More females than ever are fishing for fun. But they sure do things differently.
Brace yourselves, gentlemen. You might have to jump up and smile widely while your wife, girlfriend, sister, mother, niece or daughter stops to take selfies – more often than you’d like. You also might balk at their pleasure of having caught two fish, while you’re devastated to bring home fewer than 10.
It’s all worth it. Females are fishing more than ever. That gives you more options for companionship the next time you book an excursion with a professional fishing guide, and it empowers the ladies in your life, whether they’re 6 or 60. Just know that these XX-chromosome anglers have put their own spin on spinners and such.
“About 45 percent of new anglers are female,” says Frank Peterson, Jr. “Half of those are girls ages 6 to 12. When you look at the overall fishing population, women represent only about 35 percent. Something is definitely happening there. This growth came about in just the past couple of years.”
Talk about looking at the overall fishing population: That’s Peterson’s job. As president and chief executive officer of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF), Peterson spends his days studying fishing trends and encouraging more Americans to go out on the water. He’s pleased as can be about these surging numbers in a sport traditionally dominated by members of one gender. The statistics shared here are the result of a research endeavor published by RBFF, the 2018 Special Report on Fishing.
This is an unofficial finding, but it’s clear: Many girls and women are just as driven as their XY counterparts – serious about reeling in the big ones and indifferent to social media antics like posting those selfies on Instagram. The take-away is clearly that experienced anglers, male or female, should be open to doing things differently when fishing with people new to the sport – whatever the student angler requires. Be open-minded, and you’ll all love pursuing the sport together.
While the shocking increase in females fishing is the biggest take-away from the study, Peterson marvels at a whole lot more. First and foremost is why women fish – a topic covered in a similar research project two years earlier. The No. 1. reason is to “relax and unwind,” according to the findings. That’s what 63 percent of respondents said. That response is followed by spending time in the outdoors (53.7 percent) and spending time with family and friends (42.1 percent). Let’s examine what this means: Not until No. 4 do we see catching a lot of fish as the main reason women head out onto the water. At 38 percent, that’s a whole lot different than what RBFF finds among male anglers.
“If you ask a man why he goes out fishing, he answers, ‘to catch fish (typically),’” Peterson reports. Period. “Women emphasize the social aspect instead, the conversation, the surroundings,” he observes. “It’s all about the experience for them. Catching fish is kind of secondary to that.” Men do have other impetuses, he concedes, but none is as strong as landing those fish.
Women might love fishing in increasing numbers, but they’re not so thrilled just yet with the general fishing world, it seems. “We’ve found that women don’t totally feel accepted in the fishing community,” Peterson observes. At the latest International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) trade show, RBFF had a tremendous response when it invited women anglers and their friends to an event in their trade show booth. “It struck me that we have a great opportunity to showcase what women are doing to increase participation in the sport,” he notes.
Yet once the event was over, women seemed to fade into the background. “Walking around the trade show floor, I realized that very few booths portrayed women in the actual sport of fishing at all,” he laments.
Peterson can tackle this challenge through his work – in fact, his organization’s initiative called Making Waves is aimed at empowering women and girls to go fishing.
Meanwhile, men who enjoy fishing can nurture this growing market in their own small ways, he suggests. “Fishing is fun. It’s exciting. Be inviting. Make the girls and women with you feel welcome. Bring some of their favorite beverages as well as yours. Be more aware of helping them bait the hook (if needed), and assisting as they take fish off for the first time.” In other words, be thoughtful and kind. Professional fishing guides will provide these services, of course, but be present and supportive throughout.
Go out often, too. Much like skiing, fishing “takes,” so to speak, best with repeated exposure. “Research tells us that people have more fun fishing as they become more familiar with it,” Peterson says. “The more you’re exposed to it, the better you get at it, and it takes that level of repetitiveness to get it down.”
Whatever your gender, guide the girls and women in your life to enjoy fishing, and you’ll start the reel rolling for yet more females to head to the lakes, rivers and seas. Way more than men, women anglers tend to fish more with children and to mentor them in the sport. Starting girls with lure and line young is crucial to their development, fishing-wise, Peterson points out. “As women have started to participate in fishing more, they’re mentoring younger kids more. That’s important because 94 percent of people who fish today learned to fish before the age of 18. When women act as mentors, that’s helpful for the future.” Hey guys, maybe it’s time for you to mentor girls more regularly too. Hint hint.
On a grander level, organizations such as Florida-based Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing! is all about women encouraging women to fish.
“The key to it is helpful hands, patience, fun and expertise – all the things that a good guide should offer,” Peterson says.
Whomever you are and whomever you’re mentoring, tailor your tactics to the folks you want to convert into passionate anglers, Peterson emphasizes. “Be patient. Make it fun. Enjoy the company and the outdoors. I recently read a letter from five women who took a two-hour fishing charter. They caught only eight fish and were ecstatic with the experience. That says it all, right there.”
That and, in some cases, selfies. Say cheese.
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Rona Gindin is a multimedia writer, editor and television personality covering a broad range of subjects for national and local media outlets. Working from an Orlando base, she’s Central Florida’s go-to source for information on the destination’s restaurants and attractions.
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