The Fiberglass Ceiling: Breaking Through to New Anglers - The Fisherman

The Fiberglass Ceiling: Breaking Through to New Anglers

2018 3 Breaking Through New Anglers AustinMichele
Having “Ahab” as a husband, Michele Hutchinson (right) found a more improved angler experience by learning the ropes and fishing with pros like Capt. Austin Perilli (left). Photo by Jim “Ahab” Hutchinson, Jr.

A lady angler’s perspective on winning over new fishing buddies.

The first time I ever fished I was with my younger sister in a small town pond near Fairfield, NJ. My sister wound up catching a monster bass on her little pink princess pole; I caught several sunnies and a few decent sized bass. My younger sister’s first experience fishing was fun and eventful and successful. However, that trip was her first and last time she fished and had fun. On the other hand, my 12-year-old brother couldn’t get enough of fishing—even though he was constantly getting snagged on the rocks at the inlet every single time and went through rigs like they grew on trees.

Pretty stereotypical right? A sister that hates fishing and a brother that loves it; well add me into that equation and it seems confusing. All these years later, and I fish every chance I get. I even save “sick days” for the fall run or when a bite gets hot!

The question is, how could one sister love fishing, the other hate it, and the brother (of course) love it, if they all grew up doing it together? Except for the fact that everyone is different, I think it also comes down to the intimidation factor.

For starters, my sister always claimed that fishing was no fun; sitting on a boat chasing fish and sometimes coming home with nothing. I get that. And after years of trying to get her to come out with us to surf fish for stripers or fluke on our boat, the only time she ever came fishing and enjoyed it was when we went out on a charter.

When to Turn Pro

So what draws a novice fisherman into going on a charter? For one, the fact that you don’t have your sibling or significant other shouting orders at you to tie this part of the boat, cast over here, bounce your popper more violently helps. Nobody likes to be told what to do and how to do it, especially coming from someone with whom they are related or in a relationship. People regardless of who they are, male or female, will be more inclined to take advice from a professional fisherman on a charter than you.

I have been fishing for quite some time now, but I still run into the same feelings that newcomers to our sport encounter. These experiences have led me to think further about what’s happening. I have found a great way to making fishing a pleasant and memorable experience for all parties is to leave it to a professional. Charter fishing enables the stressful parts of fishing to be relieved.

Many times people that are new to any type of activity don’t want to ask for help because of the the tone of the response; but being offered that help kindly from a professional changes things. It allows the newcomer to get an explanation as to what’s happening around them while learning a lot more. This almost always leaves them with a very pleasant experience.

A few months ago I traveled to southern Florida with a good friend. It was early spring and I was itching to fish. My friend had never been fishing before but she knew that it was something I loved to do. I wanted to go on a charter and catch the plethora of different species that Florida’s oceans host. I was able to convince her to go and it turned out to be the best experience for the both of us. It was really exciting to see her catch her first two fish ever, a couple of nice sized red snapper.

Before we even started fishing, I let the crew on the charter know it was her first time and they explained everything she needed to do. They passed around bait buckets and showed her how to hook her bait. I’ll admit at first she did not want to touch the bait but after she reeled up her first fish, her attitude changed. If I had taken her fishing myself, I would have never been able to convince her to hook her own bait and touch the fish she caught, but having a professional explain where to hold the fish and why made her more comfortable. Hiring a charter is just one of the many ways to go.

2018 3 Breaking Through New Anglers Jordan
It might not be a keeper, but young Jordan Thiel shows how exciting the run of short stripers can be along the beach when folks are willing to scale down and take advantage of what’s offered.

Enjoying the Experience

The stigma that women don’t fish half as much as men is accurate; the fact is that I really don’t know too many women who fish religiously. I think it’s important to acknowledge the difference in numbers between female anglers and male. It makes us ask the question, why? I find that many times it’s the way we go about things that can make activities fun for some and miserable for others. It’s important to consider your tone and the way you explain things to new fishermen or fisherwomen. By changing the approach to how we teach others to fish and delicately plan their first experience, we can alter the way that newcomers, specifically women see fishing.

For those who’ve had trouble getting their wives or girlfriends on the boat to fish, here’s something to consider; try using different language. For example, don’t tell her to cast farther, but rather offer tips on how to improve her cast, making it an option instead of something forced upon her. For example telling someone “you need to cast further than that to catch a fish,” isn’t as effective as saying “you know if you want to cast a little further you can do it this way.” Often times telling someone they are simply doing something incorrectly without explaining how to get better results is going to go in one ear and right out the other.

Let’s face it, for someone who hasn’t really been fishing and doesn’t love the ocean so much, this can be an intimidating experience, so remember to make it fun! By changing the way you address things like teaching someone to tie a knot or cast better it can change the tone of the whole trip. Don’t be too serious, you aren’t on the show Wicked Tuna. Try to tone it down a few notches, remember what it was like when you were new to fishing or before you got seriously hooked to it. It may be hard but by taking a few steps back and changing your approach it can make a huge difference for everyone on the trip, not just your newbie guest.

An easy and less expensive way to make the experience more pleasant, is to take a ride to the nearest fishing spot and observe first. If you have the time before your planned fishing trip whether it be on a boat or of the surf, take a ride with whomever you are planning to bring out. Bring them to a nearby inlet during slack tide. Along the Jersey Shore there are plenty of species to fish for at slack in the inlets and on the jetties. Grab a cup of coffee and simply sit and observe while starting the conversation together about what you’re seeing.

There are of course many routes the observation session can go, which all are good directions. Exposing the individual to this process allows them to ask questions and learn more in a relaxed setting where they are comfortable and not intimidated. Plus, you can gain some quality time with whoever you are with, be it your daughter, wife, or even a long time buddy!

Choosing a Target Species

A third thing to consider when planning a fishing excursion with someone who doesn’t necessarily adore fishing is the intended species. I noticed what makes fishing enjoyable experience for all is what species you’re after. Sometimes, I prefer bottom fishing; other times I want to work the top water with plugs for striped bass during the fall and spring runs. Some people may find bottom fishing boring, others may rather catch bluefish over stripers; to each his own.

Personally, my “go to” type of fishing trip when taking out a newbie is bottom fishing, which can be done with the simplest of rigs and some bait. The rocking of the boat on the ocean or bay does the hard work for you; it also provides opportunity to bring home some delicious fish, whether it’s sea bass and tog from the inshore wrecks or a few fluke filets out of the back bay.

The most important thing is to ask the individual you plan on taking fishing if they have any preference or what they think they would like the most. Taking time to consider the person’s likes and dislikes can help set your trip up for success. While considering species it is also important to pick the right conditions. Species and conditions can make or break a trip, and picking good weather and the right spots can determine if the trip is fun or miserable for whomever you are bringing along.

In my 10-plus years of fishing – and being a woman – I have noticed things like conditions, species, chartering, and simple attitude adjustment can make the experience fun for all.

Whomever you plan on taking fishing consider things like going on a charter or change the way you try to teach someone how to fish and put some thought into what you are fishing for to ensure that the experience stays pleasant for all.

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