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



  1. Well put Lisa. A world record is a world record. It doesn't matter who catches it.

  2. Well written article, Lisa. I hope it gets heard. Kindest regards, Kathryne

  3. Kip and Kathryne, thanks to you both for taking the time to read my post and commenting. Please feel free to share your viewpoint with Mr, Vitek and the IGFA.


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