History tells us that women have been fishing just as long as men. Yet history also tells us that women have not had the same recognition as men in the sport. Relegated to the sidelines, only able to fish on “ladies’ days” or banned from fishing competitions altogether. Women were not considered equals.
Luckily, the majority of these discriminations are in the past due to a small community of lady anglers who recognized the inequalities in the industry and took action. Their goal, to create the changes they wanted to see.
That community of lady anglers has continued to grow. Now, more and more women are participating in fishing and outdoor activities. Yet the ratio of women to men who fish is still very small.
From the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation survey conducted in 2016: women ages 16 and above make up only about 27% of the total number of people who fish.
women ages 16 and above make up only about 27% of the total number of people who fish.
In order to increase that percentage, lady anglers all over the world are creating awareness. Additionally, they are building community and uniting resources so that inspiring lady anglers. The focus is to encourage, support and provide the knowledge they need to be successful in fishing.
Women Making Waves In Professional Fishing.
Nikki Jo Hatten, the RNAngler (a play on her full-time job as a nurse and her second passion—angling), is using social media to share her love of fishing and to make other women aware that they can fish just as well, if not better, than men. “Social media and networking are game-changers,” Nikki Jo said.
“Fishing is a sport that women are equally equipped for…and more women need to see that.” Nikki Jo is an even rarer breed amongst women anglers in that she fishes competitively.
Nikki Jo’s presence on Facebook and Instagram as the RNAngler is showing other women that fishing competitively isn’t just a man’s world anymore. She’s setting an example for other women to follow and influencing them to get involved in tournaments. “By showing [other women] how far some women are getting in the competitive bass world, I think it will let them know,
‘Hey, I can do that, too! She did!’” Nikki Jo said. She’s constantly posting updates on her tournament schedule, has sponsored product giveaways and networks relentlessly to connect with other women in the fishing world.
She only sees room for improvement and is hopeful that her presence on social media is paving the way for other women in competitive fishing. “I look forward to the coming years of competitive fishing and what it holds for us ladies,” she said.
The Fishing Community Is Listening
But, because women in competitive fishing are so rare, there is not yet a robust community of women to share information, and this is one thing Stacy Fretina, another competitive angler, is changing.
She feels a large support network of female anglers will increase the number of women who qualify in tournaments. “In all fishing tournaments I fish, [men] share information with each other. Very few men share fishing spots and information with the lady anglers.
With very few lady anglers for help and advice, I see women giving up and not able to commit to more tournaments,” she said. Showing other women that it’s possible to become a pro despite some of these challenges is what drives Stacy.
And her drive paid off. Stacy has the honor of the first woman to be invited to participate in a new reality-based televised fishing tournament called the Elite Fishing League.
She’s not only the first woman to be invited, she is also the only woman featured on the TV series, fishing against 14 male competitors.
Her presence in the TV show lays the groundwork for more lady anglers to be included in the future. And, like Nikki Jo, she does her share on social media to build the community of support for women anglers all around the world. She shares her stories on Facebook and Instagram at Stacy_Fretina_Fishing.
Connecting To A Wider Audience
Another popular media outlet that some of these influencers are using are podcasts. Angie Scott, along with co-host Barb Carey, put out The Woman Angler and Adventurer podcast to inspire women who have a passion for outdoor activities to do more, connect more, and, perhaps most importantly, share more.
They want women to teach and learn from each other, and, from that, they hope more women will get involved in outdoor activities. “It’s an uphill grind, but we’ll get there!” Angie said. And it seems they are getting there.
Reviews from listeners are nothing but glowing and show that the podcast is inspiring action. Listener Wendy Lister wrote, “I’ve been fishing exactly twice in my life…[Angie] has an amazing voice, and it is transcendent to listen to someone talk about their passion. It’s working because I’m developing an inexplicable desire to give fishing another go.”
But, it’s not just listeners who think the podcast is good; fellow communications professionals and associations have taken notice of the impact the podcast is making.
The Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers found The Woman Angler and Adventurer podcast so good, in fact, they awarded it three awards at the 2019 Awards-in-Craft for Excellence in the Outdoors Industry. Currently, Angie and Barb release one episode per week on Tuesdays, but soon they will release a new episode on Fridays, as well.
They agree that the more information that’s geared towards women that’s out there, the better.
Women In Fishing, A Growing Trend
Again, awareness is key in growing women’s participation in this sport, be it for recreation or for competition. Wanda Stewart is one lady angler who did not grow up fishing. She did find it later in life and has since made it her mission to spread the fishing-love as much as she can.
She said, “It’s never too late in life to reinvent yourself or chase your dream. Sportfishing has become my life. Helping other women get onboard is a no brainer.” She has manifested her dream of sharing her passion for fishing in a few ways.
One is that she found, Fish Louisiana with Wanda Stewart, where she connects people who want to fish in Louisiana with guides. Another is that she became co-owner of RodnReel.com, which provides fishing reports, tide, and solunar data.
And yet another way she’s sharing information is that she’ll be launching a podcast and blog about fishing directed at lady anglers in 2020 called Rod ‘n Reel Girls Talk Fishing. Wanda is certainly doing as much as she can to make it be known that women are welcome in fishing.
Other Challenges Women Face In Fishing
Making it be known that women are fishing, are good at it and are welcome in the sport is one challenge. However, there are some practical challenges, as well.
One challenge, particularly in the fly-fishing world, is clothing and gear. Properly fitting chest waders designed specifically for women, to be exact.
In the past, women were forced to buy waders designed for men, whose physique is typically opposite of a women’s. Women’s hips are wider than men’s, and women’s torsos are narrower than men’s. Try fitting into a piece of clothing that’s designed for exactly the opposite body shape. Now try fishing all day with it on.
Kimberly Ranalla saw an opportunity to address this after talking to her daughter and other female anglers. The problem: they could only buy garments designed for men that were ill-fitting and unstylish.
So in 2018, Kimberly started Miss Mayfly, a company that designs chest waders specifically for women’s body shapes. As well as a focus on foot/bootie size.
“It took a woman to understand what women need,” she said. Miss Mayfly offers slim, curvy, full and plus sizes, all of which have three different bootie sizes to choose from. It’s obvious to Kimberly and the staff at Miss Mayfly just how underserved women are in the gear industry when they sold out of their first production run very quickly.
Miss Mayfly is working on another production cycle, and the waders will be for sale again soon.
The World Of Women’s Fishing Is Just Beginning
The women highlighted here are just a few of those who are out there creating awareness. Even more, they are building community and encouraging more women into the world of fishing.
Other lady anglers, like Ronnee Klinger, Nicole Foor, Nikki Hames, Melissa Maguire Larson, and Laura Cairns McKnight, are each doing their part to encourage more women to fish.
We thank them for their contribution to helping shape this article. These ladies are the wave-makers, boat-rockers, and disrupters in the world of women’s fishing. All of them exude excitement and positivity when you talk to them about fishing.
All they want is for more women to feel the freedom from everyday life. To feel the connection to nature, the pure fun, thrills, and excitement that fishing provides.
And with what they are doing to make other women aware of all that goodness, the number of women who fish will only continue to increase.
Resources mentioned in this article and more for women anglers:
Nikki Jo Hatten: Facebook and Instagram
Stacy Fretina: Facebook and Instagram
Angie Scott: The Woman Angler and Adventurer
Wanda Stewart: Fish Louisiana with Wanda Stewart and RodnReel.com
Kimberly Ranalla: Miss Mayfly
Ladies Let’s Go Fishing
Indiana Bass N Gals
Gateway Bass N Gals
Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation Making Waves
Lady Bass Anglers Association
International Women’s Fishing Association
Wisconsin Women Fish
The Women Ice Angler Project
Orvis 50/50 On the Water Project