Monday, October 10, 2011

Ladies Let's Go Fishing Coming to Islamorada in November

Tarpon Fishing at Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico
This would be a dream day for me. Photo via pmharkam on Flickr

At long last, my prayers were answered when I came across Ladies, Let's Go Fishing, a regular program of seminars for women who aspire to be or already are accomplished anglers.

Betty Bauman, the founder, is a lovely lady who lives in Broward. Bauman has been organizing these events in South Florida since 1997 in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Over 6,000 female anglers have graduated from the seminars, many of them attending from other states and abroad.

I will be participating in the Islamorada program mid-November, a real birthday treat as I'm approaching the dreaded mid-40s! It's something I've been wanting to do for a couple of years and decided not to put it off any longer.

Although I have experience in fishing, I am looking forward to the beginner's track to start fresh from scratch, especially to finally get a grip on tying knots -- no pun intended. You can't really fish on your own, not even shore cast, if you can't adeptly tie lines and leaders. What if you lose a fish and have to start over? Well, there you go. I don't have a boyfriend to tie knots for me anymore. I need the schooling.

And I also want to meet other women who like to fish as this has largely been a male dominated sport, especially here in South Florida. That has certainly been the experience for me, but I hope it will change. I remember meeting fellow anglers when I was online dating and I'd get excited when they would tell me they liked fishing. But imagine my disappointment when they would remark "oh, it's a guy thing, a male bonding club, you can't come out on the boat with us."

I didn't like that exclusion. In fact, it was practically insulting to me and today, I would never consider dating a man who would hesitate to take me fishing with him.

Ladies, Let's Go Fishing is also known as the "No Yelling School of Fishing," so that women who do go out on boats can feel confident and skilled enough that they can hold their own in any angling situation.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Betty Bauman on my radio show last week with my co-host Tonya Scholz. Listen to the radio show at Social Chats Today.

We talked about everything under the sun, including how to protect your skin from the sun without actually killing baitfish in the live well. Slather some sunscreen on your hand and that might actually be toxic to the fish. In fact, the less you handle a fish you're going to release, the better.

Ladies' fishing fashions came up, too. It always irked me that women in Florida Sportsman magazine were modeling bikinis with a catch of a huge redfish or snook. Serious anglers know this isn't a vanity sport where you play girly girl trying to catch a tan while hooking a fish.

Bauman told me there are clothing manufacturers now making female-friendly zipper pants and mesh, breathable fabric shirts, which is a huge relief for me as I would wear a damn burqua to protect my skin. I realize that's not very sexy, but when you are out fishing for 8 hours in the day time, it's something important to consider.

But back to the adventure.

Bauman has been blessed with some incredible angling experiences; she told us about a salmon she caught in a river in Alaska. We also talked about how fishing is not just a sport, but an activity that inspires you to become a steward of environment. This is so important for our precious Florida Keys and Everglades back country water environments.

One of the things I loved most about fishing was going out at the crack of dawn and seeing nature in all its untouched glory. It was well worth the drive down to Everglades National Park, waking up at 3 am to be there at 6. When the first bait hit the water, it wasn't even about the fish that might bite, but about the splendor of hearing birds rise out of their rookeries or even the nuisance of a gator following the cork bobber going "plop" in the water as I cast by the mangroves. At that point, I didn't care if it was a croaking, slimy catfish on the the end of the line, a feisty jack crevalle or a fighting tarpon. I was out in a very special place that warranted respect.

Fishing is a very ironic sport. You are in love with the environment and yet obviously are going to kill something to eat if you're not releasing because your catch falls within conservation rules. It can be predatory, especially when you're sight casting with polarized glasses, seeing your unsuspecting prey swimming just below the surface of the water. It brings out the hunter in all of us, even women, who have been traditionally gatherers.

If you're not using a lure, you will stick a hook in a live bait and yes, this makes the yogi in me cringe a little -- the poor, damn stinky little shrimp suffering because of my sporting pleasure. But there is something primal about these experiences that feeds my soul, not just my belly. It is the noblest way you can catch a meal, where you can truly be thankful to the animal about to sacrifice its life, being very conscious of your actions. In this way, fishing is very yogic and requires incredible focus, concentration and patience. It is like meditation.

Staying informed about catch sizes, harvest limits and environmental laws also makes educational seminars like Ladies, Let's Go Fishing worth attending. Advanced anglers can go and fine tune their practice.

I am thrilled I will also get to do some inshore fishing with Captain Bob Jones, an expert guide who operates out of Islamorada. I think the plan is spin casting with light tackle and I will talk to him soon about what we might expect to catch.

There are still spots open for Ladies, Let's Go Fishing. The seminar is reasonably priced and will take place the weekend of November 11 at Holiday Isle. Can you say Rum Runners? I'm all over that too -- but early nights are important when fishing. Angling experiences are separate and cost extra. For more information, visit the site.

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