How do you shatter fishing gender stereotypes? Based on my experience, it’s a lot simpler than you might imagine. In fact, I don’t think much about participating in a sport that is primarily male dominated. That’s probably because my grandfather had me dropping a line off of a fishing pier when I was just about 5 years old. He put a Snoopy Zebco fishing rod in my hand and set a coffee can full of wiggling earthworms down right next to me.
There was never really any question or second thought about it. My grandmother would go out on the boat with my grandfather to catch muskellunge and walleye, so fishing was never tied to gender in our family. It was simply something we all did and enjoyed.
It wasn’t until I reached my teen and young adult years, that I became aware of some of the fishing gender stereotypes. Although, the fact of the matter is, whether you are male or female in this industry, you earn respect through two things – your knowledge and your skill set. Sure, there are plenty of anglers who (as with any other sport) may be in it for the wrong reasons, or who don’t take it seriously. However, if you truly know the sport, and can speak intelligently about it, you won’t have to worry too much about overcoming stereotypes.
As a female in this sport, you need to realize that people will ask you questions. They will test you, and you better be prepared for it! I quickly realized that if I wanted to be respected as an angler, it was up to me to earn that respect by becoming as knowledgeable as I could. Beyond that, I didn’t want to have to rely on anyone else when it came to doing something I was so passionate about. The best advice I can offer to other women who want to get into the sport is quite simple. Learn how to tie your own knots, take your own fish off the hook, fix your own reels, and launch your own boat. Once you start doing these things, you’ll earn respect.
Knowledge Is Power
When I was a young adult, I thought I knew a whole a lot more than I actually did. My range of fishing experience was pretty much limited to live bait because my grandfather fished as a way of putting food on the table. However, I did have an incredible desire to learn as much as I could about the sport, and once I started utilizing the right resources to build upon my knowledge, things started to happen for me.
One of the best things about fishing, in my opinion, is that there is always more you can learn. This is precisely why I continue to be passionate about the sport. I’ve been quite fortunate to have some fantastic mentors guiding me along the way. Author and fly casting instructor Joe Mahler has been one of those mentors. Joe has not only taught me how to be a better fly angler, but I’ve also learned a great deal from him about fish handling, respecting our waterways, and the importance of becoming educated on conservation-related matters.
These days, I rarely fish with live bait. I much prefer the challenge of catching a fish on my fly rod or by using different types of artificial lures. In addition, I give much more thought to how my catches are handled, and consider the example I may be setting for others (including the next generation of anglers).
This sport has seen me through some incredibly tough times… the loss of loved ones, divorce, career changes, self-esteem issues, and health challenges. Through it all, fishing has brought my family and I together across generations and genders. My nephew, sister-in-law, mother, and father – we all enjoy the sport. Gender never plays a role. Fishing is actually a great unifier in our family.
The moment we realize that this sport isn’t about our gender, but about our skills, we are headed in the right direction. True empowerment requires work. It means continual learning in addition to solo time spent on the water. If you genuinely want to learn how to fish, stop waiting for someone to ask you to go fishing, stop waiting for someone to take you. With resources like Finygo, you have the information at your fingertips. It’s up to you what you do with it.
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning writer and avid angler who lives in Fort Myers, Florida. Debbie writes for publications such as USA Today Hunt & Fish and BoatUS Magazine. She is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA). Visit her personal blog at http://shefishes2.com/ and follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/shefishes2