AZGFD Angler Summit Helps Enhance Future of Fishing in Arizona
Courtesy: Jim Strogen
“Take A Kid Fishing!” That is a phrase we’ve all heard, and those of us who love to fish try to do as often as we can. It is a thrill for me to see and help my grandkids, nieces and nephews having fun catching a lot of fish.
My love for fishing is a result of my dad taking me fishing starting when I was about four years old. My uncle taught me how to cast and tie flies as a ten year old, and kept tabs on me for the next several years as I explored my home creek with my fly rod and had his support while I got good at it.
Recently, I attended the first annual AZGFD Angler Summit in Prescott and learned a great deal about the future of fishing, and ways to help fishing become valued and much more of an interest to others that have yet to experience the joy of catching fish.
According to national and state statistics, the number of folks who fish, largely measured by the sale of fishing licenses, is on a downward trend. Initially, you might think that is good news — less competition where you fish, right? The reality is that we need to continue to encourage more interest in fishing.
The production of fish in our hatcheries, the tremendous stocking program of both cold water and warmwater fish in our state, and the efforts to install fish habitat improvements in lakes and streams, are just some of the things that depend on a continuous stream of monetary support generated through license sales.
That means we all must do what we can to encourage others to learn to appreciate fishing as a fun activity worth doing regularly. Our efforts to take our kids fishing absolutely need to continue.
When we were growing up, being outdoors was a regular part of our lives. Today, with kids having so many other indoor interests, we must have a priority of helping kids engage with the natural world.
One of the important learnings for me at this Summit caused me to reflect on how I interact with others who I want to get excited about fishing. My interests and how I choose to fish is likely quite different than someone who grew up with experiences unlike mine. For example, while I may occasionally grab my cell phone to take a quick picture of a fish that I just caught, our kids are much more engaged with technology even in the midst of nature. That is an important part of their world. Somehow we must embrace their enthusiasm for technology as we strive to interest them in fishing.
We need to consider why so many young adults and families don’t fish. How do we make fishing more accessible to them; especially families that may not have easy or regular access to streams or lakes, have never considered fishing as a possible activity, or may not have the necessary skills to be successful as they begin to fish?
It is much simpler for us to take folks who are exactly like us fishing. They are more likely to want to continue with it, because they have similar values and interests as we do. What is more difficult, and even more important for the future of fishing, is to also find ways to help others who might never consider fishing as a worthwhile pursuit. We need to help them find interest and joy in fishing in a way that is meaningful to them.
I will continue to go fishing with my sons whenever we get the chance, and treasure every opportunity I have to take my grandkids fishing. That, however, is not enough for fishing to remain strong.
If we want to change the trends in fishing participation numbers, to paraphrase what Matt Dunfee from the Wildlife Management Institute shared at the Summit, “Get someone to love fishing as much as you do, who doesn’t look like you.”
This is important work! The AZGFD is developing ways to enhance the future of fishing interest through – recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts to be sure that fishing remains strong in Arizona.
Have you bought you fishing license this year? It is easy to do on-line at azgfd.gov and supports the incredible work that AZGFD does to provide great fishing in Arizona.