Women in fishing: Can we increase the number of female anglers?
18th May 2022 Elena Manighetti
While we're now used to see female anglers on social media (think of Instagram), spotting a woman out on the water fishing isn’t very common - especially one who’s in the company of a female friend. In a world where equal opportunities and feminism are finally taking off and gaining momentum, why are there still few female anglers out there?
To shed some light on the matter, we interviewed five contributors to the Fishraider forum and asked them about their fishing stories, as well as what they think of the lack of women out on the water. We also share the best ways to get into recreational fishing. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, read on.
How five female anglers got into fishing
Meet our five compelling interviewees - Sally, Mel, Tara, Amy, and Kim. Each of these strong women has a unique fishing story, but they all share their deep love for angling and the ocean.
Sally Shepherd is 54 and is based in Willoughby, Sydney (Australia). “I caught my first fish in Nambucca Heads on a weekend away with our next-door neighbours when I was 8 years old,” recalls Sally. “40 years later, I ran into that same neighbour’s son; we fell in love, moved in together, and I started making up for the lack of fishing in those 40 years. His obsession never wavered and mine was ignited.” She adds: “Now I wake up to fishing shows most weekends and our mission each week is getting all chores and social things done, so we can fish!”
Sally says: “We get to [our Caribbean 28 - Sambuca] every single weekend for fishing, relaxing, kayaking, and enjoying Sydney’s waterways.” Her favourite species to catch are trevally. “They put up such a good fight and are also good-eating,” comments Sally. She hopes to try out freshwater fishing soon.
Amy Irvine is 41 and lives in the Mid North Coast of New South Wales (Australia). Amy met her husband, David Irvine - a Deckee ambassador - in her late thirties. She had never fished before, while he was a keen fisho. Amy explains: “One day I mentioned [to David] I was interested and wanted to have a go. He was happy to oblige. Before long, fishing became a passion, and I became very competitive fast.”
The angler only uses lures because she enjoys the challenge. She gets out on her kayak and on the couple’s boat - a Quintrex 420 Renegade - regularly. Amy enjoys fishing for bream and flathead in salt water, and bass, murray cod, and trout in freshwater.
Mel Spikes, 34, from Sydney (Australia) is a passionate angler who shares her fishing tips and tricks on social media through her Facebook page and Instagram profile. Mel’s father and uncle used to take her out fishing when she was a kid. The two men had “all the gear and no idea”, yet she always managed to catch something, to everyone’s surprise. As Mel grew up, she went fishing with a female friend from a tinnie once a month or so.
“I then noticed that the marina [where they hired the tinnie] had a little half cabin. I got the courage to hire it myself. From this moment, in 2017, I started renting it every fortnight and then weekly,” says Mel.
The 34-year-old taught herself how to target different species on the George’s River until she decided to buy her own boat - a Quintrex Top Ender. “I’m onto my second boat, a Haines Signature 543SF, now and fish solo 99% of the time, every weekend and all my spare time,” she says. Her favourite species are kingfish, snapper, and squid. Mel’s dream is to work full-time in the fishing industry and travel the world to test new products, while inspiring other women to get out on the water.
Kim Cumiskey is 65 and lives on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland (Australia). She started fishing in her forties, encouraged by her husband. Over the 20 years they spent fishing, they bought 10 boats. The couple currently own a 3.5 tinnie. They travel on their caravan with a fold-up trailer or on their truck, which has a boat loader. Kim and her husband recently retired and are planning to go on longer fishing trips, lasting about 3 months, soon.
Kim’s all-time favourite fish are flathead and whiting, but she also “loved the thrill of catching [her] first big mackerel and cod.” Her preferred fishing spots are Urunga and Evans Head in New South Wales, and Miara and Jacobs Well in Queensland.
Tara is 35 years old and is based in Sydney (Australia). She took up fishing at 5, when going on camping trips with her family. She says that her “uncle worked for a fishing trawler and was a keen fisher. Everything he did, [she] wanted to do. If he was up early to go for a fish, so was [she].“ As Tara got older, she recounts that she “would ride [her] bike with [her] rod, tackle box, and a bag of prawns from Caringbah down to Lilli Pilli Point (Sydney) during the school holidays and fish all along the baths.”
Things took off from there. “Once I found Fishraider, my fishing went up a notch, with so much invaluable information.” She continues: “This is where I met Stewy, who took me out on his boat and taught me the art of fishing with lures,” tells Tara. She now enjoys fishing regularly, especially with her kids. On the 35-year-old’s bucket list is hooking a 1m (3.3ft) barramundi.
Why should women go fishing?
Fishing is a fantastic pastime because of many reasons - it’s a way to relieve stress, bond with other people, increase self-esteem, and more. Sally says: “I fish because it’s a very peaceful hobby; it’s quite meditative to watch the end of the rod for that wonderful bounce.”
Kim loves “the anticipation of the bite on the line. It’s like someone playing the horses waiting for that big win at the finish line.”
Tara finds fishing “peaceful and relaxing. It clears your mind. You get a rush of adrenaline when you hook up to something big.”
Amy says: “To me, fishing is not just about the fish. It’s about spending time and sharing a hobby with my husband and family, the incidental exercise, enjoying the outdoors, the adventure of exploring a new location, unwinding, and the thrill of catching a new species.“
As Mel beautifully puts it: “Being out on the ocean is freedom. Everything we deal with on land disappears and we are met with the peace and serenity of nature.”
It’s also important to note how fishing puts you more in touch with nature and, in particular, with your local waterways. Spending time by the shore or on a boat allows you to see the damage human pollution is inflicting on our oceans first-hand.
Understanding fishing regulations, such as what time of year you can target a certain species, will open your eyes to the reality of the current situation. This in turn helps you become more environmentally conscious in your day-to-day life.
Why there aren’t many female anglers out there
Most of the Australian anglers we interviewed agree on the lack of women out fishing. “It’s extremely rare to see female anglers. I actually don’t think I have ever seen one solo,” comments Mel. Tara agrees - she doesn’t see many women fishing and when she does, they are with a male partner.
Sally knows two female anglers. “I have a good friend, Vicki, who is an award-winning marlin fisherwoman, and she promotes fishing to lots of women”. Another friend of hers learned how to fish from her father.
Kim, on the other hand, reports that: “I do see a lot of women fishing with their partners in Miara. [However,] I noticed, when I went on two charters up north, I was the only female amongst five guys - they were awesome, though.” Kim also says: “I’ve asked a few women [why they don’t fish] when we travel and they said they have other interests.”
Amy admits that: “In recent times, I have started to see more women out fishing, but it’s still predominantly more men than women.“ It’s all about “the old ‘boys’ trip out on the water’.”
Mel thinks that fishing is still largely seen as “a man’s hobby,” as it can be dangerous and hard. The 34-year-old explains that her family were very against her fishing, as they found the ocean and boat ramps dangerous places for girls. She adds that, because of this, “many women may not realise they have automatically placed themselves in the ‘I can’t do that because society says so’ category. It’s totally not true.” Women are perfectly capable of developing the physical strength and skills to take a boat out and go fishing.
So there seems to be some women anglers out there, but not as many as there are men. Tara speculates that lots of women have too many priorities to dedicate time to fishing, which can be time-consuming. Sally instead reveals: “I honestly think they just haven’t tried it yet, because it really is quite addictive.” How we get into a hobby isn’t important, as long as we do enjoy it with or without a partner.
Fishing classes might also help increase the number of women out on the water, according to Sally. “It’s really helpful to have someone who knows about fishing show you how to rig up your rod and what equipment to use.” Not everyone knows an angler.
Sally says: “I think people would be surprised by how much fun it can be and how physical it is when you have a big fish on the end [of your rod] - you really get out of breath and your arms ache - but the great thing is you can just pop your rod in the holder, sit back and relax.”
How women can get into fishing
It can be daunting to find out how to start angling on your own. Mel recommends to: “Start slow on land in a safe area, research what you are planning to do, and watch or read a lot of content about fishing techniques and the environment you plan to fish in.” You can find this information online or on physical fishing guides. You aren’t completely alone, though. Local tackle shop owners and fellow anglers are usually happy to share their advice. When you feel ready, you can hire a tinnie or a kayak and head out by boat, too. Don’t forget to get your licences first, though.
Alternatively, Mel says you could “get onto charters - the organisers are professionals who know what they are doing and thrive on teaching the eager.” On such a trip you will fish day and night, so you will learn a lot in a short space of time. You can then go practice what you’ve been taught over weeks and months.
Kim says you can “learn as you go - that’s where the fun is: when you’ve conquered something you never thought you could.” The most important thing, according to Tara, is to: “just get out there and do it.” Amy also advises watching some beginner fishing videos on YouTube.
And if you’d rather find a mentor, Mel suggests to “use social media to find like-minded fishing friends - we are always happy to help however possible.” Use hashtags and picture locations on Instagram to find fellow anglers in your area. You can connect via private message to organise a meet-up.
If you prefer Facebook, look for local fishing groups and start getting involved in their conversations. Social media is a fantastic source of inspiration and empowerment for women considering getting into fishing. Joining a forum, such as Fishraider, is also a great way into the community.
Sally recounts: “I always remember a question I came across in Trivial Pursuit which was – what is the most popular sport in Australia? The answer is fishing, and I used to be very surprised. Now that I’m an angler I’m much more aware of how many people fish – we just need more females to get involved!”
According to the 2021 Special Report On Fishing, the number of women anglers increased by 10% between 2019 and 2020 in the USA - an encouraging figure.
* Remember to wear a life jacket when you’re out fishing, especially when underway and when fighting strong fish. Always share a float plan with a friend or family member. If you can, avoid getting on a boat solo.