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Health benefits of fishing

Spending time outdoors is good for you.

Story by Eddy Hoyle

In today’s “new normal,” most of us are on our screens way too much. Now, like countless people around the world, Covid-19 has thrust millions of lives into a virtual space. Our kids do remote learning, then relax by playing video games, creating Instagram videos or posting on Facebook. Many adults now work remotely from home and suffer from “Zoom fatigue,” a real thing that wears on the psyche in complicated ways. We may become either exhausted, unfocused, or our thoughts run rampant.

Believe it or not, fishing is great physical and emotional therapy. It’s good for the mind, body and soul. It helps us decompress, relax, enjoy nature and get away from our screens. And here in the Lowcountry, we are surrounded by estuaries, marshes, rivers and the ocean – all teeming with fish.

So, what does it mean to get “in the zone” when the hamster in your head goes into a deep coma and you’re in total focus? You know, when the chatter in your brain shuts up. And why is that good for you?

According to Ashley Gruber, a board-certified, licensed professional counselor, “When we are ‘in the zone’ and the hamster in our head takes a break from his wheel to go fishing, our brain releases ‘feel good’ chemicals called endorphins, our natural painkillers. We immediately notice a decrease in heart rate, a loosening of muscle tension, and ease in our pace. As endorphins flood our brain with feel-good richness, our production of cortisol, our stress hormone, decreases,  and our brain immediately starts to cool. It switches from high alert in our day-to-day environments to a state of healthy, chilled-out focus.”

Gruber explained that this relaxed state allows our prefrontal cortex (PFC), the part of our brain right behind our forehead, to activate. “The PFC is like the Houston command center for NASA in our brain. And turning it on in a state of fishing-focused relaxation is ideal. When it’s activated, we experience a ‘cool brain’ devoid of stress hormones, so we can function at our best. A state of relaxation allows us to make sound decisions, to be proactive, to create strategies and move toward our goals, and to focus and learn new information more effectively. Further, the more we can relax our brain towards a cool state, the better we can control our natural tendency towards a reactionary mode – like snapping at someone who is frustrating us when our patience is fraying or making a rash decision while driving.”

Fishing can be a hobby, a way to unwind, or an activity to just put food on the table. But it’s seriously good for your health. From your physical well-being to your mental state, the health benefits of fishing are great and varied. In fact, fishing is one of the healthiest hobbies out there. And that’s no fish tale!



10 reasons you should go fishing

1. Physical exercise: Reel in a couple of fish. Once you get the hang of that, try more active techniques like jigging or fly fishing. Try wade-fishing in the surf or jump in a kayak for a full-body workout. Even balancing yourself on a boat is great for your core strength – especially while fighting fish!

2. Sun on your face: Smile as you soak up vitamin D and boost your healing and immune system. Vitamin D also helps you properly digest calcium for healthy bones. Enjoy the sun, but remember your sunscreen!

3. Great meals: The freshest fish you’ll ever eat is what you catch. A successful day fishing means you’ll enjoy a protein-packed, low-cal meal bursting with nutrients.

4. Meditative state: Fishing is good therapy for the brain. You’ll feel yourself ‘in the zone,’ a feel-good state of mindfulness that improves concentration.

5. Kick stress to the curb: Fishing reduces anxiety and stress and helps fight depression. Fishing therapy programs for folks with PTSD, cancer and physical injuries have existed for years.

6. Socialization and bonding: A sense of community automatically comes with fishing. Young or old, man or woman – people from all walks of life can bond through fishing. Exchanging fish tales or giving someone instruction creates trust and mutual respect between people. The shared emotions of catching (or not catching) a fish also creates strong friendships and lasting memories.

7. Anybody can enjoy fishing. The fish don’t care if you’re young, old, disabled, black, white, gay or straight–it doesn’t matter. Whether you’re an expert guide or complete novice, the fish can’t tell you apart, and they certainly don’t care, and you don’t usually see fistfights break out on a pier. Everyone’s just too relaxed!

8. It’s relatively inexpensive. Once you have a rod, some tackle and bait, you’re all set. You can equip yourself for a lifelong hobby for just $100.

9. Anglers are helpful. Those who fish are generally good neighbors who are ready, willing and able to mentor newcomers. Tangled line? No problem. Just ask. Learning how to cast a net? Just ask. Using the wrong bait? Just ask. You’ll make instant friends.

10. A perfect pandemic activity. Social distancing is built in. Fresh air and a breeze can mitigate transmission of the virus. Masks may not be necessary out on the water, but don’t break the rules.