It isn’t to get a suntan or read a book—women fish for as many unique reasons as there are sizes and shapes of women. Barb Carey of WI Women Fish has met hundreds of them and learned something very important in the process.

“Women want to feel safe, safe in a lot of ways,” shared founder Carey of this 10-year-strong organization that promotes women fishing together in the upper Midwest. Perhaps safe from ridicule is one of the factors. “Our events give women the information they need to learn in a safe, family-friendly way. That is why we have such big turnouts. They trust us.”

Trust—it’s hard to earn and easy to lose. That’s why Barb holds it so precious with her group of gals. It can be a big group, too. Several hundred will attend an event that WI Women Fish gets behind.

The club has 150 dues-paying members from six states. “We have a private Facebook page for our members, not open to the public,” added Barb. “Either I know people or someone else knows them to let us know they are someone you could go fishing with and have a good, safe experience on the water.”

Some events hosted by WI Women Fish are free and teach basic skills about fishing and boat ownership and maintenance. The events and the camaraderie give their members confidence to get out and catch some fish.
Some events hosted by WI Women Fish are free and teach basic skills about fishing and boat ownership and maintenance. The events and the camaraderie give their members confidence to get out and catch some fish.

Women can have many differences and still come together in this group. “They might be women that would never be friends under other situations, except for fishing. We don’t allow politics in or let cliques develop,” said Barb. “These women develop fishing buddies and there is just as much happiness in the boat when a friend gets a fish as when you do.”

And not just dinks.

“I have 50 years’ worth of photos of three-inch perch,” shared member Char Day from Schaumburg, Illinois. “Now that I fish with WI Women Fish I have pictures of 21-inch walleyes and big northern pike.” To me, that changes everything for this woman’s passion for fishing.

Seven years ago, Carey started Fish Camp, the Club’s biggest event of the year. The event moves to different parts of Wisconsin or other parts of the upper Midwest for a weekend of camping, fishing, and camaraderie for 40 to 50-plus women members. “

“The first year we were just shore fishing,” explained Carey, a retired police officer. “Now a number of us have nice fishing boats and we are very serious about getting on the water and catching fish.” Carey grew up in the culture of fishing and enjoying the outdoors in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She moved away and had a family, but eventually moved back. After “empty nest” syndrome set in, there was suddenly more time for her to take up something important, something she had put on the back burner for too long: fishing.

“It seems that whatever skill I have I try to pass it on to the group,” laughed Barb, an avid ice-angler and walleye open-water gal. Carey possesses a smile and healthy glow that will light up the room when she talks about the outdoors. “I need to get a little better at bass fishing so the group can kick it up a notch.”

Catch ‘em and clean ‘em. My pet peeve as a woman in the fishing industry? Slapping something pink on it and saying it's for women. I wonder what these gals think?
Catch ‘em and clean ‘em. My pet peeve as a woman in the fishing industry? Slapping something pink on it and saying it’s for women. I wonder what these gals think?

Membership is $25 for women 21 and older. Most of the dues money funds liability insurance to protect all club members. Some outings are free, others carry a fee based on the expenses, but they are all reasonable. For example, they recently hired two charter boats for a day on Lake Michigan for salmon fishing, splitting the daily fee for those on board. Makes sense.

The website and its two Facebook pages (one public, one private for members only) as well as email announcements keep the gals up to speed on the happenings.

The industry is a-ga-ga over promoting women fishing, right? After all, while the number of people fishing in the United States has grown at a rate of 10.6 percent since 2006, the number of female anglers has grown 16.7 percent—and there are almost nine million fisherwomen nationwide.

“They go about it so wrong,” shared Carey, when asked about advertising or marketing to women in the outdoors. “Today is a little better than years ago, but it isn’t about cute, thin, tan girls in bathing suits. If they did more advertising to middle-aged women whose kids are now grown, they would find their niche. We finally have time and money for ourselves. You wouldn’t believe how much money these gals spend on their fishing.”

With membership in six states I have decided “WI” may not mean Wisconsin, but rather “Why” or “We”—or even both. I do hope the industry opens their eyes and pays attention to why we fish.

K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.

Images courtesy WI Women Fish

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  • Doug

    Good points.

  • Clayton OldDog Boutelle

    You gals just keep on fishing:) If ever up in Ashland look up olddogfishing. for a trip out on lake superior