Sunday, March 23, 2014

Inclusion or Seclusion?? IGFA Rule Result Splits All Class Record Fish into Angler Gender Categories

   The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) elected to make a couple of rule changes this year, followed-up these changes with a news release, and since then a bit of angler hoopla has emerged.

   The hoopla surrounds the IGFA’s decision to separate - by gender categories - freshwater line class records and fly rod records, beginning in April, 2014.  Written in this manner one can imagine why some anglers might be acting like their underwear suddenly got all up in a bunch.  I was one of those anglers.  But there is a little more to the story:  According to IGFA’s news release, “Unlike those kept for saltwater species, IGFA line class and fly rod records kept for freshwater species have never before been separated into men’s and women’s categories.”  And following a phone conversation with Jack Vitek, IGFA World Records Coordinator, he wrote in an email, “As a reminder, the saltwater line class and fly rod records were split into men’s and women’s categories decades ago.  The purpose of this upcoming change was to create consistency in our records department, and to create opportunities for the most lacking demographic – the female freshwater angler.  As I said on the phone, we know there are great female freshwater anglers out there.  We (IGFA) just want to reach them by creating these record opportunities.”  During the phone conversation, Mr. Vitek reported that the IGFA also sought to develop greater balance between the organization’s freshwater vs. saltwater pursuits.       

In a nutshell, the IGFA, according to its mission statement, is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule-making and record-keeping.  The Florida-based organization’s website is: .  When perusing the conservation and education portions of the website, the IGFA did appear to place greater emphasis on saltwater interests.  Originating in 1939, the organization maintains world records for line class (conventional tackle), tippet class (fly fishing), & all-tackle categories for both freshwater and saltwater fishes.  Even after the rule change in April, the all-tackle world record categories will not be separated by gender.

IGFA Stats
   The IGFA offers various membership levels.  According to Mr. Vitek the gender breakdown for all of the memberships encompasses 21,850 males, 1,944 females, and 130,647 members of which gender is unknown.  Of the known memberships, 8% are females and 92% males.  Regarding line class and fly rod record categories, per Mr. Vitek,  there are 3,337 total saltwater records with 1,510 (45%) being female record-holders and there are 1,374 total freshwater records with 53 (3.8%) being female record-holders.

   In a very simplistic sense, the women’s freshwater records percentage of 3.8%, calculated while there are still no gender separations, more closely parallels the known 8% female membership.  Note that there are 1,963 (59%) more saltwater records than freshwater records, but this will likely drastically change after the gender separations rule for the freshwater records category goes into effect.  The nitty gritty is that when one tallies records created in each gender category, this will not accurately reflect the total percentage of males or females who land that single heaviest species of fish in each line and tippet class, but will offer more male and female anglers the opportunity to obtain a record for a fish due to the creation of gender categories.

National Stats & IGFA
   According to the final report from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, - click the “National Survey” tab), in my “homewaters” of Iowa, 522,000 residents were anglers in 2011 and 143,000 (27%) of these anglers were women.  On a broader scale, the survey detailed that 33.1 million US citizens fished in 2011.  Of these, 8.9 million (27%) were females and 24.2 million (73%) were males.  Furthermore, 27.5 million anglers (~76%) freshwater fished and 8.9 million saltwater fished (I assume that these latter two figures equated to greater than 33.1 million because some anglers fish both fresh and salt waters.) 

   Despite that the IGFA is an international organization & located in the coastal city of Dania Beach, FL, the statistics indicating there are many more freshwater than saltwater anglers in the U.S. makes it appear wise that the IGFA is attempting to increase participation in its freshwater offerings.  The freshwater angler currently visiting its website may not immediately see enough freshwater subject matter to warrant purchasing a membership let alone returning to the website.  One can only hope that the IGFA is planning to give more attention to freshwater education and conservation needs & not just concentrate on expanding the freshwater record program.   

   One might assume that simply due to their greater numbers more men (on avg., 70% of U.S. anglers are male) will have the greater opportunities to land the heaviest fish of each species in their particular line or tippet classes.  If so, then the freshwater female record-holders (calculated prior to gender separations) of 3.8% and the long-standing gender-separate saltwater female record-holders of 45% are not representative of what one would expect if based on percentages of male/female angler numbers alone.  Obviously more factors come into play than will be addressed here.  However, it is understandable that the organization would like to boost its female membership as well as discover ways to increase female participation in securing record status for their catches. 

Cloudy Water
   In contrast, when records are granted for the heaviest species of fish landed by each gender, does the water become a little murky when considering what constitutes a record?  For example, Mr. Vitek writes, “For our All-Tackle records, incoming fish much be at least 1 pound to qualify.  However, for line class and tippet class records, there is no minimum weight for submitting a claim for a vacant record.”  So, let’s say “Chris” already has a world record for a 55# musky in a particular tippet class.  The other gender category in the same tippet class is currently vacant and “Taylor” submits & is rewarded with a record for a 40# musky.  If there weren’t gender categories it would be obvious which angler’s fish would carry the record.  However, there could also be a number of anglers of Chris’s gender who land fish between 40-55# in the same tippet class but would never be recognized.  

Fishing the Records
   When searching for fishing records documentation via the internet, I sampled 10 of 50 U.S. states and found that record fish in all 10 states were listed with angler name & location or even with the angler name absent.  Clearly the emphasis for a record was based on size of the fish.

   The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, located in Hayward, WI (USA), does not separate fishing records by gender.  When asked if the organization had ever considered separating records by gender, Mr. Emmett Brown, Jr., Executive Director, responded, “Years ago, the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame actually discussed whether or not it would be in the best interest of the fresh water sportfishing community to divide our world record program by gender.  Ultimately, we decided that it was not.  Our decision was based on the presumption that sportfishing is not about strength and that men and women equally possess the skills to be successful anglers.”

   Via a search of their websites, the Angling Trust (England) and ANSA (Australian National Sportfishing Association) each list record catches by angler name, not gender.  The GFAA (Game Fishing Association of Australia) & the NZSFC (New Zealand Sport Fishing Council) list record catches by angler name and gender.  All 4 of the non-USA organizations have some affiliation with the IGFA.

Summing It Up
  Are we sacrificing the emphasis of a class fishing record being based soley on the weight (& scarcity) of the fish landed to instead being based on the sex of the angler & the largest fish that gender lands?  Do you see the difference?  There is a difference.  Are there pros/cons to separating or not separating genders for record consideration?  You betcha!  However, this might also be based on an individual’s opinion and life experience than strictly factual information. 

   The IGFA may see an increase in female membership and will see an increase in female (and male) freshwater records.  The IGFA will also increase their revenue stream through increased membership and freshwater record submission fees.  Many more women, and to a lesser extent more men, will be recognized for their freshwater “record catches”.  Depending on an individual’s life experiences & perceptions (& the size of an angler’s fish!) this may re-enforce gender stereotypes or it may lessen them; it may elicit ridicule or pride; & it may foster separation or inclusion between the angling sexes.

   Does the IGFA’s rule change broaden the attention it pays to freshwater interests vs. saltwater interests?  Minimally.  Could the IGFA expand education and conservation programs pertaining to freshwater habitat and fishing?  You betcha!  Will the IGFA do this?  I don’t know but I encourage anglers to “drop em a line” and ask!  If you have an opinion about the freshwater record rule change, please share that with the IGFA as well.    
   And when is a fish of a certain size considered a “record catch”?  It seems the opinions for the formal record book remain mixed.  However, most anglers know a fish of a lifetime when he or she lands one.  No scale, no measure, no certificate needed.  Usually, yells of delight, photographs, then toasts and stories commemorate the occasion. 

(Note: this is the link to the opinion pieces, in letter format to Mr. Vitek:  )

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tie One On at Java Java, March 22, 2014 - Cancelled

   A group of us will be tying flies again this Saturday, March 22, 2014, at Java Java Cafe, located at 836 E. River Drive, Davenport, IA.  

   Tying will start at 9:00 am and last until noon.  Musicians are also being invited but their plans are currently unknown.  All are welcome!!!! 

(3/17/14: Note that there have been some conflicts with this March 22 date.  I will post by Wednesday night if we are tying or if we are going to reschedule.)
(3/19/14: Due to a large number of tiers having other commitments, this tying date has been cancelled. This is the first cancellation we have ever had & I hope it continues to be a rare thing... unless we decide to go fishing!)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Does IGFA Believe a 58in Musky Weighs Differently If a Man or Woman Lands It?

   This is a link to an article written by Kathryn Maroun referencing the IGFA(International Game Fish Association) decision to separate certain fishing records into specific men's and women's categories:

   Ms. Maroun, an FFF casting instructor, Executive Producer of What A Catch Productions, and a professional fly angler, asks others to email World Records Coordinator Jack Vitek and request that the new rules be reconsidered.

I've worked hard to foster a sense of belonging, not of separation, between myself and other fly anglers.  My email to Mr. Vitek is pasted below.  

(2nd update 3/23/14: Mr, Vitek asked me to email to him my thoughts after discussing the rule change with him via the phone.  My email letter follows the letter immediately below these updates.  I've also created an objective/educational post on the same topic & this is the link:  )  

First update 3/14/14: Mr Vitek requested to speak with me (& other respondents) by phone.  His goal was to clarify the IGFAs objectives to the changes to be made.  I believe the changes are, at a minimum, well-intended.  I hope to research this more fully and compose an objective article for the blog.  Mr. Vitek states the IGFA is also planning to produce a follow-up article in about 1 week in response to angler comments about the changes.  I will also plan to post a link to that article here.  I (& certainly others) would welcome any comments from conventional tackle and/or fly anglers.  Thanks ~Twitch)

Hello Mr. Vitek,

I am choosing to hope that the IGFA rule change to have separate male and female categories for fishing records was enacted in hopes of encouraging more women to participate in the sport of fly fishing.

While I feel I have had to work hard all of my life to prove myself as a capable person in many male-dominated arenas, I do recognize that there are some areas where grouping people by sex, age, etc., is beneficial.  However, it has become very tiresome in many situations to continuously educate others -both men and women- not to limit the growth of an individual based on what society has pre-programmed us to believe are the only correct and acceptable traditional roles males and females should fulfill. 

To obtain a particular record in the world of fishing, one must surpass a particular length/weight of fish & have landed the fish under specific tackle guidelines, etc.  The length or weight of the fish does not change if the person who landed it was a male, female, child, adult, senior citizen, etc.  The fish would fight just as hard with each of these individuals.  I also assure you that any of these individuals who lands a record-class fish will be thrilled because the person is an avid angler not because the person is a male, female, etc. 

Men have greater opportunities to go out fishing with other men.  There are fewer lady anglers and many men are married; this makes it challenging for women to find others with whom to share in a fishing outing or a fishing trip.  When a lady has an opportunity to fish with others (usually men) it can also take some time for the men to think of her as an angler & fishing buddy first. It took me about 4 years of fly fishing and networking to know enough people to have enough 'fishing buddies' with whom to fish and tie flies.  A man is usually more readily invited to go on fishing outings. I love to fish alone but I love my angling buddies, too.

To tie all my comments together, as a female fly fisher I do not need another person or organization separating my successes from others simply based on my sex.  It's taken a long time to go out and feel that wading, car camping, fishing for musky and snowshoeing at night to camp at a tiny brookie stream isn't something special because I'm the rarer female angler.  It's special for the reasons that all fly anglers know and feel despite our sex, age, etc. 

I can tell you that if I submit an entry for a record-class fish and I then see that a man's fish beats out my 'record' by a couple ounces or inches, I will not have earned a record.  I can assure that if a man's fish is a little smaller or lighter than the lady's record fish, he will feel the same as me. It is simply not the biggest fish.  

Fishing is about so much more than having x-amount of muscle mass.  Fly fishing is about passion, time spent perfecting the craft, creativity, the ability and desire to read water and learn about the species we hunt and about their prey.  Of course we also know that luck sometimes plays a role.  Like attending school, it is not a male or female thing. There may be some strengths that each sex brings to these arenas but there are so many factors that come into play to achieve a specific outcome.  Men will simply have more records because more men fish, not because women are less capable to land a record-class fish.  A record is a record in fishing.  The fish's length or weight does not change based on whether it is a female or male who lands it.  

I don't want anymore artificial barriers separating me from other anglers.  The more separations the less we share; there is less growth and fewer quality teachers.  I've often heard rumors of fly fishers being snobs, but I haven't seen it.  More separations between anglers can equate to the sense that some are better than others.  

I respectfully request that the IGFA reconsider the wisdom of creating separate male and female categories for recognizing record-class fish. 

Lisa Davis 'Twitch'

Mr. Vitek,

   Per your request I am providing an email summarizing my thoughts on the IGFA's upcoming rule change which will divide freshwater records into separate male and female categories.

   I became aware of the rule change via another angler's article on the subject.  However, that particular article, while correct, did not include that the IGFA's saltwater records had had separate male and female categories for decades.  During our phone conversation, through our emails and via the IGFA website I have learned more about the rule changes, the IGFA's reported rationale for the changes, and what IGFA's mission is for anglers and fisheries alike.

   My initial opposition to the rule change for freshwater records was watered-down after learning saltwater records had had gender separations for years & that the IGFA had hoped to provide more equality with regard to the attention given to freshwater vs. saltwater interests. I also understand that by separating genders into their own record categories, IGFA hopes to encourage more female anglers to pursue records.  I empathize with the rationales given & I understand the reasons why others will support the change, but after research and careful consideration I still oppose it.

   I am not a statistician, so bear with me.  The simple fact is that there are far fewer female than male anglers.  So, for example, if 70% of anglers are male, common sense dictates the likelihood that many more males than females will find and land record fish.  This does not mean that the individual female has less opportunity than the individual male to obtain a record.  Under this circumstance & where there are no gender separations, the individual angler -be it male or female- has an equal opportunity to land a record fish.   There is no question that this individual has THE record fish in a particular class.

   Once again, because there are fewer female anglers to find and land record fish, fewer females and more males are frequently (but not always) likely to land the heaviest and/or the longest fishes.  When genders are separated into separate record categories, I am concerned that unfair comparisons will be made between the genders.  Simply because there are fewer female anglers, the female record holders may often (but not always) have lighter or shorter fishes than their male counterparts.  On the flip side, I can hear the stereotypical comment, “Hey Johnnie, you got beat out by a girl!”  My perception is that gender separation in a situation where the gender populations are so disparate can do more to separate anglers from one another & enforce stereotypes than bring them together.

   I’ve also considered another scenario.  I imagined that I landed a particular tippet class of musky and it filled the void in a vacant women’s category for a world record.  Let’s say the musky was 54 pounds.  However, the male category in the same tippet class had a world record musky recorded at 56.5 pounds.  I’ve thought about it and I would be tempted to submit this catch for the female record for the simple facts that hooking and landing that fish would be a rarity, a success in any anglers’ eyes and would reflect well upon female anglers.  However, in my mind the male record-holder would hold the true record.  Furthermore, and what would finally keep me from submitting it would be the knowledge that there could possibly be a few males out there who landed musky between 54 and 56.5 pounds (heavier than mine but smaller than the male record-holder) in the same tippet class as me but who would never earn a record or be recognized, simply because they were males and despite the fact that their fish were larger than mine.

   I can’t say that there is a definitive right or wrong with regard to the rule change.  I think much of it pertains to what the individual values more and perceives as important or ethical.  For me, it is more ethical to submit for a record in a particular class when there are not gender distinctions or when one is the clear-cut record-holder.  In the short-term I can see that having gender separations might encourage more females and males to submit their catches for world record status.  However, I can’t say that having separate male and female records will encourage more women to become anglers.  However, coming up with ways to encourage more women to fish can lead to more women wanting to submit their catch for record status and more women simply acquiring more records by virtue of increasing female angler presence.
   In lieu of creating gender separations, I encourage the IGFA to “broaden the demographic” by creating new ways to entice women& others to the sport of fishing.  To broaden the freshwater representation of the IGFA to allow more equal attention to be paid to both freshwater and saltwater interests, I recommend the IGFA provide more current articles on the website pertaining freshwater concerns  (invasive species, how specific pollutants affect riverways, etc), increase the use of photographs taken in a freshwater environment and employ (or at least list) a couple freshwater specialists  (vs. just marine specialists) at the headquarters on the website.  The website alone has a heavy saltwater slant.  A radical change to equalize the playing field between freshwater and saltwater would be to gradually phase out the gender distinctions in the saltwater categories.  I realize the latter suggestion would not be taken seriously but it is just another example that other ideas can be developed to broaden the freshwater scope of interest at the IGFA and to encourage a broader demographic of anglers to participate in and become members of the IGFA and the fishing community in general. 


Lisa Davis


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tie One On at Davenport's Java Java ~Saturday, March 8th.

   I have fishing plans on Sunday.  But what to do on Saturday?  A group of us will be tying flies again this Saturday, March 8, 2014, at Java Java cafe, located at 836 E. River Drive, Davenport, IA.  

   Tying will start at 9:00 am and last until noon.  Musicians are also being invited but their plans are currently unknown.  All are welcome!!!! 

Musky Temptress ~ A New Tying Pattern Emerges

   This is a new musky fly pattern I created, unintentionally, after experimenting with new tying material and thinking about how I could change the profile of my first pattern, the BB's Forage.  After a few things changed a new pattern, yet un-named, emerged!  I think it is a sexy fly, but I doubt musky care about that.

   In addition to the usual yak hair, ostrich herl, one hank of bucktail & #2 saddle hackles, I created the head with Bug Bond light-cured resin and I added Krystal Hackle and Stever Farrar's Flash Blend to my musky tying arsenal.

   While I am truly one of those strange people who enjoy the weather variability of late-winter/early-spring, I am looking forward to taking this fly for a swim in warmer weather.  Just like humans, being pretty only takes one so far.  Our actions are what produce and make a lasting impression! (3/6/14 ~Twitch)