For ages, recreational fishing has been considered a male-dominated activity. Just a few decades ago, seeing a woman fishing on her own would have raised a few eyebrows, for sure. But not anymore. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a remarkable country-wide trend taking place. More women are casting their lines than ever before, and are becoming down-right amazing at it, too. This wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for some exceptional ladies to pave the way. Today, we’re honoring these female anglers.
The ladies we’re going to mention have been making big waves in the fishing community. They have been promoting sustainable recreational fishing, and providing a great source of fishing knowledge, especially for first-time women anglers. We sat down with a couple of these pioneering ladies to ask them to share their unique perspectives on what it’s like to be a woman angler.
Captain Debbie Hanson is an award winning author, a vocal women’s sportfishing advocate, an IGFA world record holder and a renowned freshwater fishing guide based out of Estero, Florida. Debbie also runs a website providing “fishing resources and tips for the empowered female angler.” Her writing is a true gold mine of angling knowledge, so if you’re serious about improving your fishing game, Captain Debbie should be your go-to source. You can follow Captain Debbie on Instagram and Facebook.
Yvonne Brown is recognized as one of the most influential fishing women in North America. Her father taught her how to fish at an early age, but it wasn’t until later in life that Yvonne developed a true passion for the sport. Yvonne is the creator of the “Fishing 101 for Women” program. The program is delivered through the Ontario Women Anglers organization, and it offers seminars, fishing opportunities, and instructions for women who are interested in learning the basics of recreational angling. You can follow OWA on Instagram and Facebook.
FB: What drew you to fishing and what made you fall in love with the sport?
Debbie: I was introduced to fishing by my grandfather when I was five or six years old. For me, fishing was a way to spend some quality time outdoors, bonding with my family. But it grew to become something much bigger. The more time I spent on the water, the more I realized that fishing could provide me with both emotional fulfillment and a sense of learning and personal growth. Fishing is a lifelong learning experience. Whether it’s perfecting a technique, going for a different species, or exploring a new fishery, every day can bring something unexpected. Conquering these challenges is truly empowering.
Yvonne: I first got into fishing as a child, however, it wasn’t until later in life that I truly got involved with the sport. I got reintroduced to fishing as a young adult by my father. I also had a buddy from my local badminton club to mentor me. This is when I started to enjoy myself on the water, exploring the techniques, learning to recognize the species, etc. I can’t say enough about the importance of mentors for fishing, and for anything else in life. Fishing gives me a chance to de-stress, to meet new people, and to be out in the open.
Women in Recreational Fishing
FB: What do you think the main benefits of fishing are for women?
Debbie: I don’t think that the joy of fishing is gender specific. Men and women enter the sport for the same reasons – to experience comradery, to enjoy the outdoors, and to have fun. I do see a difference in the way women approach fishing, though. Women tend to be detail oriented, and they are more involved in the process of fishing, as opposed to just focusing on the end result.
Yvonne: Modern women have a lot on their plate. Apart from escaping their everyday hassle, fishing gives women a great opportunity to make new friends and build up their confidence. We have a lot of single moms attending our courses, and you can see the comradery and just the sense of empowerment they get from fishing.
Female Anglers in Numbers
A recent report by Outdoor Industry Association revealed some interesting data about the recreational fishing industry. Out of 49.1 million Americans who went fishing in 2018, 34% were women. That means that 16 million women anglers cast their lines at least once last year. While this may sound like a lot, as many as 42% of women who tried fishing for the first time never came back to it.
FB: Why do you think the churn rate for female anglers is so high?
Debbie: I think that a big reason for this is that women are not seeing themselves as a part of the sport. For the longest time, you couldn’t see a woman featured in a fishing magazine or a local tackle shop… Things have started to change, though. I hope women will start to feel more and more welcome as a result.
Yvonne: I think that women can sometimes feel as if they aren’t given enough of a chance to participate. A lot of first-time women anglers come fishing with their boyfriends or husbands, who sometimes just demonstrate how to fish, without actually giving their girlfriends and wives enough time to try it. A no-stupid-questions attitude and good mentoring are key. It’s ok to make mistakes, and beginners should be given plenty of room to learn from them.
Considering that 94% of people who fish today learned to fish before the age of 18, good mentorship certainly seems to be a key factor.
Women Fishing Competitively
FB: Do you think that gender categories for fishing tournaments are a good thing?
Debbie: I’m fine with both approaches, as long as women can feel encouraged and supported. One argument I can think of for having a separate women’s category is that it would give women a sense that they are fishing together. Women feel more comfortable around each other, so this might encourage them to compete more.
Yvonne: That depends on the type of tournament. Categories make sense for a “Gals and Pals” type of tournament where separate categories might even bolster companionship between anglers. But other than that, having one category doesn’t bother me, anglers are anglers.
Moments to Remember
FB: What is your all-time favorite catch?
Debbie: My all-time favorite? Hmm… It would have to be the wild Brown Trout I got on the fly in New Zealand. The fish wasn’t that big at all, but the overall experience of fishing in a completely foreign environment, using very light leaders was something completely different and unique. The steep rocky banks made it tricky for casting at times, but it only added to the sense of accomplishment in the end.
Yvonne: I can’t say I can single out any particular catch. My favorite moments though, the ones I enjoy the most, are when I see people I’ve taught catch their first or their biggest fish. Sharing those memorable experiences with people is incredibly rewarding for me.
Our hats are also off to:
If there ever was a woman to embody the spirit of fishing it would be April Vokey. Her infectious love for the sport has inspired thousands to grab a rod and learn the ropes of fishing. A British Columbia native, April has been fishing since she was a toddler. After discovering a passion for fly fishing in her late teens, April soon dedicated her entire life to the pursuit. Today, she is one of the most respected experts in the field, with a podcast followed by fly anglers around the world. You can follow April on Instagram and Facebook.
Cindy “Sid” Nguyen is a Texas native who’s been fishing the Gulf Coast ever since she could hold a rod. She is an inshore expert and, according to many, the authority when it comes to catching Redfish along the Texan coast. You can spot Sid on her kayak, stalking Reds, Trout, and Flounder. If you don’t catch Sid in Texas, that probably means that she’s chasing her other passion – exploring some of the most exotic fisheries around the world. You can follow Sid on her travels on her Instagram and Facebook.
Valentine Thomas has quickly become a big name in the recreational fishing industry. This spearfishing adventurer is famous for her daredevil encounters with some of the most daunting fish on the planet. As she likes to say: “I was a certified lawyer in Canada and worked in finance in London for six years. I quit my well-paid job in London to live a simple life and to spread the word about eating responsibly.” Valentine runs a blog on sustainable fishing, travel, and outdoor cooking. She is also a motivational speaker and a TV host. You can follow Valentine’s inspirational content on Instagram and Facebook.
As we witness women finding a bigger and bigger role in fishing, we can’t help but feel excited. Not only will our sport grow, but we can expect to see a whole new wave of ideas and innovations with it. New friendships will be made, and old ones deepend. Let’s go fishing!
What are the main benefits of fishing for women in your opinion? Who inspired you to get into fishing? Let us know in the comments below.