What is a word used to describe a fish that tries to eat bait with light continual biting? In other words, the fish tries to eat the bait bit by bit but never swallows the whole hook.

  • 1
    I'm not sure if this qualifies as a duplicate, but this question can be addressed by this answer: Fishing terminology: What phrase describes a fish getting caught on the hook?
    – Juhasz
    May 29, 2019 at 14:53
  • 6
    It's not specific to fishing so I won't make it an answer, but look up nibble. May 29, 2019 at 14:59
  • In spite of the title of the possible dupe, the answer says " "Nibble" refers to a seemingly tentative attempt to take the hook and can be used as the event takes place or in later descriptions. Nibble is often used in a derogatory ( self-deprecating) fashion as in "I (he) caught 3 fish, but he (I) only had a couple of nibbles." This is most frequently used when "still fishing" (just letting the hook dangle instead of pulling it through the water) with "bait" (see below)." May 29, 2019 at 15:29
  • Seconding @TaliesinMerlin's answer, it's nibble. You can see an example here: upnorthoutdoors.com/upnorth/fishstories/jerrycarlson/…
    – Dennis
    May 29, 2019 at 15:30
  • Yes, nibble is what immediately came to my mind upon reading the title, before even clicking on it.
    – RegDwigнt
    May 29, 2019 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


To turn several good comments into an answer: nibble.

1 a : to bite gently
1 b : to eat or chew in small bits

  • 1
    I took the liberty of adding a dictionary definition to your answer (with a link). This is generally a minimum that's required of good answers here. Feel free to modify my formatting if you wish (or use a different definition and link). May 30, 2019 at 5:48

I'm thinking back to fishing trips with my grandpa. When he described this to us, and when we would talk about it with him or with each other, there are a few ways of expressing this concept that I can remember.

1) "He's nibbling at it."


2) "He's picking at it."


3) "He's trying to steal your worm."

I agree with the other comments and the answer by @Roger - "nibble" is probably the most-commonly-used word, but I wanted to add these alternatives. The second and third options - especially the third - seem to express all the nuances of

tr[ying] to eat the bait bit by bit

a bit better than simply using, "He's nibbling at your worm." That's my feeling, anyway. Often, the comment with nibbling expressed an expectation that the fish would soon take a big bite and get caught. The comment with stealing expressed the idea that the fish knew that the worm was on a hook and was therefore trying to get all the meal he could without touching the hook. The comment with picking was somewhere in between.

By the way, it seemed that we always said something like, "He'll get greedy, eventually," after the preceding statements.

P.S. I guess all fishes were male until we gutted them and found out differently.

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