This time of year, anglers of all ages and stages of experience or expertise are grabbing their tackle boxes, rods, reels and other gear and heading to rivers, lakes, streams, and national wildlife refuges and hatcheries, hoping to get a bite in waterways all over the country.
The sport provides opportunities to enjoy and explore the outdoors; an outlet for relaxation; time with families, making memories together; and for some, a source of nourishment and nutrients. Taking part in the nation’s natural pastime also contributes to conservation efforts.
“Recreational fishing provides everyone with an opportunity to fall in love with the outdoors, more specifically, fishing,” said Chelsea Wolfe Shandrick, a fishing ambassador with Cashion Fishing Rods who has fished for more than three decades. “When you love something, you invest in it. You learn about it; you protect it; you share it; and ultimately you do what you can to preserve it. That's what conservation really is; it's an act of love.”
Shandrick has helped stock streams and reservoirs and explains that conservation ensures that future generations, for many years to come, enjoy the natural world and the “incredible” species living in it. She adds that conservation also encourages and supports biodiversity, which she says is absolutely essential in keeping ecosystems functional.
“Just think, we as humans are an enormous part of that biodiversity and can make either a positive or negative impact on the function of our ecosystems. What we do matters, and it starts with education. All it takes is one cast and one catch to be hooked on conservation.”
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others, like Cashion, to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. When possible, the Service enrolls the community in its efforts, through events open to everyone.
For example, June marks Great Outdoors Month, and the first week of June kicks off National Boating and Fishing Week. To celebrate, Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, in Jamestown, Kentucky recently held its annual youth fishing derby – as many U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries do this time of year. The Catch-a-Rainbow event, which just celebrated its 35th year, gives youth, aged 5-15, the chance to cast a line into waters near the Bluegrass State’s Lake Cumberland.
“Getting children outdoors and familiar with fishing helps develop an appreciation for nature, a love for fishing and gives them time to master the skill early on to continuously develop as they grow. It teaches responsibility and respect for the body of water they are fishing and for the fish,” said James Gray, project manager at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery and regional supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s fish and aquatic conservation. “By fostering a love and appreciation for nature and wildlife by simply being outside, fishing promotes, through education and practice, ethical behavior in use of aquatic resources. And, funds from sales of fishing licenses and tax collected on fishing equipment go toward conserving our aquatic natural resources.”
Organizers say the derby marked the first time many of the 1,000 participants ever held a rod, reel or fish. During the Catch-a-Rainbow youth tournament, Service and community volunteers equipped and mentored the young anglers on the basics: baiting a hook, casting a line, reeling in a fish, taking it off the hook, and how to preserve it or release it back into the water. The aim was to not only develop angling skills but an interest in the outdoors also, specifically in conservation.
“When I was a little girl, my dad took me to tour the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in Warren, Pennsylvania. The whole thing was so fascinating to me. Everyone working there was welcoming and excited to share their knowledge with us. Their passion had a big impact on me and inspired me to do more.,” says Shandrick, who helps the Service educate others on the benefits of recreational fishing. “I highly recommend getting involved yourself or getting kids involved at a national fish hatchery.”
While programs like Catch-a-Rainbow at Wolf Creek provide an opportunity to fish during a special event, many U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refuges and hatcheries encourage anglers to come out all year long. The team at Wolf Creek stocks rainbow trout in Hatchery Creek every other day, year around, so easy fishing can be enjoyed any time. The hatchery also offers fly fishing seminars and hosts events for wounded warriors, seniors, and children with special needs. Wolf Creek has an interactive visitor center and several trails.
The public can tour the cold-water fish hatchery where rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat trout are raised. The trout raised there are stocked in 125 different Kentucky waters, most of which are federal mitigation waters. All these areas are open to public fishing. In addition to the trout, the Wolf Creek team raises more than 10 species of endangered freshwater mussels and several species of at-risk mussels. The Endangered Species Act, which observes its 50th anniversary this year, provides a critical safety net for fish, wildlife and plants and has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species, as well as promoted the recovery of many others, and conserved the habitats upon which they depend.