own ingenuity or through lack of skill on the part of the angler.
Fishing has attracted such a large following in recent years that many of the better fishing spots are becoming increasingly crowded, especially on weekends and holidays. Although official regulations do not cover such situations, unwritten rules of good sportsmanship are observed by all experienced fishermen. One of the most important is that each fisherman is entitled to fish his own spot. He should not be so crowded that he does not have sufficient room to cast properly and safely, and the spot he is fishing should not be fished by another angler at the same time. It is bad manners and often it is dangerous to anchor or drift near another boat fishing the same area. Even when fishing from a crowded pier or party boat, anglers should take pains not to interfere with other anglers by casting over their lines and running the risk of getting one or more lines tangled. One of the best ways for a beginner to learn the skill and sportsmanship of fishing is to join one of the many fishing clubs that have been organized all over the country.