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

Could it be genetic drive that keeps fishers fishing on into old age?

WHY do we love fishing? Is it because we grew up in households of fishers or had aunts or uncles who fostered an early interest? Or is it due to the possibility, as some of us have often discussed, that it’s in our genes. In other words, are really keen, really skilled fishers descendants of long lines of fisher folk stretching way back in time?

The CSIRO has published a study which suggests that people’s desires for nature experiences are at least partially inherited. So, some of that desire can be explained by genetics. But the study also concludes that environmental factors including education, familiarity with nature and learned behaviour can have a greater influence.

Now anecdotally it looks as if loving outdoor activity generally, and loving fishing, often go together. But while most fishers enjoy camping, hiking, canoeing and other similar activities, not everyone that likes this suite of activities necessarily likes fishing. Which brings us back to genetic inheritance.

Think back to your experiences trying to teach someone to fish. Irrespective of their keenness and desire to learn, within a couple of hours or so you instinctively know whether your “pupil” is going to develop into a really competent fisher. Some pick up concepts and basic skills as if it’s second nature. Like ducks to water, so to speak. Others, despite their desire to become proficient, never quite get it. Whether it’s a rock platform or a barra creek, instinctive fishers will know where to target and where to ignore. Of course, that doesn’t work 100 per cent of the time, but it does more often than not. Some would-be new fishers persevere, some give the sport away. Some try to address their sense of not quite getting there by buying different gear, adopting strange new methods or fishing in unsuitable locations, rather than mastering the basics. Two lessons for the newcomer should be: one, when you see an obviously successful fisher, observe and shamelessly copy his or her techniques; and two, don’t look for a magical fix to lack of success. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

It might be genetic drive that keeps fishers fishing on into old age. As the years pass, tuna gear might get superseded by luderick tackle, big jewie rods with whiting flick sticks. Favourite rock platforms might be replaced by quieter estuary locations, big boats by little boats, tents and air mattresses by comfy lodge beds. But for a lot of us, the desire to fish never goes. Must be in the genes.

Research shows that interaction with nature improves people’s health and wellbeing. CSIRO researcher Dr Brenda Lin says desire to be in nature can be fostered by education and policy that that helps the general population have more positive nature experiences. So even if you’re not genetically blessed, in the fishing sense, keep learning, get out and keep fishing.

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