On the hook with Gabriella Hoffman

Hoffman shares her unique perspective of the fishing community as a policy analyst, journalist and award-winning writer.

Introduction to fishing

I first got lured into — pun intended — fishing at the age of 8 when my dad introduced me to the sport. We fished in many inland lakes and ponds in Southern California, starting with bait and spin cast rods. By the time I was 12, I fought and landed a memorable 8.9-pound, 28.5-inch catfish all by myself during Memorial Day weekend. Afterwards, I was sold on the sport and have been hooked on fishing ever since.

Experiences and challenges

For the most part, I’ve had positive experiences that have made me feel welcome — especially on the media and public policy side of things. There have been negative comments online about me fishing — you can’t please everyone — but professionally speaking, this is one of the most welcoming industries out there.

Those who don’t understand fishing are quick to lambast female anglers. We saw an influential female angler recently take heat for being authentically herself noodling for catfish. Amazingly, many rushed to her defense and hit back at her critics. Outside of this, the naysayers are increasingly far and few between.

The fishing community greatly values women participants and knows how important it is to attract more females into the sport. Women have greater purchasing power and make decisions in the home — including fishing purchases. Why not appeal to them, as they do men?

Like men, women — especially mothers — are also catalysts behind instilling a love of fishing in kids. Fishing allows women to be their best and most empowered selves, which is why more women are gravitating to the sport today.

Support systems

Finding community and “finship” with fellow female anglers has made my experiences in the industry, especially as a media professional, worthwhile. I have developed lifelong friendships with women such as Debbie Hanson, a freshwater Florida fishing guide who sparked a fire in me to try fly fishing for largemouth bass, and Tiffany “Snookie” Risch, a Virginia angler who gives back to our community and the industry in so many big ways.

There’s also my friend Cindy Nguyen, a longtime Columbia Sportswear ambassador, who also inspires me and shares similar experiences as a fellow first-generation American. There are so many friendships I maintain with fellow female anglers that it’s now hard to keep track of all of them. There’s great fellowship in fishing, and like my male friendships, I equally cherish those with fellow female anglers.

Personal achievements

I’ve been extremely fortunate to podcast, write and visually document many facets of the fishing industry — whether it’s through covering ICAST, attending Yamaha media events or outdoor media conferences where fishing is involved. But I’m especially proud to have paid it forward as a fishing instructor to kids of Navy SEALs in Virginia Beach a few years ago for a local nonprofit called Raise ‘Em Outdoors.

Seeing these girls and boys catch their first fish reminded me of my early days of fishing with my dad. Seeing them light up with excitement and asking to reel in fish again and again was so heartwarming.

Advice for aspiring female anglers

Fishing is a naturally inclusive activity, so there are plenty of opportunities for women to be involved. Hosting more women-centric events can help, as with realistically portraying women in fishing — whether they’re young single professionals or mothers and wives who live the fishing lifestyle. The water is open and women are seizing opportunities to make their mark. Fishing can be brought to new audiences and demystified more. The work has already been underway for a long time, and I’m happy to see progress here.

As someone who was once in their shoes, I say start fishing for fun to see if you like it and then dip your toes into the industry. There are many ways to work in the fishing industry — indirectly and directly. It’s what you make out of it, but having a direct connection or proximity to the sport first helps. 

You can follow Gabriella on Instagram: @gabriella_hoffman