What is A Fathom in Fishing

What is A Fathom in Fishing? History, Calculations, and Forms

By Sophia the SeaMonster on Dec 31, 2022

It began when I got to know what the earth’s deepest place was and that it was measured 1-½ centuries ago in fathoms.

Are you getting curious? Me too. It’s the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean, on the West Coast of the United States.

It’s 36,201 feet (11,034 meters) deep, which is approximately 7 miles. Wondering? I too got it. But what shocked me, even more, is the idea that if you placed Mount Everest at the bottom of this place, the peak would still be 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) below sea level.

The place’s depths were first measured in 1875 by the British ship H.M.S. Challenger and the Challenger scientists recorded a depth of 4,475 fathoms (about five miles, or eight kilometers). Fathom? Looks like something of a historical unit of measurement that measured the depth long ago as accurately as it’s measured today using modern-day measurement units.

So, I just dived into the depth (not of the Trench), in the ‘fathom’ topic, and brought some really interesting information for you.

During the entire course of this piece, I’ll help you figure out what a fathom is in general, in the fishing field, its historical background, and how it was measured since ancient times.

What is Fathom in General?

The term is derived from an old English word ‘faith,’ meaning outstretched arms. The word was originally used to measure distance, as the distance from the middle fingertip of one hand to the middle fingertip of the other hand of a large man holding his arms fully extended. Also, the word was used as a verb for what’s today called ‘embracing’ - clasping someone in your arms. By the 1600s, the term was taken to the seas, referring to measuring the distance in the seas. Today, it’s generally used as synonymous with the words probe or investigate which mean getting deeper into something.

What is a Fathom in Fishing?

In fishing, a fathom refers to a unit of measurement used to measure the depth of water or the length of a nautical cable. A fathom is equal to approx six feet, or 1.8288 meters. Today, both sailors and commercial fisheries use fathom as part of their daily job, however, it serves the same way to small-scaled angling fishing performers.

Why Do We Use Fathom Unit for just Water Depth?

Let me first clear it up a bit historically. The British were the only nation with the highest number of sea-measuring tools. These units were used around widely during that time, so whatever terms they adopted, became the internationally accepted terms.

I was wondering if that’s to say we can’t adopt our convenient metric measures for depths we measure today. Is doing so something legally prohibited? Well, I found something logical after doing extensive research.

If today’s modern nations want to invent new measurement metrics, they surely will have to access old logs, and they’ll still find them expressed in the old world terms and will have to convert.

Interestingly, the US still uses the old British system of measurements and found it too cumbersome and unnecessarily expensive to update. So, As per my logical guess, the would-be inventors might have thought the same when they attempted to replace ‘fathom’ with some other measurement unit.

The Established British Fathom

The British Admiralty defined a fathom to be a thousandth of an international nautical mile.

Now, let me do some math to make the fathom concept crystal clear to you!

  • An international nautical mile = 6,076 feet (1,852 meters)


  • 6,076 divided by 1,000 = 6.076


  • One fathom = 6.076 feet (1.852 meters)

How is Fathom Calculated?

The sailors used to throw a line into the water and waited until it hit the bottom. They then pull the line back up and measure the length of the line from fingertip to fingertip. The arm span of an average sailor was 6 feet, which you already know is called a fathom.

In Conclusion

From the history and etymology of the fathom to its standard forms and method of measurement, I hope you’ve got everything cleared into your mind. It’s time for you to get the job done that you were supposed to do based on the information. Best of luck dear fellow!

PreviousWhat is Angling Fishing? Definition, Types, and Tackles Included
NextWhat Civilization Relied Heavily on Hunting and Fishing to Gather Food

Related articles

Leave a comment

0 comment