Hey ladies, fishing can be fashionable
By Melissa Nelson
By Melissa Nelson
PENSACOLA, Fla. — Pink rubber boots are necessary to avoid fish guts while reeling in red snapper and grouper, but also make a fashion statement.
Lengthy fishing trips should start with mimosas.
Real fisherwomen needn't worry about baiting their own hooks — that's what deck hands are for.
These are some of the unwritten rules of the Fishin' Chix, an elite club of Pensacola, Fla., women who took to the seas after Hurricane Ivan tore through their neighborhood almost two years ago.
Founder Claudia Espenscheid, a former financial adviser for Merrill Lynch and PaineWebber, has since launched her own plan to expose more women to what she calls "Armani-style fishing."
She considers herself the Martha Stewart of fishing, "without the whole prison thing," and aims to revolutionize the sport by catering to women with sophisticated tastes. The American Sportfishing Association estimates nearly one-third of recreational fishing in the United States is done by women.
"It's my mission to inspire and fashionably attire women to get hooked on fishing," said Espenscheid, who is working on a line of pink fishing nets, lures, hats, boots and other items she hopes to market to sporting retailers.
The 40-year-old mother of two rarely fished before Hurricane Ivan hit her home on Pensacola Bay in October 2004. The Category 4 storm destroyed the family's dock, but Espenscheid found an escape casting a fishing net from the shore.
"I would be standing out there in my waders. It was my way of dealing with the stress, enjoying the beauty of where we live and blocking out all the stress of what we were dealing with."
Experts say the Pensacola group, which has about 50 members, is just one example of the sport's growing popularity among women.
Outdoor marketers have found it makes good business sense to reach out to women, said Monica Pelletier, spokeswoman for the national Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.
"The thinking used to be that the man is the one who goes fishing, and he's going to decide whether to take the family along, but really it's the woman who decides where to take the family. She determines the activities," Pelletier said.
Betty Bauman of Fort Lauderdale began Ladies, Let's Go Fishing 10 years ago. The company offers seminars and chartered fishing trips for 300 to 400 women each year.
"We show them how to catch a fish twice their size with minimal effort. A woman's muscles are in her hips and her legs. We don't have the arm's strength to reel the fish in the way men do," Bauman said.
"A lot of women want to have a sport that is exciting and that they can be good at, that builds their confidence and gives them quality time with their family and friends."
The Fishin' Chix hoped to find pink rods and reels to match their pink rubber boots. After much searching, they found neon pink fishing lures online to give as Christmas gifts last year.
"You want to fish, but you want to look cute while you're doing it," Espenscheid said.