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Time on the Water

What are you going to do with your summer days?

Would you like to be fishing? About 75 percent of this magazine's readers say they fish. Those ranks include diehard, occasional, lapsed, and beginning anglers. All but the diehards probably face a common barrier -- too much to do and too little time.

Here's a simple solution to help you take time to fish: Invite someone to go fishing. If you're a seasoned angler, ask a beginner to join you. If you're a novice, ask anyone with an extra rod and reel to take you along.

In the May-June 1967 Conservation Volunteer, an opinion piece called Conservationally Yours proclaimed: "This phrase -- 'Let's Go Fishing' -- repeated in hundreds of languages and dialects over thousands of years is undoubtedly the world's most often repeated invitation to adventure. Ever since the days when primitive man first invented a fish hook and knew the thrill of a tugging line, people have been fascinated in fishing. This sport attracts more people to the out-of-doors than any other kind of recreation."

Walleye fishing remains wildly popular in Minnesota. In this issue, "Why Walleye?" examines Minnesotans' passionate pursuit of the state fish. And "Meet Mr. Walleye" introduces you to legendary walleye researcher Denny Schupp. In a 1977 interview in Fins and Feathers magazine, he offered this insight into walleye mania: "We've got good walleye water, so I think it's natural that this is 'walleye country.' We've got the resource!"

These days DNR Fisheries staff not only count fish in the lake and boats on the water, but they also survey the fishing behavior of Minnesotans. Thirty years ago an estimated 1.1 million Minnesota adults annually fished Minnesota waters. Today, the DNR counts about 1.2 million Minnesotans with state fishing licenses. But the percentage of the population that casts a line every year has declined.

You can examine the angler surveys a number of ways to try to figure out what is happening. For example, from 2000 to 2005, the population in the state's central counties rose 18 percent while fishing participation declined by 12 percent. More than 33 percent of Minnesotans ages 16 to 44 fished in 2000, but not quite 30 percent fished in 2005. Women, who account for one-third of fishing license sales, are less likely to buy a license every year. People in immigrant communities are also less likely to buy licenses. The closer a person moves to a city, the less inclined he or she is to buy a license.

The DNR has plans and programs to recruit anglers from all of these groups. Yet no program may be more powerful than a simple invitation from one person to another: Let's go fishing.

The barrier most commonly cited by all would-be anglers is lack of time.

A fishing buddy can spark interest in the sport and teach new skills. But most important, a buddy can help a friend or neighbor find time to fish.

How many activities are you more likely to do if someone invites you? I go to several orchestra concerts every season because my neighbor invites me. Each spring friends invite me to their sugar bush to help collect maple sap. My cousin in Brooten will take me fishing anytime year-round.

Lucky is the youngster who has a standing invitation to fish. Organized sports and school activities consume most of young people's time today. Yet, like adults, children long for free time. An invitation to fish offers free-floating hours, a bit of adventure, and good company. Let's go fishing.

Kathleen Weflen, editor
kathleen.weflen@state.mn.us

Minnesota moms may fish without a license May 12-13, and Minnesota residents may fish without a license June 8-10 if they take a youngster up to age 16. To make a pledge to take someone fishing, go to www.anglerslegacy.org.

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