Is there a non-gendered word for fishermen, that doesn't feel as self-conscious as fisherpersons or as folksy as fisherfolk?
I would suggest the following solution
Both fishermen and -women ...bla...bla...
From the first Google results page I found this interesting and long article, posted on CBC news, August 24, 2000. I'll highlight the most relevant observations IMO (emphasis mine).
FISSURE OVER FISHER
In the fall of 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling on native fishing rights (The Queen v. Donald Marshall, Jr.).
As word spread across the country, debate over a word raged inside the CBC. To avoid the sexist noun fishermen, should we call people with boats and nets fishers?
A few employees shared first-hand accounts of outraged fishermen skewering them as spineless meddlers. One producer said her newsroom had banned ‘fisher’ because women in the industry "are proud to be called fishermen, a la chairmen." […]
According to many Canadian media outlets, fisherman falls into this category. "There is not an entirely satisfactory substitute for 'fisherman'," observes The 1999 Canadian Press Stylebook, "although 'fisher', 'fish harvester', 'fish industry worker', 'fishing licensees' or the phrase 'fishermen and women' are all possibilities."
Angler is not an option because the word (which originally meant "hook") applies to people who use rods for fun not nets for a living. While CP doesn't rule out fishermen, it does point out that the term might not be "accurate" in some contexts — citing the caption under a photograph of Inuit women trying to catch salmon as an example.
The Globe & Mail's 1998 Style Book is much more blunt: "Avoid fisher, except in direct quotes. We encourage inclusive terms, but women in the fishing industry on both coasts have made it clear they call themselves fishermen, and take strong exception to what they regard as a bureaucratic, politically correct term."
I'll leave the OP to make up their own mind.
Now, technically speaking, angler only describes fishermen who specifically use a rod and line, as opposed to those who use nets, or trawl, or oystermen, etc:
angler [Collins]: a person who fishes with a rod and line
But in actual, popular use it is considered and used as a perfect synonym for fisherman.
Actually, "fisher" is very well-established with this meaning. None other than the KJV: And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
This verse is very well known -- it listed as one of the 454 most popular Bible verses. Pretty much every adult Christian would be familiar with it.
Seine crew use a seine net.
Longliners catch their fish on hooks.
I realise this doesn't easily fit into most situations. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations used the following terms (non-gendered policy) to avoid saying 'fishermen'
the traditional fishing communities
large number of people for towing the seine
Fishers are inventive and not afraid of trying new ideas.
Fisher is in the American Dictionary of the English Language and the meaning remains constant across all versions Noah Webster himself worked on:
Fisher, n. 1. One who is employed in catching fish.
Wait, you want a word with the same connotation of a hobby as a Fisherman does? Well it does in Noah Webster's dictionary because as far as he's concerned, fishing is an occupation:
One whose occupation is to catch fish.
A ship or vessel employed in the business of taking fish, as in the cod and whale fishery.
Maybe Noah Webster means to use these words occupation and employ is being used in what is now a less common, albeit still used sense to simply mean people doing the act, to keep themselves busy or engaged, as in keeping occupied or employing one's self. However it is hard to say, since he also has connotations of professionalism in other definitions for those words, which are more specific to them. As long as I am discussing occupations, I should note that it is a common occupational surname, much like Baker or Smith, as B.B.C. Kid's article "What's In a Name? Your Link to the Past" by Paul Blake (last updated, 2011-04-26), last updated can demonstrate.
So what about now? The description that the fifth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary description of Fisher drops the implications of professionalism and compounds the boat into the same sense, oddly. It is also lists fisherwoman, interestingly.
The Washington State Legislature, in the U.S.A. also thinks Fisher is gender neutral and appropriate, at least according to National Public Radio in their article Washington State Now Has Gender-Neutral Laws.
So what about "across the pond"? well, aside from the British Broadcasting Corporation link above, Collin's Dictionary simply says "a person who fishes; fisherman" and The Free Dictionary by Farlex, also linked above for the A.H.D. definition, affirms that this is also the meaning in the *Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged (© 1991-2003). Collin's dictionary also calls an evangelist a "fisher of men" which is vaguely amusing. It is especially so if you imagine a trout in a Chasuble with a fishing rod catching fishermen.
"Oh but Collin's dictionary says fisherman, so it's meaning is gendered!" is what you might be thinking but oddly, none of the dictionaries mentioned expressly gender fisherman. I'm not going to speculate too much as to why for now since there are many possible reasons and it is a very tangential consideration. One thing to note is that The Online Etymology Dictionary points out Fisher is actually slightly older than Fisherman and hypothesizes that Fisherman came into being because many animals, possibly like that weasel (which is also apparently known as a pekan), also started being called Fishers or the kingfisher bird, implying a need to specify the person.
Google nGrams corroborates the relative age and notes some sparse, intermittent use of fisherwoman as far back as the 1770s. Fisher looks like its' not used as often as fisherman and there's noise to be certain. I think the ngrams for fly fishing should eliminate most of that. It seems like Fisher is still less popular overall but it actually catches up a bit in that context. Regardless of commonality of use, I doubt anybody who knows what Fisherman don't think anybody will fail to understand what Fisher means, since it seems like prerequisite information for understanding fisherman. Here's a link to the pair of nGrams screenshots, just incase hell freezes over, causing Google's geothermal powered server farms to blackout.
In closing, fisher is not a joke, it is not slang, it is not newfangled and it is not ostentatious. It is a customary, formal and proper word, which primarily refers to this and very well suits the application.
There is fisho in Australian slang.
Fisher is archaic according to OED (superseded in ordinary use by fisherman). OED lists two other meanings of fisher that are not archaic:
- an animal that catches fish for food.
- a fishing-boat; a vessel employed in fishing.
I am going to say something that may sound preachy, but I personally feel is important to answer your question.
I think you already know that historically and in many languages today you would have a gender specific word often accepted to be able to apply to both male and female individuals. Historically instructions saying something like "Once he is in the boat the first thing..." even if it can just as easily and knowingly apply to a woman. That was a convention in writing. And like all conventions there is bias. Why some argue that conventional wisdom refers to poor wisdom.
I say this to drive the point that there is convention in writing and word-making. Take 'doctor' and 'nurse' for example, as these hold no gender but historically did apply to specific genders in many communities more than the word fishermen. Lastly take the word Human. Few people surprisingly try and argue gender neutral version of this likely because it never applied to a task uniquely performed by one sex or another, yet it still uses the same spelling convention. Huwoman.. had to try it out =P. SO..
So your arguement is that the masculine "fishermen" is due for some updating to challenge gender role implication. Luckily there is a simple answer. Fisher Personally I suggest not trying to hard to avoid "distracting" as feminism requires it. Better to keep it engaging with I think fisherfolk does over fisherperson. Still 'fisher' is an existing word for someone who catches fish for a living.