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Reel Women

Fishermen of the world, make room for a new generation of fisherwomen. Betty Bauman, founder of Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!, vows she and her staff can teach women how to become anglers in one weekend.

The 44-year-old blonde with the determined look calls herself an everyday angler who went to seminars, attended mostly by men. "There was lots of conversation about fishing, much of which I didn't understand," she says. She walked out not knowing any more than when she had arrived. That was five years ago.

Bauman realized she wasn't the only woman in this situation. She called upon the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which helped her kick off the program, hailed by its founder and its happy graduates as the "No Yelling School of Fishing."

All sizes, shapes, and ages flock to seminars in Fort Lauderdale, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Islamorada, and even out of state in order to learn how to bait hooks, cast lines, bottom-fish, fillet catches, and more. About 70 percent of participants are novices. Some literally don't know if the reel goes on the top or the bottom of the rod. "There's a lot to learn before going fishing," Bauman confirms. The charter boats provide fishing licenses and equipment.

"A lot of camaraderie takes place on these weekends," Bauman says. At the end of three days, after spending all or part of the third day on a charter boat, the fisherwomen tell stories about the ones that got away at the concluding Fish Tales Party, while entertainment is provided by Fishbone Freddy.

The program has proved so successful that Bauman is creating a training program for other states' divisions of wildlife or natural resources to come to Florida and see how it works. Bauman believes that if women are taught how to fish properly and when to release fish, "we'll have a program that can change the fishing industry."

Seminars can include having a participant pilot a boat and lessons on how to back a trailer into the water. About 70 to 150 women participate in each seminar; usually one helper is available for every three participants. Bauman says more than 2000 women have taken the seminar.

Some members never go fishing: They join to receive the triannual newsletter that advises what charter boats have discounts for members and lets recipients keep up with news about sister members. Membership is $35 a year. Registration for a seminar includes a T-shirt, meals, a goodie bag, and "how-to" instructions. Charter-boat fishing costs extra.

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Sue Lynn

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