The future of recreational fishing in Utah is dependent on the recruitment of young anglers. While the same is true of almost any activity, fishing is especially critical to the state because of its wide-ranging impact.
Many Utah residents might be surprised to know that fishing has a higher statewide participation rate than skiing, according to an economic report prepared by the University of Utah for Commerce Real Estate Solutions. And while skiing generates more outside revenue for the state, fishing likely produces more economic activity among residents.
In an effort to attract young anglers and provide close-to-home access, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is focusing increased resources on its urban fishing program. There are currently more than 40 community fishing waters across the state, and more are added each year.
The DWR website says, “Community fisheries provide a fun, easy way to spend quality time with family and friends outdoors. They offer a setting for parents and kids to talk, enhance family interaction, and keep busy Utahans in touch with the natural world. Fishing can provide families with opportunities to get away from their day-to-day problems and share time together.
“Kids benefit from fishing immensely, since they can participate solo or with others. It's a sport that builds self-esteem and confidence while enhancing problem-solving and decision-making skills.”
As part of the urban fishing program, the DWR organizes fishing clubs for children in communities across the state. Clubs are open to children 6 to 13, and the DWR provides all needed supplies to introduce children to fishing.
Wes Pearce, community fishery biologist for the northern region, said most clubs operate one night a week for six weeks. Volunteers help teach participants how to fish. Pearce said there is an urgent need for more volunteers. Hours spent helping children learn to fish meet the volunteer service hours required for dedicated hunter candidates.
A list of clubs where volunteers are needed and that offer fishing lessons is available at http://wildlife.utah.gov/cf/clubs.php. Available slots fill quickly. While most operate in the spring, there are some that have summer or fall classes.
Dale Searcy works for Roy city and is the coordinator for the Meadow Creek Youth Fishing Club. He has been involved with the club since 2005.
“Over the years, I have witnessed many of our fishing club graduates as they continue to come back to the pond and fish,” Searcy said. “These kids have become very good at catching fish. They bring friends with them to the pond and help them learn about fishing instead of spending that time inside their homes playing video games.”
Searcy said many of the youths that participate in the fishing club would not otherwise learn to fish. Many are from single-parent households or from families where neither parent knows how to fish.
Searcy said more than half of the volunteer coaches come back to help the club year after year. Many are retired and most are not related to any of the children in the club. “These adults are there because they like helping kids learn to fish,” Searcy said.
In 2005, the Meadow Creek Youth Fishing Club had 60 youths and 12 volunteers. Searcy said they quickly discovered it was too many kids and not enough helpers. Now the club limits the spots to 40 youths and 20 volunteer coaches.
The Utah Valley University Bass Fishing Club is another example of an organization helping to provide fishing opportunities for children. During the International Sportsman’s Expo, club members spent nearly 100 hours helping man the children’s fishing area.
Club adviser Clinton Martinez said members are participating in several other projects to help introduce youths to the sport of fishing. One of those projects is the DWR community fishing club at Spanish Oaks Reservoir.
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