Contact: Robert Matthews, Senior Coordinator, Upper Midwestern States
Why It Matters: Because state natural resource agencies rely, in part, on anglers for funding, it is imperative that states create initiatives that are focused on strengthening and growing their angler-base. Free fishing weekends offer an opportunity for people that have never picked up a pole to explore the waters around them and potentially pick up one of America’s favorite pastimes. The more anglers there are in a state, the more that state can do for its anglers.
Throughout the Upper Midwest, states are celebrating successful weekends in which many new anglers were introduced to the peaceful thrill of fishing. Many states offered Free Fishing Days as a complement to National Fishing and Boating Week 2022, which officially began Friday, June 4th and ended Sunday, June 12th. On these designated Free Fishing Days, state residents can bait a hook and drop a line without paying for a fishing license. Consequently, families that may not regularly get out on the water can visit their nearest lake or river and try out the pastime that we as sportsmen and women cherish.
Attracting newcomers to the sport is imperative for the funding and management of our fisheries, and these new, prospective anglers should be warmly welcomed. Under the American System of Conservation Funding, nearly 80% of funding directed to most state fish and wildlife agencies comes from license sales and excise taxes on fishing and hunting gear. This means that as more fishing licenses, tackle, motorboat fuel, and other angling-necessities are sold in a state, the coffers available to maintain the waters of that state grow too.
When states provide their residents with Free Fishing Days, they are making an investment. Although for a few days each year the state may reduce its revenue from license sales, by exposing newcomers to the thrill of landing a keeper, a lifelong angler is sure to be born. The revenue that will be made from new anglers purchasing licenses, rods, reels, lures, and other fishing-related goods will help fund fish and wildlife agencies for years to come. Free Fishing Days should be celebrated and promoted as an excellent method for introducing newcomers to one of America’s favorite pastimes.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?