From the Helm . . .
Fishing has always been a major part of my life. I have cherished childhood photos my parents took of my sister and I holding virtually every species of Michigan game fish. When I wasn’t fishing with my parents, my trusty bicycle could always get me somewhere to dangle a worm, cricket, or grasshopper in front of something with fins. And my mother always made it a point to cook (within reason) virtually everything I ever brought home.
The other day I had an eight-year-old girl on my charter boat that prompted this column. She had caught her first walleye, a seven-pound beauty, to celebrate her seventh birthday. Pretty neat.
“Macala loves to fish,” her dad said. “Get her anywhere near water and she wants to dangle a worm under a bobber to see what’s there.”
Macala is in stark contrast to another family who fished with me last year. The two boys, about her age, spent the entire trip down in the cabin playing with their i-Pods. Try as mom and dad did, the boys only made a token effort at catching a walleye. “This trip was for them,” the mother had said. “It bothers me they spend so much time obsessed with some kind of computer.”
The future of fishing lies with the Macalas of the world, not the i-Pod brothers. But are there enough like her to save the sport?
Statistics show fishing license sales have steadily declined over the last thirteen years—an estimated fourteen percent. The same study revealed the average license buyer is in his fifties and fishes nowhere near as much as a fifty-year-old did twenty years ago.
For the sport of fishing to grow, there has to be strong recruitment of young anglers, and I don’t know if that is going to happen. Kids today have far more distractions than I did growing up: computer games, i-Pods, cell phones, summer camps for every sport imaginable, water parks, Disney—the list is endless. A black and white TV is about as electronic as my life ever got though I did have some Elvis Presley 45 rpm records.
I do believe, for the majority of kids, the love of fishing and for the outdoors in general, starts with the parents at an early age. Their enthusiasm and involvement will have a huge influence on the future interests of their children. Once the formative years are over, the world at large will make its’ pitch for their time and the creation of new interests. Enter MCBA.
We are making a big pitch for future anglers of all ages though our sports show involvements. We sponsor several youth and teen organizations that promote fishing and our natural resources. As individual captains, we must make every effort to see our clients have an enjoyable experience. During lulls in the action, show them how the sonar, GPS, and chart plotter work. Tell them about the history of the fish they are catching and how invasive species are threatening the fishery. All of this is especially important when kids are along. Get everyone involved in the total experience, as that is what is really going to be remembered. The more Macalas we influence the better.
Captain Terry R. Walsh
President – MCBA