Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First Catch Teaching Today's Children to Fish Is Far from Child's Play

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First Catch Teaching Today's Children to Fish Is Far from Child's Play

Article excerpt

No one is born knowing how to catch a fish, and you have to know it to teach it.

In the last 30 years, urbanization and other cultural changes have created a dearth of capable fishing mentors. Recognizing the linkage of fishing among youths and environmental awareness in adults, every state and province in North America is engaged in efforts to become a surrogate fishing mentor for the next generation of anglers.

A week before Pennsylvania's April 7 Mentored Youth Fishing Day, which gives children first cast at stocked trout before the statewide opening day, the president and CEO of a major fishing and boating trade association said governmental youth fishing programs are valuable and necessary. But he said they are uncoordinated and don't go far enough.

This month the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, a nonprofit aquatic recreation and resource organization, will release a commissioned study and pilot program of best-practice guidelines for youth fishing instruction. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission partnered with RBFF in developing the program. A series of related activities will be announced soon.

"Guidelines, some people are calling it -I call it a rubric," said Frank Peterson. "New thoughts about moving from one-day events to series of events that keep people engaged. Not just kids, but family members as well."

The new #FirstCatch program includes an internet primer on learning the basics, finding places to fish, understanding license requirements and a posting board of participants' first-catch photos.

Peterson said fishing participation statistics are improving nationwide. According to an RBFF count, from 2015 to 2017 the number of children age 6 to 17 who fished grew 8 percent. Among new fishing participants, 45 percent were women or girls, and the number of youths and Hispanics who fished for the first time went up 20 percent.

"We found that 83 percent of current adults who fish were introduced to fishing before the age of 12," said Peterson. "Ninety-four percent fished by the time they were 18. So if you don't learn to fish before you're 18, there's only a 6 percent chance that you'll pick it up later."

The #FirstCatch program emphasizes what the fishing industry calls R3 -recruitment, retention and reactivation of anglers. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation recommends that aquatic wildlife agencies spend 10 percent of their federal Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act dollars on marketing campaigns for the recruitment of new anglers.

"I think it's an opportunity for all [fishing product] manufacturers -not just fishermen and boaters - to invest in the future of the sport," he said.

Many researchers believe the experience of feeling a fish on the line -making a physical connection to the natural world -and the family bonding that often goes with fishing can impact developmental skills among children. …

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