Fishing And Posting On Social Media

By Laura M. Holson

Instagram has become the new place for anglers to document every whopper, swap stories about secret fishing holes, and, well, brag.

Audra Van Duinen fly fishingAudra Van Duinen was fly fishing on the Provo River in Heber City, Utah, when her husband snapped this photo with a brown trout. "The moment after I picked up a fly rod, I haven't looked back," she said. (Photo: Ted Van Duinen)

The adage says if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. Today, if you teach a man to fish, or a woman for that matter, they'll end up on Instagram. n Social media has become the newest place for anglers to document every whopper, track the finest fishing holes and meet like-minded pals who swap secrets about everything from the best bait and lures to the most picturesque seaside villages.

Recreational fishing is on the rise in United States: The Fish and Wildlife Service reported last year that the number of anglers had grown eight percent, to 35.8 million in 2016 from 33.1 million in 2011.

One of those new to the sport is Noelle Coley, 26, the manager of a medical marijuana dispensary who lives in Wheat Ridge, Colo. She said she took up fishing a few years ago after an ex-boyfriend gave her a rod and reel.

Ms. Coley shares her catches on Instagram, but she guards her prized fishing holes from snoops, fearing her favorite streams will become crowded with newcomers. "I change the angle when taking a photograph," she said of her popular Instagram posts. "I'm mindful not to tag rivers."

With 21,500 Instagram followers, she has attracted the attention of more than just curious lookyloos. Three months ago, she said she signed a contract with a sponsor, Hardy, a maker of fly fishing rods and reels based in Alnwick, England. The company gives her free equipment in exchange for mentions on her social media account.

Nhia Vang shows off vermillion rockfish catchNhia Vang was fishing off the coast of Cambria, Calif., in early April when he caught this vermillion rockfish. He takes self-portraits using a tripod to show fellow anglers. "Just because we love these fish," he said. (Photo: Nhia Vang)

Instagram has its share of celebrity fishermen, among them the actor Chris Pratt, a longtime enthusiast who documents his travels to Texas and Louisiana. Donald Trump Jr. chronicles excursions with his children to their home in upstate New York or to Palm Beach, Fla., when they visit Mar-a-Lago. But it is the everyday angler who has embraced Instagram with zeal.

Scott Goldsmith, 30, who works in commercial real estate in West Palm Beach, scrolls through Instagram the way his father perused the weekly fishing reports once ubiquitous in newspapers published in coastal villages and river towns. He follows more than 2,500 accounts on Instagram. "Like most things in life, information is everything in fishing," he said.

Last month, for example, Mr. Goldsmith noticed that an account he follows had posted photographs of swordfish caught recently off the coast of Florida. Within a day, Mr. Goldsmith took his boat to the same spot and went home with a catch of his own. "You follow as many people as you can in the local area and try to see what is going on," he said. "If a spot is hot on Friday, it's probably going to be hot on Saturday. And if you are a guy, like me, working in an office, Instagram can really help."

Chris Hood, a professional outdoor photographer based in La Crosse, Wis., said most of the images he sees on social media are from amateur photographers. "But that's not a bad thing," he said. For one, it keeps anglers honest. "People used to sit around and tell their old fishing stories, you know, 'I caught a fish and it was this big,'" he said. "People didn't believe it. Now everyone has a camera on their phone, and it's definitely a thing in the community to document what you catch."

Instagram has also been a boon for fishing-adjacent businesses. Daniel Giunta, the owner of Double D Charters in Montauk, N.Y., credits social media for the growth in his sports fishing charters. He struck a deal with Mustad, a maker of hooks that found him online. (The company gives him new products to test and hooks to give away.) He, too, has become an expert shutterbug, taking photographs of charter passengers and (with permission) tagging them online.

Charter fishing trip group fluke catchDaniel Giunta is the captain of a charter boat that sails out of Montauk, N.Y. He took this photo after a morning fishing trip near the Montauk lighthouse. The fluke, or summer flounder, was prepared for sushi and ceviche. (Photo: Daniel Giunta)

"Within two hours of hitting the docks I'll get five or 10 new followers," Mr. Giunta said with a laugh. "Being a captain these days is all about being a good photographer. I know where the light is. I know where they need to stand."

"In the old days, you brought the fish back to the harbor six hours later, dead, and hung it upside down to be photographed," he said. "The background was cluttered up with buildings. The fish lost its color." Now, more customers are choosing to release their prized catches, he said. With camera phones, the gratification is immediate. "A fish out of water has vibrant colors," Mr. Giunta said. "The background is a blue sky. And everyone is smiling."

Perhaps, though, it is camaraderie among peers that is driving the Instagram crowd. Ms. Coley of Colorado said she had fished with 15 women in the past year, most of whom she met on the social media site. "It's hard to find women who fish hard, all morning, into the evening, who will even fish through lunch," she said. "You really get to know someone by looking at their photographs."

Two years ago she came across the account of Ruth Sims, a fellow angler, who lives in Seattle. "I liked her personality," she said. "I thought she would be a blast." They talked (in real life) and, since then, have taken about a dozen fishing trips.

Last April, Ms. Coley visited Ms. Sims in Washington State, where they hired a guide and drifted down a river along the Olympic Peninsula. Ms. Coley said she felt a tug on her line; Ms. Sims felt one too. The women wrestled two different steelhead trout at the same time, which they scooped up in a net once they got near shore. Of course, Ms. Coley posted a photograph.

"You bond with someone when you do that together," Ms. Coley said. "I have trouble hanging out with people who don't fish." 

Laura M. Holson is an award-winning feature writer from New York. She joined The New York Times in 1998 and has written about Hollywood, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley.

— Published: October/November 2018


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