fish or cut bait

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fish or cut bait (third-person singular simple present fishes or cuts bait, present participle fishing or cutting bait, simple past and past participle fished or cut bait)

  1. (idiomatic) To make a decision, especially after a period of delay; to either take action now or forgo the opportunity.
    It's time to fish or cut bait: either we buy this house now, or we must start looking for another one.
    • 1898 May 18, "Merritt's Request for More Men," The Day (USA), p. 4 (retrieved 15 Jan 2012):
      The admiral . . . may stay in the bay and keep approaches to the city of Manila tightly closed for a long time to come, until perhaps some demand from the governments of Europe that the United States fish or cut bait comes in such shape that it must be heeded.
    • 1923 July 28, "Hylan Will Fight Subway Petition with one of his Own," New York Times (retrieved 15 Jan 2012):
      "The Mayor cannot straddle this question any longer—he must either fish or cut bait."
    • 1966 March 25, "Colleges: New Name on Wellesley's Door," Time:
      "One of the attributes of an administrator is his ability to stick his neck out, to open his mouth and say something, to decide what side of the fence he is on and to take a stand there, to fish or cut bait, to put up or shut up," she says.
    • 2002, W. E. B. Griffin, Special Ops, →ISBN, online edition:
      “She told him fish or cut bait. Her and the kid, or him and the Army. He chose the Army.”


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