Have you ever run into a slang word or "old time" phrase and wasn't sure what it meant?

Well, I am going to try and explain a few of them here....
Black Bass

Black Bass was a term most commonly used in North America during the late 1800s and early 1900s to describe freshwater fish in the genus of “Micropterus”.  These fish are in the sunfish family and include popular game fish such as the large-mouthed and small-mouthed bass.  Several of these species (mainly the large and small-mouthed bass) have been widely introduced throughout the world.

In the past, many times in the southern US, black bass were called trout even though they are not a trout and not part of the same family.

Walled Eyed or Wall-eyed Pike

This refers to the popular freshwater perciform fish native to the northern United States and Canada, and is now more commonly called the “Walleye”.  It is a North America close relative to the European Pikeperch.  It gets part of its name from its eyes that gather and reflect white light that aids them to see in low-light conditions.

This fish is sometimes called the colored pike, yellow pike, or even pickerel although the fish is not related to pikes or pickerels.  This could stem from the European fish known as the pikeperch. 

It was called the Wall-eyed Pike by European settlers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  By the 1930s, it was shortened to wall-eye and by the 1940s, just plain “walleye” became the standard name.  Also, it appears that many times the term “Wall-eyed Pike” was used on paperwork and it was meant to include both walleyes and pike, but I don’t know if this was actually true.

Walled Eyed Pike was also a term used, but not near as common as Wall-eyed Pike.  It may be just a different way of spelling the term or, it could have originally been misspelled. Some companies actually used both terms at one time or another.

Walleye is a generic term used for the Yellow Walleye, the Blue Walleye, and the Sauger.  Unfortunately, the Blue Walleye is believed to be extinct since the 1980s.

Some people refer to the walleye as “salmon”, even though they are not related to salmon.

Shy Poke

"Shy-poke" refers to various water-associated birds, including herons, egrets, and bitterns. The most common recipient appears to be the green heron and the great blue heron. The name seems to derive from words meaning (loosely) "feces bag" or "poop hole" which is a reference to the heron's tendency to launch a stream of droppings as it takes off in flight.

Most people that I hear use this term are of German descent.  "Shy" can be a German abbreviation of the word "poop".

Hammer Handle

A term used to describe a small pike…about as big as an actual hammer handle.

Hell Diver

A diving waterfowl that is now more commonly called by its real name, a grebe.

Mosquito Hawk

A term used to describe a dragonfly.

Cane Pole Fishing

Fishing using a long single or two-piece pole…usually well over 8 feet long.  The pole is typically made out of cane with a line that is tied to the very narrow end furthest from the fisherman.  The long pole allows the line to be put out at a distance (whatever length the pole is) and when a fish bites and is hooked, the pole is raised and the fish is “swung” back to the fisherman.

This was a popular way to fish in the late 1800s and early 1900s…although many people still used this way to fish into the early 1970s.

My  grandparents were “expert” cane pole fisherman for sunfish.


This was a popular way to fish in the 1800s before casting reels were invented.  It was done by using a long pole with a small reel at one end.  The pole usually was in sections and was assembled when they arrived at the fishing spot.  The lure was tied at one end and the pole was extended over the water.  The pole was then swung back and forth, “skittering” the lure near the top of the water.

This should not be confused with cane pole fishing, although they both used long poles and were slightly similar.


A term using to describe the many “smaller” species of sunfish, such as pumpkinseeds, bluegills and crappies.