It is well documented and proven that participation in recreational fishing has many personal health benefits, in particular Mental Health.
From a 2011 report to the Commonwealth Fisheries Research & Development Corporation (FRDC) “Identifying the health and well-being benefits of recreational fishing” Professor Alexandra McManus (#1) identified:
“The main reason Australian anglers go fishing, apart from catching dinner, is to relax and unwind. And while it seems logical that there are health benefits associated with recreational fishing, it seems incredible that we do not fully understand the scale and range of the benefits. Participants (in the study) indicated that there were several social, physical, mental health and well-being benefits to be gained from recreational fishing, with a particular emphasis on relaxation and stress release. When asked what health and well-being benefits families can gain from recreational fishing there was a significant focus on familial bonding (#2).
This study found that considerable health and well-being benefits can be gained through involvement in recreational fishing. Encouraging young children, youth, adults and families to fish offers a healthful outdoor recreational activity that can be enjoyed throughout life. Benefits were evident for both individuals and groups.
Recreational fishing also provides significant benefits to children and youth with behavioural and mental health issues.
The major benefits identified were:
• youth development;
• social support;
• good mental health outcomes,
• behavioural management,
• rehabilitation of upper body musculoskeletal injury and;
• reductions in stress and anxiety.
Seniors can also gain significant health benefits by continuing to remain active both physically and mentally through this enjoyable, low-cost outdoor pursuit. Intergenerational transfer of knowledge and skills from seniors to younger generations is another major benefit that should be exploited by recreational fishing groups.
This view is supported in an interesting article on Mental Health & Recreational Fishing by Alycia Downs (#3) that addressed the 4 key points on how reconnection with recreational fishing benefited an individual’s health.
• A Renewed Focus: One of the biggest psychological benefits of fishing is that it allows anglers to focus on the simple act of fishing. You can let go of all your cares and worries, which in turn, gives you the opportunity to decompress and appreciate the beauty and joy a day on the water affords.
• Quiet Reflection: If you want to step away from the noise that constantly surrounds us and concentrate just on yourself, planning a solo fishing trip will give you that opportunity. For some anglers, a day of solitary seclusion on the water is the perfect chance for clear thinking and introspection that can bring greater understanding and happiness.
• Greater Self-Esteem: One of the best mood boosters is confidence. And fishing can help by upping your skills. From analysing the best spot to go or addressing problems that come up while you’re on the water, you’ll be strengthening your decision-making skills and be better prepared to achieve other personal goals as a result.
• Physical Exercise: Walking to the perfect spot, wading in the water and casting all day long are all great forms of exercise. And regular physical activity is known to relieve tension, improve energy and enhance your well-being thanks to an uptick in endorphins
Engaging in Recreational Fishing requires lots of focus and awareness which in turn takes your mind off internal conflict and stress, similar to meditation, resulting in reduced anxiety, fighting off depression, and promoting relaxation.
Further to this is the importance of individual reconnection and that sense of belonging through actions as simple as just going fishing and re-establishing engagement through discussions with family, friends & local Fishing Tackle shops.
It is abundantly clear from all aspects of the media reporting that social disengagement through isolation, unemployment and financial strain is increasingly becoming a personal issue to be dealt with.
From the 2011 FRDC Report, this statement is perhaps more pertinent today than it was then:
….. One thing is for sure: the turbulent, roaring rapids of our daily lives, fuelled by social media, a 24-hour news cycle, and a quickening work-hard, play-less culture is unlikely to slow down any time soon. And so we need to ensure what free time we have is invested in things that sustain and feed us, literally and spiritually.
(#1) Professor Alexandra McManus PhD, MPH, PGDipPH, BSc HP (H.Biol), GAICD, MAIFST, Director, Centre of Excellence Science Seafood & Health (CESSH), Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor and Executive, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI)
(#2) FRDC Report “Identifying the health and well-being benefits of recreational fishing” Prof A. McManus, Dr W. Hunt, J. Storey, J. White at 7.4.3 “Health and well-being” p37