Women angling in greater numbers
Written by Manitowoc Herald   
Tuesday, 05 July 2005 05:20
Hundreds of people crowded into the Manitowoc Marina Saturday, July 2 for the 31st N.E.W.G.L.S.F. Annual Salmon Derby. Not surprisingly, most were male.

After all, N.E.W.G.L.S.F. stands for Northeastern Wisconsin Great Lakes Sport Fishermen. And a list of 509 derby contestants provided by the organization Saturday afternoon had only about 45 women on it.

But through the crowd: "I?m catching the fish tonight."

The voice belonged to Gwen Pierce of Watersmeet, Mich. Pierce started fishing with her boyfriend (now husband) in 1983.

"We went fishing in Kewaunee, and I caught a 25-pound King Salmon from a 19-foot Alumacraft boat. Then I was hooked," she said. "I?d never tried it before. After that, we just kept buying bigger and bigger boats."

Pierce enjoys the excitement and challenge of fishing, as well as the experience of being on the water, she said.

In a tent just a short distance away, another woman was getting her hands dirty: Barb Bellin, a N.E.W.G.L.S.F. board member, measured and weighed fish as they came in.

"I started fishing as a teen with my dad," she said. "I didn?t get back to it until about five years ago with my husband. I like the whole experience of figuring out where they are and what baits are working."

Bellin runs a charter boat with her husband, and she said female angling has increased recently.

"Guys tend to say, ?let me get that for you,? but I show women how to set up their own rods and actually catch fish ? not just reel them in," she said.

Some statistics bear out Bellin?s observation that more women are fishing. In 2001, 16 percent of Wisconsin females angled, compared to 32 percent of men, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The gap had closed since 1996, when the numbers were 14 percent and 36 percent.

Since 2001, the disparity may have shrunk even further.

"In the last two or three years, a lot more women have been coming out, mostly wives and girlfriends," said N.E.W.G.L.S.F. board member Carol Resch, who has fished with her husband for about 20 years.

Some women cite spending time with their significant others as a reason to fish.

"If you can?t lick ?em, join ?em," said Karen Posey of Green Bay, who does pan fishing ? species like perch. "Also, it?s peaceful and quiet out on the lake."

Others have children who enjoy the sport. Shelly Orth of Manitowoc took hers to the Kid?s Derby Saturday morning. "I think a lot of little girls fish," she said.

Fiona Lien, 9, of Atlanta, hasn?t tried it yet, but she plans to.

"I always wanted to fish ? it?s just being out there," she said.

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