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Anglers rallied as guardians of sport
The gift of fishing is something special that those who don't fish might never get, or even know what they have missed, unless those who fish decide to share it.
Of today's 50 million anglers in the United States, 99 percent say they fish because someone once took the time to introduce them to the sport. But the changing American lifestyle seems to be changing the face of who that someone is, and is also being blamed for much of the angler fallout that has occurred over recent decades.
That is why the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), a non-profit organization charged by congressional action to address declining participation, is rallying the country's most avid anglers, the sport's strongest guardians, to become part of a new program called Anglers' Legacy and take someone fishing.
"Anglers' Legacy is about bringing like-minded anglers together as a national community of the sport's greatest ambassadors to help ensure fishing stays America's favorite pastime," said Bruce Matthews, RBFF president. "There are no meetings or costs to join. Anglers' Legacy is simply a group of anglers and organizations united in a common commitment to passing on the gift of fishing." Although just recently introduced, Anglers' Legacy is already snowballing throughout fishing circles everywhere and the Who's Who of fishing are lining up in support, including well-known TV anglers like Bill Dance and George Poveromo, all wanting to help lead the effort.
Recent research indicates there is the need for such a leadership role in the changing America. Among the 67 percent of respondents who said "dad" took them on their first fishing trip, 87.8 percent were 35 years of age or older, compared to only 12.2% for those under 35. If dad has a diminishing role in introducing new anglers today, and others don't step in, how will fishing be passed to future generations? And how will those who miss out even know what they've missed?
Today in the United States, kids spend an average of 44 hours a week experiencing life through a glass – watching TV, playing video games and on the computer. Forty-four hours a week equates to a full-time job and leaves little time for anything else. So how will today's younger generations garner an appreciation of the natural world and its resources if they don't have the opportunity to experience them first-hand?
RBFF officials are confident, based on the avid angler research, that Anglers' Legacy is an outstanding place to start. Targeting the country's estimated 7.5 million most avid anglers, the program urges its participants to introduce at least one new person to fishing per year. It is not about asking strangers to go, but people they know. And the effort focuses more on adults than kids, knowing that adults can involve their own families and friends after being armed with the appropriate fishing knowledge and confidence through quality introductory experiences.
Anglers are asked to take "The Pledge" at AnglersLegacy.org, the primary communication vehicle for the ambassador community. The Pledge is a simple promise to take at least one person each year on a first-time fishing outing. Names and addresses of those who sign up will not be distributed, sold or otherwise shared by RBFF. Participants do have the option of subscribing to receive special offers and discounts from the program's partners, and can also unsubscribe at any time.
Pledging is important to the program because it provides a process where anglers, clubs, organizations and communities can find each other for mutually beneficial relationships regarding fishing-program expertise, education and new-angler outreach. The Anglers' Legacy Web site is also a great resource for anglers looking for tips and information on how to introduce others to fishing.
"It is amazing to realize the lifetime impact one can have by teaching someone to fish," said Matthews. "My dad was that someone who took me, and its been a gift that's never stopped giving. Being an Anglers' Legacy ambassador isn't a task but a pleasure. It's sharing skills, knowledge and equipment with someone that you believe will really appreciate what fishing is all about. And there is no substitute for a test drive. Who we take can be any acquaintance – friend, neighbor, coworker – we all know somebody who would like to go," he said.
Fishing provides lots of wonderful memories and that is the theme behind the Anglers' Legacy public service announcements now running in more than 35 of the country's top boating and fishing magazines. They show snapshots and carry the headline, "Picture a life without fishing," and encourage the readers to join the Anglers' Legacy community by taking the Pledge.
Bill Dance said he couldn't picture a life without fishing. "I was very blessed to have a daddy and granddaddy who loved to boat and fish," said the host of the long-running "Bill Dance Outdoors" TV fishing show. "They took me along on their outings many, many times... teaching and sharing. They were doctors, and fishing was their escape. To me, it was more than that. Fishing was my life, and became my career. I've passed my love for fishing on to my kids, my grandkids, and countless numbers of acquaintances. And I'm not through yet. Believe me, I'm one of Anglers' Legacy's biggest advocates," he said.
George Poveromo, a noted saltwater angling authority and host of "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" on ESPN2, has a similar story. "I was lucky to have a dad and grandfather who took me fishing," he said. "I'll always remember those times, and I like to think it made me a better person. It seems once someone gives fishing a try, they can't shake the fever – and that's a good thing! It's important to me that sport fishing remains in the hands of those who respect and protect our fish stocks and the marine environment – and that's the anglers themselves. I'm all for sharing the sport with those who I think get the whole picture of what fishing is all about," Poveromo added.
While Anglers' Legacy is about giving the gift of fishing, the giver also receives something special. "I can feel that special moment when it all begins to connect for the person I'm taking." said Matthews. "When that first perfect cast is made, or a first fish landed, the big grin and the look in the eyes say it all. I'm a better person because I fish. Other anglers know what I'm talking about. Fishing is an experience to be shared ... let's share it," he added.
Learn more about Anglers' Legacy, Take Me Fishing and RBFF at RBFF.org.
) is a nonprofit organization established in 1998 to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby increasing public awareness and appreciation of the need for protecting, conserving and restoring America's aquatic natural resources. Recreational boating and fishing are America's favorite sporting activities, with more than 50 million people participating every year — that's more than play golf and tennis combined.