Why It Matters: One of the most important challenges that sportsmen and women face today is passing on the outdoor traditions that we cherish to new generations. Broadening the base of hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers is instrumental to securing the legacy of the American outdoors, and free fishing days aim to do just that.
- While most states hold their free fishing days (or weekends) in the summer, Indiana is the only state in the Great Lakes region to allow folks to fish without a license in September.
- Falling on September 23rd, which is also National Hunting and Fishing Day, this free fishing opportunity allows newcomers or lapsed anglers alike to cast a line and connect with the great outdoors.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supports efforts to broaden the base of participating sportsmen and women, which increases the resources available to state fish and wildlife agencies and allows them to better manage the populations that hunters, anglers, and trappers have pursued for generations.
By allowing limited days in which anglers need not possess a fishing license to cast a line, state fish and wildlife agencies like the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hope to introduce newcomers to the state’s waters – and hopefully convert them into lifelong anglers. Given the significant role that sportsmen and women play in supporting the DNR through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a handful of free fishing days each year is a small investment compared to the potential revenue that newcomers could contribute to the agency in the long term.
Approximately 60% of funding to state fish and wildlife agencies is derived through the unique “user pays – public benefits” structure of the ASCF, which relies on revenue from hunters and anglers purchasing sporting licenses as well as excise tax revenue that is levied on firearms, ammunition, and other outdoor goods including bait and tackle, fishing rods, and motorboat fuel. Since 1939, state fish and wildlife agencies have received over $56.9 billion from sportsmen and women through this funding structure. Removing the license barrier that may be keeping folks from casting their first line – or their first line in a while, for lapsed anglers – should be seen as a worthwhile investment that has the potential to hook newcomers and create a lifelong passion that can bolster the resources available to state agencies. With those increased resources, the Indiana DNR can better manage the state’s waters and, in turn, create a better experience for all anglers in the state.
Capitalizing on the heightened awareness provided by National Hunting and Fishing Day, Hoosier sportsmen and women should enjoy September 23rd by inviting a friend to your second-favorite fishing hole. If they want to tag along to your favorite spot… tell them to buy a license!