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The polls say women are expected to make a difference in many key midterm elections. And our next story is also about women, poles and transforming an American institution. From Interlochen Public Radio, Morgan Springer reports.
MORGAN SPRINGER, BYLINE: Throughout the Great Lakes, fishing has always been a big deal. Each year, it brings about $7 billion to the region. But while the number of men who fish is declining in the upper Great Lakes, young women are taking up the sport in greater numbers. That's according to Michigan Tech professor Richelle Winkler who conducted a recent study and found not only does gender matter but age does, too.
RICHELLE WINKLER: Young women today are about two times more likely than women born in about 1960 to buy a fishing license.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Can go upriver, down river and pick your spot.
SPRINGER: It's a cold, gray morning, and it's drizzling as 11 women spread out along the Two Hearted River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. These women are taking a class on steelhead fishing. This isn't fly fishing. This isn't catch and release. They're trying to catch one and keep it. Kristy Taylor casts her line. It's got a small bait bag on the hook filled with bright red salmon eggs. Right now, Taylor's tracking a fish with instructor Katie Urban.
KATIE URBAN: You see it? All right. She's coming back to this side. She’s going to that pocket. Go down this way.
SPRINGER: The fish swims close to the surface, leaving a swirl of water behind it as it moves away from the bait, then disappears heading toward the mouth of the river and Lake Superior.
KRISTY TAYLOR: Oh, she’s all the way up there.
URBAN: Yes, go.
SPRINGER: Taylor and Urban take off running through the dunes, the dark-stained Two Hearted River below them. Winkler says it's not clear yet why more women are fishing these days, but she has a hunch.
WINKLER: So I think it's part of a broader cultural pattern of the world opening up a bit to women's participation in activities that have traditionally been seen as more masculine.
SPRINGER: She says that's particularly true for women born after 1980 - women like Kristy Taylor who's 37 and says she learned to fish as a child.
TAYLOR: My parents divorced when I was really young. So whenever we would be with my dad, that was the activity he knew best. So he would take my sister and I both to go fishing.
SPRINGER: But not all these women are in their 30s. Ellen Rice is 63. And today, she is fishing for the first time.
ELLEN RICE: The men went out fishing and hunting. And the women - we just never thought about it.
SPRINGER: Did it feel like it wasn't available to you?
RICE: Right. I wouldn't have known how to do it or no man would ever take me out.
SPRINGER: As Taylor arrives at a new spot to fish, she spots a man sitting at a campfire across the river. He gets up, grabs his fishing rod and casts for the fish they've been chasing.
RICE: Oh, my God. He's going for your fish.
SPRINGER: The bait lands right by the fish.
URBAN: Yeah, she's running from him.
SPRINGER: Now the fish swims right to the shore by Taylor.
RICE: She's right in front of you. I mean, drop it.
SPRINGER: Taylor drops the bait, but the fish still does not bite.
TAYLOR: Oh, he's right there.
SPRINGER: Kristy Taylor says, for her, fishing is all about being in nature. And she finds it empowering.
TAYLOR: You're in charge of your pole. You're in charge of your bait. You're in charge of your cast. And when you catch a fish, it's then your doing.
SPRINGER: Taylor's line starts to drag.
URBAN: Keep that tension if you think you’ve got one.
SPRINGER: She starts to reel it in.
TAYLOR: I got one. It’s the biggest catch I’ve had all day (laughter).
SPRINGER: But it's not a fish. It's a long, wet stick snagged by her hook.
For NPR News, I'm Morgan Springer on Michigan's Two Hearted River.
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