“Ain’t No Women in the Fish House!” He said. (Boy Was He WRONG.)
Yeah, it happened. I was a teenager in the north woods of Canada holding my bloody filet knife when the old fisherman in the fish house said it. He was dumb enough to insult me when I was armed. I proceeded to clean my walleye with skill, producing filets looking better than theirs. (I’d like to think they stared in awe… but I can’t be sure about that.)
I am woman, watch me fish – and touch a worm, take the fish off the hook, and clean the dang thing, too. Vast discrimination in the fishing world hopefully does not exist, but I felt the need to put it out there. On a calm Saturday morning, my favorite activity is to hop in our boat and go fishing with my dog, Rosie. This involves lifting the battery off the charger and connecting it to the trolling motor (I don’t need a driver or someone to carry it for me). I lift anchor and launch the boat off of our beach and rig up my fishing pole. Rosie sits up front with her nose to the breeze and we cruise around the lake waiting for a bite.
With a thump on my line, I pull back on my pole and set the hook. As I hold tension on my line, I simultaneously kick the motor into neutral to avoid spinning in circles in the middle of the lake (it’s happened many times and I’m sure the neighbors laugh their heads off). My line veers back and forth as I turn the reel and Rosie hurries to my side. I lift the fish over the boat’s edge and the morning sun shines of its glistening scales. With my palm open wide, I run my hand down the fish’s back, careful to slide down the dorsal fins and grip the fish. I unhook the lure and either release the fish or put in on my stringer for lunch. Kicking the motor back into forward, I throw my line back in the water.
Fishing is not about bringing meat into the boat, it is a connection with the water, sun, and fresh air. I love the silence and the peace on the water. Floating provides an escape to my thoughts and a solitude I often need.
My father taught me the art of cleaning fish. My daughters like to watch, and occasionally touch and identify the fish parts, but they are still working on getting fish off the hook. We recently journeyed to Canada, and my daughters put a minnow on a hook after many squeals. Great video outtakes of the process(attached). Being raised a veterinarian’s daughter and helping Dad spay our cats or dissect a pig helped my fortitude. There is an art to fileting fish and I can compete with many. I won’t go into more details to spare those now worrying about the fish’s soul and thinking me a barbarian. I guarantee no parts go to waste – remnants left for raccoons or animals to forage in the ditches, and fish left for the seagulls to forage in Canada, while every fish filet is devoured in beer batter.
To those who believe women do not belong in the fishing world, I invite you on board my vessel for a day on the lake. In Canada last month my daughters caught their first Northern Pike and may have peed their pants a little – it was the highlight of my summer. I thank my parents for bringing me up as an independent woman who can take care of herself and knows how to fish. Never be dependent on anyone – if you don’t know how to do something, learn and take care of it on your own.