Updated Aug 18, 2022 3:29 PM
The best fishing shirts vary according to your fishing interests and preferred style. Other things like body size or shape and gender can also play into decision making. Much like other pieces of outdoor clothing, your final choice comes down to the intended use and in-field performance.
Since many of us enjoy getting out on the water in warmer weather we need breathable fabrics, sun protection, and coverage to fend off bugs. We chose a few of our favorites here, but we’ve also compiled some important buying considerations. That way, if you can’t find one you like on our list of the best fishing shirts, you’ll have the information you need to make a quality decision.
What to Consider Before Buying a Fishing Shirt
Before you buy any piece of clothing, especially for a specific purpose like fishing, it is helpful to do a little bit of research beforehand. With so much of our shopping being online these days, it is much easier to learn about a company’s values and clothing durability before purchasing. Outdoor clothing, in particular, should be something you can use for several years, if not your entire life. To help guide your buying decisions, read through our buying considerations below.
Shirt Type and Materials
The type of fishing shirt you choose comes down to the kind of protection you are seeking. The most significant difference between shirts is the sleeves and fabric materials.
Long sleeve shirts: Even during the hottest weather, you can benefit from the added sun protection provided by long sleeve fishing shirts. Having a shirt made from breathable materials eliminates the risk of overheating while wearing long sleeves. Many long-sleeved shirts also come with roll-up and clip options to shorten the sleeves.
Short sleeve shirts: If you prefer a little bit of sun on your skin, short sleeve shirts are an excellent option. Be aware that these will provide far less sun and bug protection. They may keep you a little cooler, but many anglers report that long sleeves keep them just as cool while providing added protection.
Beyond the sleeves, the type of shirt can also be associated with the materials themselves. Fishing shirts are almost entirely made from synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. If the shirt has a higher level of flexibility, it may contain some spandex.
While synthetic materials have excellent performance capabilities, they are all petroleum-based fibers and are among the least sustainable materials available for clothing. Some fishing shirts may be made with a blend of cotton and polyester. Although cotton is hailed as an evil fabric material for outdoor sports, blends perform far better than cotton alone.
Brands like Patagonia produce fishing shirts made from organic cotton and recycled polyester to create a product that performs just as well as competitors while reducing their impact. Be aware that when natural and synthetic fabrics are blended, they are harder to recycle effectively.
There is some traction in using plant fibers for fishing shirts, including one brand on our list, Free Fly. Free Fly makes their fishing apparel from mostly bamboo, and it is making waves in the outdoor industry with its innovative and thoughtful designs.
Sun protection: UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) is what tells you how much UV light can get through fabric and reach your skin. Think of UPF ratings similarly to the ratings on sunscreen. So, the higher the number, the better the protection. As a gauge, UPF 50 fabric is said to repel 98% of the sun’s rays.
Insect protection: the most common insect repellent clothing is treated with is permethrin. Permethrin is an insecticide that has been registered with the EPA for over 40 years and is deemed safe for use on clothing. This is intended to repel ticks and mosquitoes specifically but can also repel other types of insects. Remember that insect repellent clothing will only protect the areas covered by the clothing and may wear off over time, requiring re-treatment with a repellent.
Having long sleeves will automatically provide more protection than a short sleeve shirt. Not all materials inherently have UPF protection, though, and countless insects can bite through or crawl under clothing. Look for shirts that provide specified types of protection from these things if it is something that will increase your performance and level of comfort while fishing.
Ventilation: Since most folks fish in warm weather, ventilation is key to staying cool and comfortable when in motion. If it is a button up shirt, look for ventilation under the arms, on the upper back, and the upper chest. Additional ventilation features to look for include a mesh lining. Mesh linings prevent that fabric from sticking to your skin if you break a sweat. If it is a pull over shirt, it may not have specific mesh vents, but the material should be breathable enough to wear in hot weather.
Pockets: Most fishing shirts have at least four pockets, and you likely don’t need more than that. They’ll commonly have two larger pockets on the upper chest to hold a small fly box. Some shirts may also have two smaller pockets for other miscellaneous fishing gear. Some fishing shirts have no pockets at all and are simply intended to be sunshirts worn on the water.
Accessory loops/clips: Many shirts benefit from having a small clip or even a nylon loop near a utility pocket. An accessory loop provides additional storage for clippers, pliers, or retractable gadgets.
Rod holder: Fly fishers, in particular, appreciate having a rod holder strap to help them when they change a fly so they can avoid using just one hand. The straps usually have Velcro that straps your fly to your chest, freeing both hands to change the fly (or take a photo of your catch) without dropping your rod or fumbling too much.
The type of fishing you are doing may also influence some of the features offered. Some fishing shirts simply function as a protective layer, nothing more. Fishing shirts don’t need too many features to be functional. So, when choosing a shirt, don’t be distracted by flashy features. Instead, look at overall quality and functionality.
Still, you’ll keep all the necessities secure and safe with the right features. The best fishing shirts also tend to be the best travel shirts. Learn more about the best fishing gear for travel to prepare for your next adventure.
Why It Made The Cut: The Patagonia Island Hopper shirt is a quality design, fits well, and is relatively stylish. It is a shirt that can be worn for hiking, fishing, work, and more.
- Materials: 60% organic cotton, 40% recycled polyester blend
- Sizing: XS – 3XL
- UPF: 15
- Mix of organic and recycled materials
- Functional and lightweight design
- Thoughtful features for fishing and travel
- Available in several color options
- Somewhat slim fit although it is labeled as relaxed
Patagonia has a wide range of fishing apparel, but the Island Hopper is one of my favorites. It is an excellent choice for any water activity and is aptly named as its function in tropical climates is ideal. Though it contains 60% organic cotton within the blend, it is still a breathable and relatively quick-drying shirt.
Small details on this shirt make a big difference while you’re wearing it. For instance, the collar snaps keep the collar in place during windy conditions, and there is a hidden lens cleaner to keep your sunglasses clear all day long.
Patagonia as a brand has a long history of producing well-intentioned and durable clothing for outdoor use. While many of us might love the brand, we don’t always love the price. Luckily, Patagonia also offers used clothing sales through their Worn Wear program. That way, you get the Patagonia quality at a much lower price.
- Materials: 100% polyester
- Sizing: S – 3XL
- UPF: 50
- Flatlock seams to minimize chafing
- Great sun protection
- Versatile use
- Not as high quality as other higher end brands
It is hard to beat the BALEAF Long-Sleeve Lightweight Fishing Shirt when pairing value with performance. Unlike our top-rated fishing shirt, this one is a very simple pullover design. It functions much like a sun shirt and is extremely versatile. It works flawlessly for fishing, but you can also enjoy this shirt while hiking, running, and beyond.
The polyester fabric provides a lightweight, breathable, and fast-drying experience for optimal comfort no matter the activity. The flatlock seams extend around the shirt and are included in the crew neck collar. It also features an intentional Raglan style sleeve to provide a better range of motion in the shoulders, which is great for fishing.
One stand-out feature of this affordable fishing shirt is its 50+ UPF rating. So, even on the hottest days, you can feel protected from the sun without worrying about reapplying sunscreen all day long. The only real downside to any budget buy is that it won’t necessarily be as high quality as other brands. You are getting a great value here for the price, but the shirt may not last as long or fit quite as well as something like a Columbia fishing shirt.
Best Short Sleeve
Why It Made the Cut: The World Wild Sportsman Angler short sleeve fishing shirt is a practical and affordable option that provides simple organization and breathability.
- Materials: 100% nylon
- Sizing: S – 4XL
- UPF: 30-40+
- Features for organization
- Ventilation cape in back
- Easy upkeep
- Cut is small and the sizing can be off
Another affordable fishing shirt option is the World Wild Sportsman Angler 2.0 Short Sleeve fishing shirt. Although it has short sleeves, it does have some UPF protection., though the UPF rating is different for the different color options available on this shirt. The blue tide and tan shirts have a UPF rating of 30+ while the other colors have a 40+ rating.
The pockets, ventilation, and other features are excellent for a sturdy little fishing shirt. You’ll have plenty of space for all the necessities, and there is a rod loop as well. It is made only of nylon, which is durable and quick drying.
The only built-in ventilation is on the back of the shirt. So, unlike some other shirts, it may not be quite as breathable since it doesn’t have underarm or front vents. Overall, for the price, this is a great value. Just be careful when you’re choosing a size, because they run a bit small.
Best for Men
Why It Made the Cut: The Free Fly Bamboo Shade Hoodie is a simple fishing shirt that packs a big punch in performance with 50+ UPF protection, ample breathability, and excellent fabric stretch.
- Materials: 68% Viscose from bamboo, 29% polyester, 3% Spandex
- Sizing: S – 3XL
- UPF: 50+
- Four-way stretch fabric
- Soft and comfortable
- Made from mostly plants
- Top of the line customer service
- Hood can get in the way when it is windy
- No pockets
The Free Fly Bamboo Shade Hoodie is one of many amazing products designed by this brand. What is unique about this fishing shirt is that it is made primarily of bamboo. It is blended with some synthetics, which improve durability and stretch, but it is nice to see outdoor brands moving into utilizing more natural fibers without having to compromise performance.
There are no pockets on these fishing shirts, but they feature a hood and thumb loops on the sleeves. The hood can be a pro or a con pending personal preference, as the hood can get in the way when fishing on windy waters. The pro of the hood is that it adds more sunshade protection for your head, neck, and ears.
You don’t have to worry about getting wet in this shirt either. Although primarily made from bamboo, it is still quick-drying and lightweight. Be sure to take note of the care instructions before washing this shirt so you can help keep it in good condition for many years to come. As a side note, this can make an excellent gift for men in your life if you need a practical and useful gift.
Best for Women
Why It Made the Cut: The Columbia PFG Lo Drag Long Sleeve Shirt for women is a thoughtfully designed fishing shirt that fits women’s bodies well and is built to keep you cool all day long.
- Materials: Omni-Wick™ 100% polyester ripstop
- Sizing: XS – XXL
- UPF: 40
- Desinged specifically for women
- Made with ripstop fabric
- Antimicrobial treatment preventing odors
- Sizing can be off between other Columbia brand shirt styles
The Columbia PFG Lo Drag Long Sleeve Women’s Shirt is a technical button-down fishing shirt for women. It has all the bells and whistles you’re looking for in a fishing shirt, but with the perk of being made for women. It fits pretty well without being too tight or form-fitting.
You have complete UPF protection with a rating of 40, long sleeves, and a collar. If you’re not feeling long sleeves that day, this shirt is also designed with roll-up sleeves and clasps to secure them. Older versions of this shirt may have been made of nylon, and I’m not sure when the switch to polyester happened. Still, the shirt is made of ripstop fabric, making it quite durable, but older versions may have been more sturdy and breathable than this one.
The combination of the Omni-Wick™ and antimicrobial fabric treatment also makes for an excellent travel shirt that you can wear for extended trips. That way, your shirt dries quickly, but the antimicrobial treatment prevents odors from building up.
How We Made Our Picks
Choosing the best fishing shirt is much like choosing any other piece of outdoor clothing. First, I like to start with the intended use and then branch into the sustainability and functionality of that specific item. When it comes to clothing, that is determined by the materials used and the manufacturing processes.
Specific considerations that helped me choose the best fishing shirts were:
- Function: Does this shirt fit my personal needs? Will it work for the type of fishing or the activity I am pursuing? What features are included? Does it have ample ventilation and protection?
- Durability: Is it made from durable, long-lasting materials? Could I categorize this as fast fashion, or is it made via quality and ethical means? Will this shirt last me several seasons or years of use? Can the shirt be repaired?
- Sustainability: Does the company value sustainability? Are their claims backed up by transparent explanations and third-party certifications? What is the impact of this shirt as it moves through its life cycle, including the afterlife?
Other considerations, including recommendations, personal experience with textiles, verified customer reviews, and company-specific research, also influenced decisions.
Q: What is a good fishing shirt?
A good fishing shirt offers appropriate comfort, protection, and functionality. Most high-quality fishing shirts are made from quick-drying, breathable materials. Button up shirts will have anywhere from 2 to 6 pockets and additional features that provide more organization as you fish. Pull over shirts should have high levels of sun protection. In either case, a good fishing shirt should also be durable enough to last you several years of use.
Q: How much does a fishing shirt cost?
How much a fishing shirt cost is related to the quality and ethics of the clothing company. Fishing shirts range in price from $15 – $100+ with many well-known brands selling shirts for around $45-90.
Q: What is special about a fishing shirt?
What is special about fishing shirts can be boiled down to the ventilation, sun protection, and pocket systems they offer. The materials will be quick-drying, offer sun protection, and are exceptionally breathable. If so equipped, the pockets need to be designed to hold tackle and other on the water necessities.
Q: What is the difference between UPF and SPF?
The difference between UPF and SPF is that UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) measures how much UV radiation can move through the fabric and reach your skin. Then, SPF (sun protection factor) is based on how long it takes UV-exposed skin to burn or become red. Additionally, only UPF measures both UVA and UVB penetration. The higher the number for both UPF and SPF, the better protection you’ll have.
Q: Is it better to wear long sleeves or short sleeves while fishing?
It is usually better to wear long sleeves while fishing. Long sleeve fishing shirts provide several protective benefits from sun exposure, insects, aquatic creatures, and poisonous plants. Some people may prefer short sleeves while fishing though, so it often comes down to personal preference.
Finding the best fishing shirt isn’t all that hard when you know what to look for and how you plan to use it. There are not many fishing shirt options available made from plant fibers, so if you are looking for a more sustainable option, the best you can do right now is look for those made from recycled materials. Overall, the best fishing shirts provide optimal comfort, protection, and functionality while fishing and are durable enough to use for years to come.