Why It Matters: Though license fees are often among the more affordable items needed to participate in many of our time-honored outdoor traditions, they are at times considered to be a barrier to participation. To alleviate some of these perceived hurdles, free fishing weekends are just one of the many opportunities afforded to those interested in joining the ranks of sportsmen and women as they embark upon their first fishing experience.
- Free fishing weekends are hosted in many states across the Midwest in June as an opportunity for anglers to spend time on the water without the need for purchasing a fishing license.
- Opportunities to participate on the water or in the field without facing the perceived hurdle that purchasing a license can create are great ways to recruit sportsmen and women.
- Throughout the region, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is working hard in other ways to help lower the cost of entry for sportsmen and women, such as through discounted youth and college student licenses.
With school being out and the weather heating up, summer is now here in full force, bringing with it exciting opportunities for anglers in many states across the Midwest, including free fishing weekends. During free fishing weekends, anglers are permitted to hit the water without purchasing a fishing license. Though fishing licenses, especially those available for residents in their home state, are often very affordable, free fishing weekends completely remove perceived barriers to participation in the form of license fees and purchase processes. This “try before you buy” approach is designed to get anglers “hooked,” confirming their desire to continue participating in angling opportunities before they commit to purchasing a fishing license.
CSF is proud to celebrate the value that free fishing weekends provide our fellow sportsmen and women, and the role that they play alongside our recent efforts to alleviate barriers to participation associated with license fees while safeguarding the integrity of the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. Recent examples include CSF’s support for the creation of discounted youth combination licenses in Kansas (2022) and Arkansas (2023) in which adults have the opportunity to invest in the next generation of sportsmen and women. Similar efforts include CSF’s support for nonresident college student licenses such as the recent work highlighted in Ohio. Such efforts are critical given the importance of adult-onset hunters and anglers in the fight to reverse trends in hunter and angler participation.
Through efforts such as those highlighted here, CSF will continue to support opportunities to remove barriers to participation across the nation. For more information on your home state’s next free fishing weekend, visit your state fish and wildlife agency’s website. For more information regarding CSF’s efforts to provide accessible opportunities for sportsmen and women while safeguarding our outdoor heritage and conservation funding, stay tuned to The Sportsmen’s Voice.