Congress introduced a bill last month that would allot $2 million a year to give children access to recreational fishing nationwide. The bill, dubbed the Youth Coastal Fishing Program, comprised part of a bipartisan push from Representatives Donald McEachin (D-Va) and Maria Salazer (R-FLa), who introduced the Youth Coastal Fishing Program to the House with support from 18 cosponsors in both major parties.
New Youth Fishing Bill Will Get More Youths Fishing
Let's Get More Kids Outdoors
The bill later entered the Senate with the help of Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), both of whom sit on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
"Fishing is one of our favorite pastimes in the Pacific Northwest, and our bill will support Washington state organizations that take kids fishing in their local coastal waters, rivers, and bays," said Cantwell in a statement. "This bill will help more kids get the tools, gear, and support they need to experience the outdoors and the benefits that come with it."
'More of Our Children Should Be Fishing'
Adding to Cantwell's statement was her Senate cosponsor, Wicker, who said, "More of our children should be fishing. My Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act would get more young anglers, particularly in underserved communities, out on the water enjoying this pastime."
According to a special fishing report by the ASA, or American Sportfishing Association, 12.9 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 went fishing in the year 2022. Altogether, those young anglers had amassed more than 184 million outings in 2021. On top of that, 52.4 million Americans fished overall in 2021, which was a 4.5% increase from 2019. From that number, 3.7 million fishers were first-timers.
Gotta Get 'Em While They're Young
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from that ASA study is that most people catch the fishing bug when they're young. In fact, the report showed that 86% of young fishers began their fishing "career" before they hit the age of 12. Additionally, half of the anglers nationwide began fishing less after age 12. This bill, of course, is designed to correct that.
So, What Will The Bill Do?
Should the Youth Coastal Fishing Program pass, it will allow for grants to pass from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to nonprofit organizations, education centers, and local governments. The grants will fund fishing rods, learning tools, and other gear for young anglers.
"Countless studies show that while there are ample health benefits to spending time on the water with family and friends, young people and those in underserved communities face significant barriers in accessing the outdoors," said ASA's Vice President of Government Affairs. "The grants provided through this bill will go a long way to remove those barriers and help children develop a love of fishing."