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Women in Fishing: Bridging the Gap

A blog supported by research from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)


Fishing has long been perceived as a male-dominated pursuit. However, the tides are changing as more women cast a line and attempt to make their mark. Female participation in fishing has skyrocketed in recent years due to rising interest. And while the fishing and boating industries have work to do among underrepresented groups, there is significant movement underway to bridge the gap.


Current Landscape of Women Representation in Fishing

Over the past few decades, there has been a noticeable increase in female participation. Much of the industry is starting to view women as the gateway to the greatest growth trend in fishing and boating. Studies support that mothers tend to plan the activities and manage calendars — even when they're working full-time.


A recent study found that among households with two parents working full-time, 54% say most activity planning is done by mom. The same study claimed that active female anglers have significantly greater perseverance, perceived health, and life satisfaction when compared to lapsed anglers and non-anglers. It also found that active female anglers are 27% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.


Mental Health & Wellness Benefits

Women find the most confident, patient, and resilient versions of themselves on the water. Research supports that almost half of female anglers say that fishing teaches them patience. And 1 in 3 say fishing teaches them how to be still and concentrate.


The mental health and wellness benefits of activities such as fishing is also supported by the late Dr. Wallace Nichols’ Blue Mind Theory. The theory states how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.


“There are numerous cognitive and emotional benefits that we derive every time we spend time by water, in water or underwater,” Wallace claimed. “When you see water, when you hear water, it triggers a response in your brain that you’re in the right place.”


Industry Support for Women in Fishing 

Various initiatives and changes are being implemented to address the market. Organizations and online communities play a large role in this advocacy.


Women-Only Organizations and Online Platforms

Numerous fishing organizations and clubs have been established with the sole intention of actively promoting women in fishing. Groups like "Reel Women Fly Fishing Adventures" and "Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!" offer women-centric fishing trips, training, and events with the goal of creating supportive environments to learn and thrive.


There’s also the Women’s Fishing Federation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education, camaraderie, and support to women anglers of all skill levels – and the Women’s Fishing Network, a website dedicated to showcasing content that features talented female anglers from all over the world, and of all backgrounds.


Support From National Fishing Organizations

Then there’s national organizations like the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF). RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase recreational fishing and boating participation. To help recruit, retain, and reactivate participants, RBFF developed the award-winning Take Me Fishing™ campaign that builds awareness of their mission and educates the public.


In 2022, RBFF was the first to take a deep dive into female attitudes and behaviors around fishing. The research, conducted in partnership with global market research firm IPSOS, provided better understanding of the benefits, behaviors, and barriers they experience.


Fishing and boating have a profound impact on a woman’s life,” said Rachel Piacenza, Senior Director of Marketing at RBFF. “Our research shows this, and our newest campaign is going a long way to accurately and inclusively depict this key audience, ideally inspiring more females to feel comfortable trying this life-enhancing activity.”


Other national organizations that put effort into bridging the gap in fishing through their content, campaigns, programs and events include the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and American Fisheries Society (AFS)


How Freedom Boat Club Supports Women in Fishing

At Freedom Boat Club, we’re passionate about enabling access to a diverse set of on-water activities, including fishing. 35% of our members are women—a percentage that is much higher than the industry average of female boat owners. Several of our 400+ locations even host women-only trainings, seminars, social outings and events such as “Women’s Wednesdays.”


Spending the day cruising waterways to find the perfect spot to fish has become a reality for those who have discovered that boat clubs are an easy way to get out on the water. It’s appealing to women because it’s a frictionless experience. We understand that everyone is very busy, so that’s why we make it as simple as possible with “walk on, walk off” service.


The Impact of Social Media

Social media creates a space for visibility, education, and community building. Thanks to the connectivity of these social platforms, women can share their unique fishing journeys to a broad audience, which inspires other women to pick up a rod and head to the water.


Education & Community Building

And of course, social media platforms provide a continuous source of free education. Tutorials, instructional videos, equipment reviews, video blogs, and fishing tips are readily available across platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Additionally, these channels can foster a sense of community among female anglers.


Groups like “Women Fishing” and hashtags such as #WomenWhoFish, provide virtual spaces to build camaraderie among like-minded individuals. This is especially impactful for individuals that don't experience the same level of support and relatability within their traditional social circles.


Content creators like April Vokey, Cindy Nguyen, and Maddie Brenneman have amassed large followings by sharing their fishing experiences and accolades. When women anglers share stories of overcoming challenges, mastering new skills, and achieving goals – it's a powerful source of inspiration. Celebrating each other's successes empowers other women to feel confident in taking up the sport.


Overcoming Industry Challenges

RBFF’s study also found that while 48% of women were interested in trying fishing, only 36% participated. The industry needs to keep evolving to attract and retain female anglers.


There are several ways we can address inequalities in fishing. Structural changes and equal opportunities need to be implemented among fishing organizations and clubs to promote inclusivity. Media exposure also presents a unique opportunity for positive representation through industry events, magazines, and online outlets. Correcting bias within the industry requires collective action from individuals, the media, and organizations. 


The Future of Women in Fishing 

Women anglers are becoming an integral part of the community. This shift is enriching the activity and contributing to broader changes towards equality. As the world of fishing continues to evolve, there are promising signs of a more inclusive future.


Encouraging a New Generation

As part of this change, we must continue to encourage the next generations to get involved in fishing. RBFF’s study found that only 55% of young girls participate in outdoor activities compared to 66% of young boys. And the participation gap only widens as they age. From age 26 to 66, women’s participation declines to less than 20% compared to 40% for men. So, it’s important that we encourage and enable girls from a young age to get outdoors and pursue an outdoor activity like fishing.


Successful female anglers have the potential to inspire younger generations by showing them what they can achieve and how they can achieve it. Supporting young fishing enthusiasts encourages long-term engagement and create life-long participants.


By creating inclusive communities, providing educational opportunities, and promoting advocacy, the fishing and boating industry is helping women feel welcomed in the world of fishing. These efforts are benefitting female anglers everywhere and enriching the sport as a whole.


If you liked this article, be sure to check out our list of Top 10 Summer Fishing Destinations in the United States, all of which have a nearby Freedom Boat Club location. And to learn more about Freedom Boat Club, contact us today.


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