Go Fish: Celebrate National Wildlife Week by Going Fishing

Fishing is an excellent way for parents to connect with their children in nature. Photo by John Gale.
Fishing is an excellent way for parents to connect with their children in nature. Photo by John Gale.
What are your plans for National Wildlife Week? This year’s theme for the March 17-23 celebration of all things wild is “Wildlife and Water: From the mountains to the rivers to the oceans.” With a theme like that, may I humbly suggest fishing as a fun and rewarding activity to connect the whole family with your local watersheds and the wildlife that call those waters home?

Why fishing you may ask? Well, fishing has many benefits to the individual, society, and wildlife. These benefits fall into the broad categories of economic, social, and ecological. From an economic standpoint, the 2011 study “National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation” reports America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy, creating employment for more than 828,000 people. Fishing-related jobs are renewable, often rural, and they cannot be outsourced to other countries. The service and tourist industries also greatly benefit from the activities associated with fishing.

Get outside and connect with nature through fishing

The social benefits of fishing are many and varied. They include physical exercise, relaxation, stress relief, bonding with family members and friends, dexterity improvement, and self-esteem growth. The Australian government did a good job of researching these benefits in the 2011 study “Identifying the Health and Well-Being Benefits of Recreational Fishing”.

The report found that “considerable health and well-being benefits can be gained through involvement in recreational fishing. Encouraging young children, youth, adults and families to fish offers a cost effective and healthful outdoor recreational activity that can be enjoyed throughout life. Benefits were evident for individuals and groups. Recreational fishing was also noted to provide significant benefits to children and youth with behavioral and mental health issues.”

Perhaps most importantly are the ecological benefits of fishing. Fishing is an extraordinary form of sustainable use that is known to create habitat stewards, stimulate conservation principals and policy, and generate revenue for conservation budgets. Fishing has been and will continue to be a leading contributor to fish and wildlife conservation. For example, the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund is a tax anglers pay on fishing tackle and motorboat fuel. For decades, these tax revenues have been distributed annually to state fish and wildlife agencies to help fund projects and programs that directly benefit fish habitat and, ultimately, anglers and other recreational water enthusiasts. According to the American Fisheries Association’s 2013 report “Sportfishing in America: An Economic Force for Conservation,” “in 2010 alone, the excise tax on sportfishing tackle amounted to $390 million. Along with the $657 million contributed by anglers through fishing license fees and $403‑million in private donations, anglers generated $1.45‑billion (in one year) for fisheries conservation efforts.” Through these fees and taxes along with countless hours of volunteer labor, anglers also contribute to non-game and outdoor education programs, as well as purchase of thousands of acres of public lands, where many forms of outdoor recreation are available.

Moral of the story: Go fish. It’s good for you and the environment. Now more than ever, it is vital adults connect kids with nature to create tomorrow’s conservation leaders. Many of those future wildlife champions will be created by having a rod and reel placed in their hands and experiencing the one-of-kind thrill of hooking, playing, landing, and releasing a fish. Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods” lists fishing as an excellent way to connecting children with nature.

“In a decreasingly de-natured world, fishing and hunting remain among the last ways that the young learn of the mystery and moral complexity of nature … Yes, fishing and hunting is messy – even morally messy – … but removing all traces of that experience from childhood does neither children nor nature any good,” writes Louv. “Yes, there are alternative hands-on ways for children to experience nature, but when people who love nature argue for the end of hunting and fishing … they should be careful what they wish for. By any measure, the impact of consumptive outdoor sports on nature pales in comparison to the destruction of habitat by urban sprawl and pollution. Remove hunting and fishing from human activity, and we lose many of the voters and organizations that now work against the destruction of woods, fields and watersheds.”

Wildlife Nation offers some great resources to connect with the outdoors through fishing. Photo by Michele Sandberg.
Wildlife Nation offers some great resources to connect kids with the outdoors through fishing.

NWF offers many fishing resources

The National Wildlife Federation recently launched its new Wildlife Nation initiative that provides tools and resources for adults to connect kids with the outdoors. Wildlife Nation is an excellent way to merge today’s computer technology with outdoor activities. One of the several campaigns within Wildlife Nation is fishing, and if you are at all interested, right now is the time to get involved. Wildlife Nation is offering some cool angling prizes for folks who are already members or join Wildlife Nation by midnight March 23. Just join, upload an avatar photo and complete your profile to be automatically entered. Prizes will be awarded Monday, March 25 and include two fishing rods, tackle bag, lures, Ranger Rick plushy, sample of NW/RR magazines, Wildlife Nation magnet, keychain/flashlight and car decal.

Another NWF resource to learn about fishing opportunities in your neck of the woods is located at the National Wildlife Week resource webpage. Here you will find state affiliate and agency fishing activities happening this month. There are also youth-related resources available on the NWF Sportsmen page.

Now, please, GO FISH!