'I love it here' - Meet The Female Fisherman making waves
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
At this time of year many people find themselves thinking about lifestyle or career changes.
But for one woman, the realisation that she was not enjoying her office job led to an epiphany, the open seas and a complete change of direction.
Ashley Mullenger, also known as The Female Fisherman, is one of the few women working in fishing in the UK.
The 33-year-old has been commercially fishing off Wells-next-Sea in North Norfolk for more than two years, and through Instagram has found herself promoting fishing, advocating for women in the industry and part of a growing movement to get more women into the male-dominated trade.
Mrs Mullenger's fishing career started in 2009 when she booked an angling day trip.
She said: "I was sitting in the office where I used to work and I thought 'let's do something' and thought 'let's go fishing'. I looked on Google, I rang up and booked it and we went out."
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The one-off trip turned into many more and Mrs Mullenger soon became a regular on the boat to the point where the skipper told her she no longer needed to book sessions.
Describing herself as an "outdoorsy" person, Mrs Mullenger said she had enjoyed fishing with her father as a child but had never taken it further and was put off by preconceptions about the job.
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She said; "When I was younger I used to do a lot of fishing with my Dad and really enjoyed it. I'd always enjoyed fishing but had never done sea fishing.
"I've always been quite an outdoorsy person but I didn't expect to that moment where I thought 'Oh my God' I love it here and I really can't describe it, like when you get an epiphany.
"But I was put off for so many years because I thought I'm a girl, I'm not physically strong enough and I wouldn't want anyone to risk themselves because I wasn't strong enough. And that stayed with me for years, it's also not the most stable of industries."
The moment to take the plunge came in 2018, when Mrs Mullenger was invited to join a commercial fishing boat fulltime.
"I was just existing, living but I wasn't living, you go through the motions, pay the bills, it was an existence, it wasn't a life," she said.
She said since taking the opportunity she hasn't looked back and has been met with nothing but support from friends, family and within the industry.
Mrs Mullenger said: "I've never met any resistance because I was a woman doing it. Everybody has been really welcoming."
Promoting fishing through her Instagram account as The Female Fisherman, Mrs Mullenger has followers all around the country and has found herself on national TV being interview by Piers Morgan.
She said she found social media and promoting women in fishing a real motivator and a way of pushing for better representation and equality in the industry.
She said: "It means I have a voice in certain communities that I wouldn't have otherwise, people have found me.
"If it gets women empowered to feel like they can do anything they want, whatever, if I know it gets them empowered then it's worth doing."
Mrs Mullenger said would like to see more women getting into the industry and fishing promoted as a career option, she said: "[Fishing] is not something that's ever bought up in school. The industry is struggling to recruit women and young people for lots of reasons."
She said despite the long days, sometimes 15-16 hours, the elements and hard graft were what she loved about being a fisherman - and the "honesty" of the job.
She said: "It's such an honest job. If you don't go and haul your pots, even if you know there's going to be [nothing] in there you've still got to go because if you don't then you're not going to get any fish and then you're not going to have any money, it's so raw. You only get out of it what you put into it."