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Posted on May 24, 2012 in Next Cast
Women in Fishing: The XX Factor
by Chris Woodward
140-0808LLGF20
Stephanie Pancratz
Anglers display a few of the fish caught aboard the Big Katuna during a 2008 Ladies, Let's Go Fishing seminar in Stuart, Florida.

I grew up on salt water in Tampa, Florida. My first fishing memories involve playing with the shrimp in a bait bucket, gigging mullet and puttering down a canal with my older brother in his Orlando Clipper skiff.

I was labeled a “tomboy.” But instead of growing out of that particular phase, I grew up with it. Yes, when I started dating, moved inland and eventually married, I grew away from saltwater fishing for a time. But I am drawn to the coast. You know the feeling.

Most of my life, I’ve fished with guys. That has never bothered me, but might have bothered a few of the guys. I mean, I understand the bonding that takes place on the water. I felt some of that fishing with guys — in a global, sort of kindred-spirits way — but I definitely feel it when fishing (or hunting) with other females.

I’m thrilled when I hear about a new woman angler learning to rig her own terminal tackle, or when a seasoned female guide, and friend, releases a 10-plus-pound seatrout. This is a good thing on so many levels: Not only are women really latching on to this sport for their own enjoyment, but the sport is gaining followers. Women also raise a lot of children in a solo fashion, so it’s helping introduce our next generation to fishing.

Concurrently, all sorts of women’s fishing groups and businesses have begun to flourish during the last decade. I qualified that statement with “all sorts” because one such group, the International Women’s Fishing Association, goes back much farther than a decade — to 1955. The IWFA led the way with its tournaments, conservation efforts and focus on education through scholarships.

Four decades later, Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing — initiated in 1997 — started its own education movement, schooling novice female anglers. LLGF bridged a gap for women whose male counterparts often spent more time yelling than teaching. (That’s an interesting sociological/psychological dynamic I’m not qualified to get into, nor would I even opine.)

LLGF just held one of its “fishing universities” in Stuart, Florida, last weekend. About 60 women attended; one woman released her first-ever sailfish. A Keys’ event is planned for the fall.

Another upcoming event — June 2 — is the sixth annual Fishin’ Chix Pink Rubber Boots Fishing Rodeo out of Pensacola, Florida. Proceeds benefit the Wounded Warriors Project.

In the freshwater (and occasional saltwater) realm, especially among fly fishermen, women bond on exotic fishing adventure trips and talk about gear and fishing fashion. Check out flyfishergirl.com.

Some states even provide “outdoor woman” programs that teach everything from fishing to camping and shooting skills. Check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman courses. The FWC also holds women’s fishing clinics.

In addition, some major tackle and gear makers have released female-friendly lines of everything from rods and reels to clothing and accessories — Columbia, Ex Officio, Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops, Shakespeare, Zebco, Orvis, Guy Harvey/AFTCO, Old Harbor Outfitters and others. Other women-run retailers sell gear specifically for females, such as Reel Sassy and Reel Chick. I’d still personally like to see more serious, technical gear and more tackle created for women, but with more numbers of female anglers will come greater product range.

Women definitely approach fishing in a variety of ways. But whether you’re a hardcore angler who avoids “pink” gear or someone who’d just as soon watch birds and dolphins and occasionally catch a fish, you have sisters out there.

I’m not saying men are not welcome to this party. I enjoy fishing with the guys and learn something every time I take a trip. But often women-only events help build confidence and experience in a less-stressful environment, which then begets a woman who’s a better fishing partner in general.

Let’s spread the fun!