Female anglers are hooked on the sport.
Have you noticed more female anglers on the water and around the docks lately? If so, you’re probably not alone. Surveys show more women are fishing these days—quite a few more, in fact. Female anglers are increasingly making a mark in the American fishing scene.
Statistics Highlighting the Rise
According to the Special Report on Fishing released at the 2022 ICAST fishing exposition by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) in collaboration with the Outdoor Foundation, women now make up 37 percent of the fishing force in America with 19.4 million fishing in 2021, the latest year for which statistics are available. That’s an 8 percent increase in female fishing outings since 2019, with 1.6 million fishing for the first time. These numbers show a promising rise in female angler participation.
Participation has seen a slow upward trend in recent years and was likely accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic as families turned to outdoors activities that dovetailed with social distancing practices. At this point, however, fishing industry experts seem to agree that women participating has clearly reached significant levels with outings for female anglers hitting an impressive 288 million trips in 2021.
Empowering New Entrants: Ladies Let’s Go Fishing
Organizations like ‘Ladies Let’s Go Fishing’ (LLGF) play a vital role in supporting and empowering female anglers. “No doubt I’m seeing more women fishing these days,” says Betty Bauman, founder of LLGF, a Florida nonprofit organization dedicated to attracting women and families to the sport while encouraging conservation and responsible angling.
“We offer a ‘No-Yelling School of Fishing’ where women learn about the sport without being intimidated or embarrassed by their lack of knowledge when starting out,” says Bauman. “We conduct weekend, immersion-based educational programs with classroom presentations, hands-on practice, networking, and an option to fish from boats or land depending on the venue. No equipment or experience is necessary to join the fun.”
The organization has seen more than 9,000 women pass through its ranks since 1997, and Bauman believes the rise in women anglers is reflected in those attending LLGF events. “Absolutely there’s demand, but there are still barriers too,” she says. “The sport has specific terminology and equipment participants must understand and learn how to use. That’s why we teach the basics like tying knots, choosing lures, and how to operate a reel. We’re seeing a very diverse group of new recruits that slices through all backgrounds and age levels.”
Veteran Voices: Challenges & Triumphs of Female Anglers
Bauman believes viewing other women catching fish on social media platforms and a growing confidence in seeking what they want from life in general helps spur female entry into the sport. Capt. Janet Rupp, of Lucky Duck Sport Fishing Charters in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, agrees, although she’ll remind you the changes haven’t come fast enough and aren’t evenly distributed along the coast.
“I was the first one in my area,” recalls Rupp, a striper specialist who started as a mate in 1974. “I walked down this dock past every boat looking for work until Capt. Joe Rupp said, ‘Come aboard.’ Management told him they couldn’t have women working on the boats here, but he didn’t give that a listen. That was forty-nine years ago, and I’m still at it.” Eventually, Rupp married the captain and they worked together for 40 years. “When he passed away, I just kept on going.”
Rupp hasn’t noticed a large increase of female anglers in her area, but she has experienced an uptick for bookings with both men and women aboard. “In any charter group, there’s someone who books the trip and puts things together. We need more women that are confident enough to be that person before things really take off, but we’re headed in the right direction,” she says.
Modern Faces of Female Angling
Modern female anglers, such as Capt. Amanda King, embody the passion and drive of this growing community. Capt. Amanda King of Second Wind Fishing in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, is somewhat more optimistic. Fishing since childhood, she bought her first boat at age 18 and never looked back. These days, she guides on the flats around Cape Fear, driven to find the best flounder fishing within an hour of the dock.
“I’m seeing more women speak up and do the things they want to do these days, and that includes fishing,” says King. “Women want to be fully involved. They want to trailer the boat, drive the boat, learn the best knots, and enjoy limit catches with a chance at decking a trophy.”
Seeing guides online who are willing to teach novice anglers what they need to learn is also helping more women have the confidence to set out on their own, she believes. “I do some work with a program called Carolina Ocean Studies (carolinaoceanstudies.com) in Carolina Beach, and I can really see the enthusiasm there. We take schoolkids fishing, and some girls easily out-catch the boys.”
Dedication on Deck: 30 Years and Counting
Deena Lippman, longtime mate aboard Long Island’s popular open boat Shinnecock Star, has a reputation as a hard worker who runs the deck as well as any mate along the coast (facebook.com/ShinnecockStarFishingBoat). After 30 years on the job, she says she couldn’t care less if you’re a man, a woman, or a kid when you step aboard her boat. That said, she also has noticed an increase in participation among women anglers, especially those of a mature age.
“It’s great to see,” says Lippman. “The more the merrier. Either way, though, my job is to help you learn if you are a beginner, increase your catch if you have some experience, and be there when you need me if you’re an expert.
“We’re all anglers,” she adds. “We all just want to catch fish and have fun.”
-by Tom Schlichter