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Wisconsin's fisheries biologists got a wake-up call about 12 years when the state fishing license sales had reached a plateau despite the fact the population was growing. Given Wisconsin's array of fishing opportunities, we sensed that if we started losing anglers, we also might lose a group of people who care about protecting streams, lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes, as well as a source of funding to manage and protect those resources.
"The angler education program was started to reaffirm and revitalize fishing as worthwhile leisure for family and friends," notes Theresa Stabo, the state's aquatic resources education director. "Fishing can be a solitary pursuit but also can be very social. People who are connected to the resource usually have a stronger commitment to protecting it. Fishing is one way to make that connection."
Also, fishing is a lifetime sport.
While DNR programs aim to introduce all ages to the joys of fishing and the wonders in lakes and streams, a priority is encouraging young people to become lifelong anglers and resource stewards.
One challenge fishing faces, though, is intense competition for children's time.
"Fishing competes with Nintendo, piano lessons, soccer and lots of other interests," Stabo notes.
So we need to make sure that the Angler Education Program is fun as well as educational. The goal is to introduce kids not only to fishing, but to get them outside again.
Adults who take youth fishing learn that angling provides time to talk about school, social issues and family matters as well as the environment. Fishing reconnects people not only with aquatic resources, but with each other.
DNR loans fishing equipment for free at 30 offices, state parks
Angling education programs help kids and adults experience the joy of fishing.
On Free Fishing Weekend people fish for free the first Saturday and Sunday in June. Many state parks offer special fishing programs that weekend so anglers are encouraged to invite their non-angling friends out for a fishing picnic, Stabo notes.
The DNR Tackle Loaner Program provides fishing equipment at 30 sites in Wisconsin. There is no charge to borrow the equipment. Groups may borrow equipment for up to one week from regional DNR offices. Parks have their own arrangements. Call (608) 266-2272 or see the DNR website to learn about the tackle loaner site closest to you.
The Hooked on Wisconsin Anglers Club acknowledges diverse angling opportunities and recognizes outstanding sportfishing catches and releases in Wisconsin.
In 1985, the state launched an urban fishing program by stocking Milwaukee County park lagoons and other urban waters in southeast Wisconsin. The DNR's urban fishing coordinator visits schools and other groups to discuss the program. To goal is to help urban residents appreciate the aquatic resources in their backyards.
In 1997, staff in the DNR Alma office started The Reel Kid's Klub for kids ages 10–17. Chapter members hold monthly meetings, fish and take field trips. Guest speakers share fishing skills and talk about fishing safety, aquatic plants, ancient fishes of Wisconsin. The Angler Education Program complements other programs offered by DNR, University of Wisconsin-Extension and national organizations.
Many DNR staff statewide also enjoy giving presentations to share how their jobs fit into the big picture. Randy Larson, fish propagation supervisor for the Wild Rose Fish Hatchery, gives many presentations each year.
"I enjoy doing this very much and get really excited when I see all those eager and excited looks in the eyes of the young boys and girls," Larson says.
For more information about the state's aquatic education program e-mail Theresa Stabo or call (608) 266-2272.