Free fishing day chance to introduce someone new to sport

STEVE KNIGHT/Staff WHETHER IT IS TAKING a child, an office buddy or the whole family, fishing on Texas’ lakes and along the Gulf of Mexico offers a different experience for different people.

Saturday, June 3, is free fishing day in Texas. It should be at least a weekend or as much as a week, but at least the gesture is there. The free fishing day is good on any public waters including the Gulf of Mexico.

Visitors of all ages to state parks can already fish for free. And on any day, youth 16 and under get a free ride - whether it is on a lake or at one of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s 17 Neighborhood Fishin’ Lakes around the state.

The thing about fishing is it‘s something an individual can do or an entire family can do together.

“Fishing can provide a safe and relatively inexpensive way for families and friends of all ages to make connections with each other in the outdoors. It is an activity that can be both relaxing and exciting at times,” said Craig Bonds, TPWD’s Inland Fisheries Director and of course a life-long fishermen.

The thing that makes fishing unique among outdoor activities is that it’s something that can be done for everything - from recreation, to sport in the form of tournaments or as a means to provide food for the family

“Fishing can provide a healthy meal or pure recreational enjoyment, depending on your motives. Fishing offers a near endless variety of catch experiences, angling destinations and techniques, as well as types of fish to pursue. It has something for everyone, from the novice to the most advanced specialist,” Bonds said.

The good news is that almost all youth like to fish. There is something about watching a bobber disappear or feeling the tug on a minnow and then pulling the unknown up from the depths as it struggles to get away that has always been will always be exciting to someone young.

The problem is, something happened along the way and the generation following the Baby Boomers just did not take to outdoor activities like their parents and grandparents. Maybe because it went from being a necessity to recreation, and the Gen-Xers had other options of recreation they preferred.

That means that fishing also was not passed along to the next generation, the so-called millenials, either. And that is what makes this event, or just their recruitment into outdoor activities important.

Sure, it is a great time to take those who used to fish like grandma, dad, the elderly friends down the street back to the lake for the day. More importantly it is a time to introduce new adults to the sport. But there is a catch. The 20- and 30-something year olds are not as interested in getting into fishing for the same reason a lot of us did more than 30 or 40 years ago.

Working on another story recently I learned that millenials are not that firmly connected to the keyboard or game pad. They want to go outdoors. They want to fish. They want to hunt. They don’t want it to be a competition nor do they particularly have any interest in catching a state record bass or even a ShareLunker.

On the other hand they might be interested in noodling catfish or landing a 50-pound-plus blue cat in the middle of winter. Extreme sports.

They could also be interested in a boatload of electronics that they use not to catch a bass per hour on a summer day and be shamed into releasing it, but instead a limit of crappie.

They want an element of thrill, fun, technologically interesting, and just as important they want to be able to bring home fish from a sustainable resource so they can feed family and friends.

They will figure out the electronics, the specialized gear and the techniques as they go along.

The same can be said about different cultures. For example, studies have shown that family activities are very important to Hispanics. They want something everyone in their family or extended family can do together. And in the case of fishing they want to fish for something they can keep and eat. Their concern is not as much the sustainable resource, but the family activity.

Neither the millenials idea of fishing nor those of different cultures are bad. In fact, in many ways it is a throwback to what fishing once was before $60,000 boats, $400 reels, $20 lures and tournaments paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So why is it important to pass along an interest in fishing? For one, it is what sportsmen have always done. Also, with the growth in Texas, it is important as a learning tool to teach about the importance of clean water and the conservation of water.

But no matter what, it is still fun to get a friend, a child or a neighbor or two in the boat and catch fish.

“I am forever grateful to the mentors who introduced me to fishing. My quality of life has been immeasurably enhanced by the people and places I’ve stored in my fishing memories. It’s important to pay that debt forward by connecting new anglers with fishing experiences that will be valued and shared over a lifetime,” Bonds said.

So on Saturday, or anytime this summer, take someone new to the lake fishing, but do it for fun and get the grease up to about 350 degrees.

- Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at outdoor@tylerpaper.com. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at Texas AllOutdoors and on Twitter @txalloutdoors.

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