Tails of a Fisherwife – Lady Frigate Catches the Fish

Throughout history, it has often been the case that women were treated as being lesser than men in various ways.  From voting, to playing football, to being a CEO, women have proven that we can be equal to men in most cases, and, in many cases, women excel!

Fishing is certainly no exception.  Fisherwomen are often the better anglers over fishermen.  This seems to be because women tend to listen better to directions than men do, are more patient, and they do not (typically) let their egos get in the way of catching the fish. Sorry guys, we know your fish wasn’t really 20 inches! 😉

SMALLER IMG_2275Even when it comes to the other species that are involved with fishing, such as birds and fish, the females tend to be superior.  In the case of blue marlin, the biggest fish are always females.  If you are lucky enough to catch a ‘grander’ it’s going to be a female.  This is because the females are better hunters, or as my husband Jerry would say, the females are “bad ass fish”; meaning they are excellent at catching fish.  In order for them to reproduce, they have to eat more food than the males do–which means they usually eat bigger fish; which means they have to catch bigger fish. The largest blue marlin ever caught on rod and reel was actually caught by a woman! In 1970, Gail Choy-Kaleiki was fishing with her father, a charter captain, in Hawaii and reeled in an 1805 pound blue marlin, which was female; that can’t be a coincidence!  She finally got the fish to the boat after three male anglers had given up. I’ve seen similar situations play out on charters, as female anglers generally tend to be more tenacious during a long fight.

With birds, especially frigate birds, I have found that females seem to be the better hunters of the two sexes.  In general, frigate birds are often some of the best indicators of a good fishing spot, so they are the most sought after birds to see offshore.  This is because they have very light bodies (a pound or two), an enormous wingspan (6-7 feet), and their black feathers are not coated in oil; so when they get wet, the water will stick to the feathers and weigh the birds’ giant wings and small body down so much that it will not be able to fly and would drown.  Typically, they won’t take a chance risking their life by diving at the water to catch a fish, unless it’s a sure thing, unlike many other offshore birds like gulls, gannets, and terns.  (Sidenote: That means if you see a frigate diving offshore, go where he/she is immediately and get your baits ready!!)  You can tell frigate apart by the large white patch females have on their chest, while the males are all black.   Lady frigate typically seem to produce more fish than their male counterparts.  This might be because they fish more often than the males, but I believe they are just like marlin and fisherwomen, and are actually better at hunting and catching fish.  I’ve spent a lot of time watching frigates, and I think that the females are more patient when scanning the water for fish.SMALLER IMG_1988

Last month, Jerry and I went fun-fishing with one of our friends, Matty.  We spent the day trolling ballyhoo out about 15 miles offshore looking for those big, early summer mahi mahi, but would have settled for anything, because after 4 hours we had not had any bites.  The three of us felt a bit discouraged because we were so excited for the chance to go fun-fishing together and had hoped we would really crush the dolphin that day.  We finally found a very patchy weed line with a lot of small bunches of Sargasso weed and began to follow it.  It didn’t look too promising because the weed line was so sporadic, and was just not producing bites for us.  Everyone was looking for birds and we saw a few gulls over some splashing.  It turned out to be skipjack tuna feeding on the surface, so we ran over to it, but didn’t get any bites.  A few minutes later, we were heading back to find our choppy weed line and I spotted a frigate–and it was a female! She was flying towards the weed line too. Because she was flying high and searching for fish, we passed her and kept going down line.  Right away she circled back around behind us and, about 15 seconds later, the line in right outrigger, which I was standing right next to, popped out of its clip from a bite and I grabbed the rod and started winding until I got him to the boat. It ended up being a teenage-sized bull mahi mahi and it was our only catch that day!

Now when I see a lady frigate offshore while I am fishing, I feel an extra jolt of excitement because I feel like she’s on my team!  That might sound funny, but I feel like we are both out there, fighting the elements, looking for signs of life, trying to catch a bigger and better fish, and probably even trying to do better than the boys.  And that is what every woman should try to do every day!  So ladies, fisherwomen, and Island Jane’s alike, get out there and look for the biggest fish, set yourself even bigger goals, reach for your greatest dreams, and don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do!!

Susanna Pope grew up spending a lot of time on the Chesapeake Bay where she developed a love for the water. She’s lived in the Lower Keys for four years and loves exploring, fishing, photographing, and living the Keys lifestyle.

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