One Woman’s Role in the Dawn of Big Game Fishing
A film produced by IGFA Partner, Rapala®, delves into the remarkable journey of IGFA Fishing Hall of Famer Helen Lerner, an audacious female angler who shattered early big game fishing records and reshaped the landscape of the sport. Helen Lerner (1902-1979) remains an unsung hero, despite her groundbreaking achievements. This trailblazing angler and marine scientist made history as the first woman to reel in a bluefin tuna off the European continent, the inaugural angler to catch nine tuna in a single year, and the pioneer in catching a broadbill in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Driven by a desire to disseminate her wealth of knowledge and foster a global angling community, Lerner, alongside her husband and fellow angler, Michael Lerner, established the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) in 1939. As a dynamic duo in the angling sphere, the Lerners elevated big game fishing to unprecedented heights, laying the groundwork for future generations of anglers, irrespective of gender. Yet, Helen's narrative often remains in the shadows. This latest film by Rapala, "Ladies First: A Rapala Story," sheds light on this extraordinary angler, rewriting the script on the integral role women have played in shaping the evolution of big game fishing and marine science since its inception.
Beyond her stellar angling career, Helen Lerner's legacy is defined by her pivotal contributions to marine science alongside her husband, Michael Lerner. Commencing in 1936, the Lerners spearheaded and financed seven monumental scientific expeditions in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History. These expeditions spanned the globe, capturing invaluable data on giant saltwater game fish. Helen and Mike hauled in specimens, exclusively utilizing rod and reel, which were promptly dissected by the Museum's scientists, yielding unprecedented insights into the diet and migratory patterns of oceanic game fish. This groundbreaking research laid the groundwork for a comprehensive understanding of marine ecosystems.
Renowned for her finesse with both light and heavy tackle, Helen Lerner's angling prowess knew no bounds. She achieved numerous world records and groundbreaking feats for women in the sport, despite grappling with seasickness. Notable milestones include her historic capture of the first giant tuna on rod and reel off the coast of Brittany, a feat that earned her a prestigious gold medal from France's Academic des Sports. Helen Lerner's indelible imprint on the world of big game angling reverberates through her pioneering achievements and unwavering dedication to advancing marine science.
Learn more about Helen from this video that was produced for fer induction into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame in 1998: