NAPLES — Lady anglers got a chance to learn some “reel-world” skills on Saturday at a “Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing!” seminar.
Fisherwomen of all skill levels gathered at the Naples Harbour Yacht Club at 474 North Road, near the Naples Municipal Airport, for the weekend-long seminar that taught them almost anything they could possibly want to know about fishing -- from how to back a boat trailer down a boat ramp to how to correctly hook a bait shrimp.
“I happened to go fishing with someone, and I really did get hooked,” said Delise La’Meaux, 55, who was participating in the seminar for the first time. “Once I started going fishing with a friend of mine, then I wanted to start going by myself and learning everything that I could learn.”
Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing! (LLGF), a national organization, partners with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and is dedicated to attracting more women to sport fishing and to promoting environmental conservation and responsible angling through its weekend seminars.
The organization — which was founded in 1997 by Betty Bauman of Fort Lauderdale — has more than 5,000 graduates and is the largest organization in the world whose objective is to introduce women to fishing. In addition, the program promotes networking among women anglers and emphasizes mentorship between novice and experienced members.
“A lot people’s experience with fishing is that they’re put in a boat, and then everybody just starts screaming at them when a fish is on telling them what to do,” Bauman said of her “no-yelling school of fishing.”
“A lot of our women are in their 50s and 60s, and they’re stepping outside of their comfort level to learn a sport that is dominated mainly by men,” she said.
Saturday morning, the roughly 40 participants split up into beginner and advanced groups to learn different fishing techniques.
The ladies learned the ins and outs of inshore, offshore, bottom and fly-fishing from local, professional fishermen and women. Capt. Jon Fetter, a local professional guide fisherman, shared his fishing secrets with the advanced group.
“There are thousands and thousands and thousands of possibilities” when it comes to choosing a bait from a store like Bass Pro Shops, Fetter said. “I can tell you right now that 75 to 80 percent of those baits in there are meant to catch one thing in there: you.”
Fetter recommended only changing the bait when you repeatedly catch the same species of fish and nothing else. Otherwise, he said, the old adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” holds true.
“If you find something that works, then stay with it,” Fetter said.
June Phillips, 67, who has been fishing since she was age seven, listened to Fetter’s advanced angler lecture and said that every time she goes to one of these seminars she learns something new.
“I learned a little more techniques about how to catch snook,” Phillips said.
The most memorable fish Phillips said she has caught was a 340-pound tuna.
She said that fishing is her passion: “I lost my husband in ’93 and that’s what’s kept me going along with all of my friends was fishing.”
The beginning fisherwomen listened to Capt. Dave Spitnale talk about the different types of fishing rods, basic casting techniques and how the tides or weather affect the fish.
“Fish are more active when the tides or the water is moving,” Spitnale explained to the 24 beginners in his class. “If the water is not moving, which is called slack tide, the fish aren’t as hungry.”
In addition, he said that more fish come out when the barometric pressure is higher.
“I love to wear high heels and dress up, but I like my target shooting and my fishing as well,” said Diana Magers, who was participating in the “Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing” seminar for the second time. “Last year I caught a 32-inch snook, and I was so excited … That’s really what brought me back.”
Magers, who loves being out on the open water, loves to fish for snook, and her favorite fish to eat is dolphin. Her favorite part of the seminar was listening to the instructors talk passionately about fishing.
“It’s wonderful to see a human being that has found their passion,” Magers said of the fishing instructors. “They are living their passion, and I was soaking that up.”
Saturday afternoon, the ladies participated in hands-on skill stations, during which they practiced throwing a cast net, fly-fishing techniques, parking a boat on the dock and reel casting.
“Fly-fishing is more artistic than other kinds of fishing,” said Capt. Roan Zumfelde, who was teaching the ladies how to fly-fish. “You can catch a fish faster if you know what you are doing with a fly rod.”