Women and Fishing – Courtlyn Suszko article by Heather Bailey
Courtlyn Suszko is a local resident, born and raised in the Red River North area, so it is no surprise that her passion is for the outdoors. It happens to be our good fortune that she chooses to share it with us.
In 2017, Courtlyn started Hooked on Fishing, Hooked on Ice Fishing and Hooked on Cat Fishing. She originally delivered these programs in Winnipeg through the Cabela’s store.
Seminars at Cabela’s were popular – women were coming by bus and others drove for several hours just to attend. What made these seminars different? They were taught by another woman – no stress, no judgement, just community and fun. With the confidence and the knowledge that this was in fact something that women wanted to learn and participate in with hands on involvement, Courtlyn brought Hooked on Fishing home to the Red River North Area. The first sessions offered were for young girls ages five through ten. The session was Hooked on Fishing offered once a week for eight to ten weeks in length. The program focused on the basics of fishing; emphasize on safe fish handling and what fish to release and how to release them. A lot of girls have never held a fish before and the accomplishment of holding and baiting their own hooks helped them thrive and gain confidence.
The idea for the program was not just to teach about fishing though this certainly was the fun part of the program but it was about promoting community and having women feel comfortable and be comfortable about entering a fishing store to buy their own equipment, use their own equipment and be successful at it.
In 2018, many of these same young girls attended the Hooked on Ice Fishing on the Red River. Unfortunately, due to the conditions and how the river froze a repeat of the Hooked on Ice Fishing was not a viable option for the young girls in 2019/20.
In 2019, there was a Catfishing seminar day – 25 catfishing rods for 25 girls and volunteers to man 15 boats. Catfish are large fish and many of these girls were catching 34-inch catfish. Because these girls had already participated in Hooked on Fishing they were ready to handle these big fish plus the volunteers were advanced in catfishing. catching fish this size is a skill. At the end of every workshop there is a fishing derby, many of these girls caught master angler catfish.
The goal is to make these workshops fun and affordable for everyone so that each girl is eventually able and capable to head out fishing on their own and enjoy the sport for many years to come. Many of these girls would not have an opportunity to get into fishing otherwise.
Fishing helps with mental health and confidence and the empowerment that each of these girls came away from these workshops with is priceless. Lots of hard work but the sense of accomplishment that is felt at the end is well worth it.
The summer of 2019 was the first workshop where Courtlyn partnered with Harvester Outdoors, you can find Harvester Outdoors on Mercy Street in Selkirk. The basis for this workshop was to teach women how to filet their own fish, cook their own fish, back up trailers with and without a boat. Courtlyn enlisted the help of two of her friends and those women delivered Boat Motor 101, anything and everything you wanted to know about your boat motor, what to look for, how to maintain a motor, and an overview of all the components of a boat motor. Fileting was practiced on whole Wall-eye that had been acquired by Harvester so each woman had a chance to practice fileting her own fish. The participants had such a great time and learned so much that they were ready to tackle cold weather fishing. Roll forward to January of 2020 and Courtlyn offered her Hooked on Ice Fishing for Women.
Women of all ages and levels attended; ages ranging from early 20’s to 60 years of and skill levels from beginner to advanced, lots of first-timers. They tried all different types of augers, different fishing gear, different electronics, different ice shacks – no question was taboo, nothing off limits, great sharing and great communication. These are opportunities to have conversations of all kinds, make connections and friendships, a sharing and a positive individual experience for those attending.
Courtlyn is a contributor for Hunt Fish Manitoba and writes articles focusing on how females can get into these outdoor hobbies such as water fowl hunting and the newest article is fishing in Lake Winnipeg. Go to Hunt Fish Manitoba and read her articles.
Support from the community helps make these programs work. These workshops require a lot of pre-planning to get 25 people out on a boat fishing with all the gear, so the fact that Courtlyn has the support of Harvester and the community means that these programs continue to be successful.
Keep an eye out for what Courtlyn has coming up next!
The moral of the story is that anyone can start a program and more people are needed to do programs like this in our community. Share your passion, take kids out fishing if you have the means and the abilities. We have world class channel cat fish and world class wall-eye all in our backyard as well as other species in this area such as perch, pike and more. Get out and enjoy the outdoors and share your passion