ENVIRONMENT: Why do we fish and why are some people really good at it?

Could it be the genetic force that pushes fishermen to fish until old age?

WHY do we love fishing? Is it because we grew up in fishing homes or had aunts or uncles that sparked an early interest? Or is it due to the possibility, as some of us have often discussed, that it is in our genes. In other words, are the truly passionate and truly skilled anglers descended from long lines of anglers that stretch back a long way?

CSIRO has published a study that suggests that people’s desires for experiences in nature are at least partially inherited. So, part of this desire can be explained by genetics. But the study also finds that environmental factors, including upbringing, familiarity with nature and learned behavior, may have a greater influence.

Now, for the record, it seems that a love of outdoor activities in general and a love of fishing often go hand in hand. But while most anglers enjoy camping, hiking, boating, and other similar activities, not everyone who enjoys this suite of activities necessarily enjoys fishing. Which brings us back to genetic inheritance.

Think back to your experiences trying to teach someone to fish. Regardless of their enthusiasm and desire to learn, within a few hours or so you instinctively know if your “student” is going to be a truly competent angler. Some learn basic concepts and skills as if it were second nature. Like ducks to water, so to speak. Others, despite their desire to become proficient, never quite achieve it. Whether it’s a rock platform or a barra stream, instinctive anglers will know where to target and where to ignore. Sure, it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but most of the time it does. Some budding new anglers persevere, others give up on the sport. Some try to address their feelings of not making it by buying different gear, adopting strange new methods, or fishing in inappropriate places, rather than mastering the basics. Two lessons for the newcomer should be: first, when you see an angler who is obviously successful, observe and shamelessly copy their techniques; and two, don’t look for a magic solution to lack of success. If it is not broke, do not fix it.

Perhaps it is the genetic force that drives anglers to fish into old age. Over the years, tuna fishing gear could be replaced by luderick tackle, big fishing rods with whiting sticks. Favorite rock platforms could be replaced by quieter locations in the estuary, big boats by small boats, tents and air mattresses by comfortable beds. But for many of us, the urge to fish never goes away. It must be in the genes.

Research shows that interacting with nature improves people’s health and well-being. CSIRO researcher Dr Brenda Lin says the desire to be in nature can be encouraged through education and policies that help the general population have more positive experiences in nature. So even if you’re not genetically blessed, in a fishing sense, keep learning, get out there, and keep fishing.


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