Back to FISH Vol 29 3
PUBLISHED 14 Sep 2021

The sixth annual Gone Fishing Day in October promotes the benefits of time spent in nature, with a boost to mental health

By Barbara Adam

On Sunday 10 October, the official date for Gone Fishing Day this year, aged care worker Leeanne Sherwell will be at her family’s “secret spot” off Caloundra, fishing for snapper, Red Emperor and Sweetlip … and her mental health.

Photo: Jed Owen/Unsplash
Photo: Jed Owen/Unsplash


Jake and Shelley Sherwell  Photos: Leeanne Sherwell


Sherwell’s partner, Matt, and their children, Jake, 12 and Shelley, 13, take their tinnie out fishing a couple of times a month. They all agree their emotional wellbeing is boosted by these expeditions. “Sometimes when Matt is being cranky I’ll send him fishing,” Sherwell says.

The Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF) has timed this year’s Gone Fishing Day to coincide with the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

The mental health aspects of fishing are being highlighted this year, as the global pandemic and repeated lockdowns around Australia have affected many people’s ability to cope.

Time to reset

“It is widely understood that fishing can improve a person’s mindset and self-esteem, but it also helps you focus on the simple nature of wetting a line,” said ARFF chief executive officer Adam Martin.

The ARFF has developed a Gone Fishing Day app, which fishers can use to upload photos of their catch and location.

An estimated 3.5 million Australians go fishing each year, and last year’s Gone Fishing Day was celebrated in more than 1000 locations
around Australia.

“For some it is a sport or a leisure activity, for others it is a social activity spent with family and friends,” Martin says. “Whether you are young or old, recreational fishing is a lifelong activity that everyone can enjoy while connecting with Australia’s unique marine and aquatic environments.”

For Sherwell, spotting dolphins, whales and even crabs is part of the attraction of fishing. “Being out on the water, there’s always something different to see,” she says. “It’s also good because it gets the kids off technology and out into nature.”

Her 12-year-old son Jake, meanwhile, likes the thrill of having a fish on the line, especially if he is feeling a bit seasick. “It’s good to get away from people, too,” Jake says. He is so keen on fishing that there’s a family joke: “If there’s a puddle, Jake will drop a line in it.”

A 2011 FRDC study into the health and wellbeing benefits of recreational fishing reported benefits for both individuals and groups. The study, led by Alexandra McManus at Curtin University, identified particular benefits for young people with behavioural and mental health issues.

“Encouraging young children, youth, adults and families to fish offers a cost-effective and healthful outdoor recreational activity that can be enjoyed throughout life,” the report says.

Making connections

The bonding aspect of fishing is what appeals to Simon Spencer, a 50-something white-collar worker, who has fond memories of going fishing with his dad as a kid. Now Spencer takes his 16-year-old son Luca fishing in Melbourne. The pair leave their Mount Macedon home at around 2am and head to the pier in Port Melbourne or Altona, returning home after the sun rises, always feeling a bit better about things.

“For me, fishing is contemplative and meditative,” Spencer says. “Luca, on the other hand, is into the technical side of things. He’s much more focused on catching the fish. I don’t try to catch the fish; I just go fishing and it doesn’t worry me if I don’t get anything on the hook.”

Spencer also likes the social aspect of his pier-fishing trips, often recognising other pre-dawn fishers. “There’s a certain sense of community when you’re out fishing. The other people on the pier, if you got into trouble, they’d be there. If you fell into the water, or if you ran short of gear, they’d help you out.”

For more information visit and follow Gone Fishing Day on Facebook and Instagram. The Gone Fishing Day app is available for download through both the Apple App Store and Google Play. f

Jake and Shelley Sherwell  Photos: Leeanne Sherwell
Jake and Shelley Sherwell. Photos: Leeanne Sherwell



More information

FRDC Research Code 2011-217