Fish Like a Girl 

04 Mar 2024

A local fishing group establishes a judgment-free zone for anglers to share success stories, learn and build camaraderie

By  Vera Wilson  

Wilmington native Tonya Lissor recently got married and started a mobile dog grooming business, so she's got a lot going on. But anytime there's even the slightest break in her busy schedule, she's grabbing her fishing gear and heading for the water.

Lissor can't remember a time when she didn't fish. 

“I've been a fisherwoman my entire life,” she says. “My dad thought I was going to be a boy, so when I was born, his first words were ‘Well, I'll take her fishing anyway.’” 

And so he did. Initially, fishing might have been an excuse to spend time with her dad, but she eventually grew to love it.

“That's how the monster was created!”  jokes Lissor. 

She's not alone. Female fishing participation in 2022 reached an all-time high, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation's annual report. Over the last decade, female participant numbers grew by nearly four million, from 16 million in 2012 to 19.8 million in 2022. That represents 36 percent of all anglers and 42 percent of first-time participants.

But this isn't a new phenomenon. Women have been fishing — and good at it — for centuries. However, according to, female anglers didn't hit their stride until the early 1900s when they created fishing clubs and started competing in tournaments. 

Lissor isn't interested in tournaments herself, but she does like to share her success stories. As a member of several fishing groups, she would put up photos of herself with her catches, as many of the members do. But her social media posts didn't garner the response she had hoped for. Instead of praise and encouragement, she said she was sexualized, belittled, and degraded. 

“Because I was a woman that was fishing, people would say, ‘You didn't really catch that or you're just a prop,’” she explains. Other comments focused on her appearance, objectifying her.

“I got tired of it, so tired of it. So I just said I'm gonna start my own group,” she explains. 

And so she did. Female Fishing Fanatics is an online support group whose intent is to provide a safe, judgment-free zone for female anglers who want to post their trophies without being bullied or sexualized. 

But, despite the name, the group is intended for all anglers.

“I didn't want anyone to feel excluded from the group,” she says.

Lissor is especially keen on having enough moderators to properly police the site, so what happened to her doesn't happen to someone else.

“I just want to require some sort of civility,” she says.

Among the group's recent posts on their Facebook page is a woman proudly showing her catch, and the beauty mentioned in the comments refers to the fish, not the woman holding it. Another shows a young boy — all ages are welcome — holding up a very big fish. There are posts about upcoming fishing events, including member meet-ups and “fish ups” where Female Fishing Fanatics can hang out and fish together. 

“We're hoping to go to Galveston, Texas, this year and invite members to come along,” she says.

Lissor also wants the site to be a place where people can learn about fishing and ask questions.

The group has a presence on YouTube, and a recent post shows a video of a fish that got away from Lissor. She and her husband discuss the reason why they think the fish escaped and give anglers tips on how to avoid this problem in the future. 

“I have a lot of people reach out to me for advice on how to fish. I don't know everything, but the beauty of this group is we can help each other and learn from each other, so we can all have more successful fishing days,” she says.

A recent member was traveling to the Wilmington area (the group has members from as far away as Peru) and sought advice on where to fish and with what gear. Lissor gave him some pointers.

“He caught a ton of fish and had a lot of fun, and that was really rewarding for me,” she says. 

She believes that women can be discouraged from fishing because they aren't always encouraged to do it on their own.

“Sometimes a man might tie the hook for a woman, or he thinks a woman's going to lose the fish, so he grabs the pole and starts reeling it in,” she says. “You miss out on something when that happens.” 

She hopes that offering a safe place to ask for advice will help women be more confident and take fishing matters into their own hands.

At the end of the day, Lissor just wants all anglers to experience the same joy she derives from fishing whether it's catching a lot of fish, enjoying nature at its best, or chatting with fellow anglers while you're waiting for that tug on the line. 

And when asked who she thinks makes the better anglers — men or women? Her reply: “Whoever's more dedicated.”

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