Recreational fishing is widely accepted as a wholesome and non-controversial lifetime outdoor activity with numerous positive benefits. By sanctioning angling as a recognized sport, athletic associations and schools provide opportunities for students and families who might not otherwise participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities.
Due to its wholesome and non-controversial nature, recreational fishing is widely recognized as an affordable, lifetime outdoor activity with numerous benefits including physical activity, an increased awareness of our natural resources, and an improved understanding and appreciation for the outdoors. Due to the many benefits associated with the activity and increased interest of younger generations, some states have enacted legislation implementing fishing education into school curriculums.
Nine states’ public schools (GA, IL, KY, LA, MI, MS, MO, NH, VT), through their respective athletic associations, now recognize competitive bass fishing as a sanctioned high school activity and the number increases when private schools and external high school fishing organizations are included. By doing so, athletic associations and schools are hoping to draw in students and families who would have otherwise never participated in angling or that may have lost interest over time. Illinois has been extremely successful at implementing school fishing programs with a 60% increase in the number of schools participating from 2009 to 2023 equating to 120 additional schools enrolled in the program. Students wishing to participate in school fishing programs within these states are required to have a valid state fishing license, membership with the Student Angler Federation (SAF) for liability insurance purposes, and a coach on board the boat at all times.
Points of Interest
- Since its inception in 2009, the National Fishing in Schools Program (NFSP, modeled after the highly successful National Archery in the Schools Program) has led to 283 schools from 41 states and D.C. implementing the “Fishing in Schools” program. With 535 educators certified to teach NFSP curriculum, nearly 100,000 students have been introduced to fishing through the NFSP program.
- The Future Fishing Foundation’s “Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs” curriculum, now in its 20th year, has been extremely successful in its implementation throughout numerous states and schools.
- Other programs such as the Student Angler Federation (SAF) and C.A.S.T. (Catch a Special Thrill) For Kids have worked to promote education and introduce kids to fishing.
- In Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Vermont bass fishing is classified as a sanctioned high school sporting “activity.” This designation provides a structure for bass fishing teams that encourages participation from both parents and volunteer coaches.
- Some colleges offer bass fishing as a collegiate club sport, and even offer opportunities for anglers to earn scholarships.
- In 2013, Louisiana passed legislation (SCR 22) urging the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to establish and sanction the sport of competitive bass fishing.
In addition to angling being a wholesome, lifelong outdoor activity, the excise taxes gained from the purchase of products associated with fishing are an integral part of the American System of Conservation Funding. To promote angler recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3), which ensures both the future of our angling heritage, as well as critical fisheries conservation, legislators should explore and support legislative options that make angling programs more readily available in children’s schools. Furthermore, there needs to be increased effort to encourage state fish and wildlife agencies to accept competitive fishing as a legitimate activity, benefiting future license and tackle sales and generating agency program support. By doing so, state fish and wildlife agencies will be actively involved in working with the schools and the sanctioning of organizations (both public and private) to incorporate conservation messaging and activities into the programs.