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The Reason People Fish Might Not be What You Think
If you are an avid fisherman or have spent some time catching fish in your life, you probably spend little to no time actually pondering why you enjoy the sport. Instead you wonder what the weather is going to do to the fish on your next day off.
Who cares why people fish? You do it, and you enjoy it. It is as simple as that … Well, not really. If you can spend some time and learn a few reasons why you enjoy your hobby, you will probably learn a few things about yourself. At that point, you can begin to enjoy your hobbies even more because you can chase the “WHY” behind it all. Long story short, read this article and your life will improve tenfold.
According to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, their most recent survey concludes the number one reason people choose to fish is to enjoy nature. Initially this data shocked me and made me take a look at why I enjoy fishing. A lot of the time I have trouble answering the question: “Why do you like to fish so much?”
I never could put my finger on it and would usually say because it’s relaxing and exciting. But the vagueness behind that answer never satisfied someone who cared enough to ask about my hobby, and it sure as hell did not satisfy me. The more I thought about my answer, the more other answers would pop up.
The data shows that the number one reason people fish is to enjoy nature and the next most popular reasons are getting away from the demands of life, catching fish, and spending time with family. All these answers are the most popular ones, according to the survey. I stumbled upon this data and it made some very positive connections in my mind.
This comes as no shock, obviously spending time in nature is a reason people enjoy fishing. When the weather is nice it doesn’t really matter if you are hooking Big Bertha Bass on
a golf course pond you snuck onto, it is just nice to be outside at that point. But, I think spending time in nature or just outside might need to become a priority for everyone.
A study from 2001 called the National Human Activity Pattern Survey, was funded by the EPA to collect data on how humans would be affected by pollutants by assessing where we spend our time. According to the survey, we spend 87% of our time indoors. While it is outdated information, I would argue that those numbers probably went up during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past 200 years or so, our lifestyles shifted from farm and field work to office jobs.
We wake up and brew coffee in our home, and then drive to work where we sit at a desk and type away from 9-5. We check our phones at any dull moment, and can’t wait to drive home for a more “fun” indoor experience. The only time spent outside in this common daily routine is the walk from your home to your car and your office to your car. We are an indoor generation, which is why enjoying nature is the number one reason people fish. We don’t get enough time outside, so when we do it is very beneficial.
I think it is safe to say everyone wants to be “healthy”, whatever that means for you. But, we overlook how important very basic health habits are to our wellbeing. Getting some sunlight everyday has numerous health benefits. In his podcast Huberman Lab, Dr. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford claims, “Getting sunlight during the day might be the most important thing anyone can do for their metabolic health, hormone health, and mental health.”
It is no secret that outdoor time is essential to our wellbeing, which points to a real case to make fishing a priority. Not only that, but the opportunity fishing provides to spend time in nature is just a sliver of the health benefits. The light physical activity fishing requires is an easy way to stay active for just about anyone. Casting, reeling, walking, and simply standing outside is better than being on a couch watching Netflix.
This next reason was not on the list explicitly, however, I think the potential fishing has to strengthen relationships is great. At the surface level, fishing can both help you make new friends and strengthen existing friendships. The fishing community is an amazing thing. Almost every fisherman I know or have met is more than happy to introduce someone to fishing. If you already know how to fish, inviting someone new to fishing is a great way to get to know him or her. A quick fishing trip to a local pond, lake, or river is an easy activity to do if you want to get to know someone.
Taking one of your existing friends who hasn’t been fishing is another great way to get to know them better and experience something new with them. Being able to share a hobby that they have not yet shared with you can allow for different connections to be made.
The real point I want to make is to prove that completing a difficult task with someone will draw you closer to them, win, lose, or draw. We see this evident in the military community, when one Marine shakes another Marine’s hand, there is an immediate sense of respect and genuine joy.
Each Marine understands what the other went through. It is taken to another level within the military community when you actually experience that difficult situation with another person. You were there for the ups and downs of training or deployment that made you forget about each other’s flaws in order to accomplish a goal.
In my opinion fishing offers this relationship building opportunity on a smaller scale, but a much more accessible level. While fishing is not as difficult as military training and service, the same principle can be applied. Getting up at the crack of dawn to hike to a pond or river and catch fish all day is physically exerting. It becomes even more mentally challenging when the
fish are not biting. However, these types of experiences allows you to embrace the suck with someone and draw you closer to them.
The second most popular reason people enjoy fishing is because it provides an outlet to get away from the usual demands of life. Fishing is the ultimate escape. When you’re fishing you cannot answer email, take work calls, or focus on anything besides catching fish.
I think the ability to escape when fishing goes deeper than that. A phycologist named
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi began research on what is called the “flow state.” To paraphrase what the flow state is, it is being completely engaged in an activity with little to no inner-dialogue occurring. There is a certain level of concentration where time passes quickly and you can get lost in whatever you are doing. In my opinion, fishing can put you into the flow state effortlessly.
Being on the water and focusing on making each cast count, all while thinking about the correct lure presentation. The key to allow fishing to put you into “flow” is to make the fishing just hard enough so that you are challenged, but not so hard that you want to give up. You also do not want tasks to be so easy that boredom sets in. This is a critical part. Using fishing to put you into flow is amazing for your mental health, and another reason fishing should be a hobby for everyone.
Other scientific studies have been and are being done to show the importance of flow, and to point people in the right direction when choosing their work or hobbies. Studies done by Keller Ulrich point to positive emotions felt during the flow state. Dopamine is released and which gives feelings of hope and positivity. My hope is that you can search for these benefits on your next fishing trip.
Lastly, fishing can bring good into the world. The data shows that a lot of positivity can come from just one fishing excursion. Whether you want to get the health benefits of being outside, improve your relationships, or get away from daily stress, fishing can bring that into your life.
More importantly, you can use your passion and knowledge for fishing to help other people. Everyone knows somebody going through a difficult time, and a quick fishing outing could really help a friend or family member cope with their issues.
I think it is beneficial for all of us anglers to take a look as to why we enjoy fishing. Chances are it can tell you something about yourself. Maybe you are drawn to the outdoors much more than the fishing, and you can use that knowledge to your advantage.
Carve out time to spend an extra hour outside everyday. On another hand maybe you want to make some new friends. Now you can schedule a fishing trip with some casual friends and get to know them through your hobby.
Or, you might have felt connected to the ability fishing has to relieve stress. If you find yourself lost in “flow” while you fish, take what you know and apply that “fishing flow state” to other areas of your life.