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ABOUT FISHING: Recruiting new anglers: No easy answers

A recent announcement put Minnesota fishing license sales down 20 percent to date. Contributing factors for the decline: an aging Baby Boomer population and rural populations stable in number, but diverse urban populations on the rise.

Getting to fishing areas from urban areas can be challenging enough to deter participation. Folks living in Minnesota lake country are balancing the demands of work and family, lacking the time for fishing.

Recruiting new fisherman is difficult. For fishing recruitment programs to be most effective, continued follow-up is necessary. The focus has been giving these opportunities to kids from fishing families that are likely learn to fish anyway. Family-originated, basic grassroot fishing introduction deeply instills a lifelong interest into the sport.

The need exists to reach non-fishing families. Recruit someone into the sport of fishing not like you – women and people of varied ethnic backgrounds – to entrench the sport into diverse communities. Recruit adults, not just the kids. Kids are actually the hardest to recruit with no control over their money or personal time.

The most troubling aspect of the outdoor fishing recreation is the economy. Participation demands having time and disposable income with an added obstacle: the cost of basic equipment.

For far too many fishermen, gear has become a measure of social affluence and status. Wearing a certain brand of clothing, using a certain brand of rod or reel, owning a certain boat or motor conveys a message to your fellow fisherman that having the right stuff is more important than the skills and knowledge to use it.

Participation in the sport of fishing is of major importance to the outdoor fishing industry. New anglers in the sport equals continuing sales of gear and equipment. Some of us that take fishing for granted never consider that others may face circumstances that prevent or make it close to impossible to go fishing.

Removing those barriers encouraging and maintaining access to the fishing resource are all priorities for the fishing industry to monitor and evaluate.

Fishing manufacturers must continue and strive to reach a broad consensus and not be silent when issues concerning a healthy ecosystem come to the surface. Sustainability of the resource will, in the long haul, benefit those of us that enjoy fishing and ensure customers will buy and utilize the products offered. Today’s consumers value and appreciate a healthy outdoor environment. No fishing manufacturer will lose customers by defending its sustainability and public access to it

Over time, the best fishing destinations become priced out of the range for most. Cabins become expensive to rent or purchase, and some urbanites bring with them a continued effort to restrict access and dictate fish management on waters owned by the public.

It’s important to the future of fishing that the industry is engaged in preserving public access, coupled with supporting those that want to ensure we have a healthy lake ecosystem.

Simply getting back to the basic fishing experience is vitally important, as a recent South Dakota survey of anglers pointed out. It provides peace and quiet times away from the everyday rigors of life. Catching and eating fish is a vital ingredient to the overall experience. In some circles, consuming a fish or two is frowned on and discouraged.

Like the lakes themselves, the fishing culture has changed. If the downward license sales trend continues, funding will be drastically decreased for needed fishery programs that are in place today and for the future. What will it mean for the resource and the future of fishing? These are questions certain to be answered down the road.

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