“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”

— John Buchan (1875–1940)

Events that make an impression on us are those that we keep as memories. I remember my first fishing trip. I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old; my sister 7. Our dad took us to a nearby reservoir via a trail through the woods near our home. We fished a small stream for sunfish with worms dug up from the yard. It was probably the first time I actually became aware of the larger world around me.

Streams, creeks and rivers are essential to our ecosystem, sustaining fish and other aquatic life that are, in turn, food for larger fish, mammals, birds and people. The health of fish and other aquatic resources is a direct reflection of the health of the surrounding landscape.

We appreciate and value those things we understand and respect. We care for those things that we feel a connection to. That’s why anglers, hikers, bird watchers and other outdoor recreationalists are effective advocates for natural resources and promoting conservation efforts.

Recreational fishing has enormous social, cultural and economic importance. For many people, fishing is often their first and sometimes only experience with the natural world. For the majority of people who don’t live on waterfront property, fishing provides a way to interact with creeks, rivers and the Bay.

Not only is fishing important culturally, it’s also good for the economy. According to the “1996 National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreation” conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, of the 77 million Americans who participated in wildlife-associated activities, more than 35 million were anglers.

Revenues from wildlife-associated activities totaled $101 billion with 37 percent, or almost $38 billion, coming from fishing activities. Forty-one percent of those expenditures, or $15.4 billion, were trip-related; 51 percent, or $19.2 billion, went to equipment; and the remaining 9 percent, or $3.2 billion, was spent on such things as licenses, stamps, memberships and magazines.

This national survey has been conducted at five-year intervals since 1955. From 1955 to 1996, the number of anglers has increased 138 percent. From 1991 to 1996, recreational fishing in the United States has remained relatively level, but expenditures have increased 37 percent. The Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council reports that, on average, anglers’ annual expenditures for tackle, equipment, food and lodging generate more than $2.1 billion in federal income tax revenue and provide employment for 1.3 million people.

To increase public awareness of recreational fishing, the American Sportfishing Association, federal and state natural resource management agencies and the sportfishing industry sponsor National Fishing Week. This year, it is being celebrated June 5–13. The event is managed by the American Sportfishing Association and funded, in part, through the Sport Fish Restoration Program. Every year, this program contributes about $200 million to state fisheries’ conservation efforts.

Want to get involved? To organize a fishing clinic or fishing derby or teach a class on fishing skills or aquatic resource stewardship — or if you just want to go fishing — contact your state coordinator for information to get you started.

States celebrate National Fishing Week by hosting free fishing days, where the public is allowed to fish without a license. Here are some of this year’s free fishing dates and contacts.

  • Delaware: June 12–13. Freshwater license waived for residents; saltwater licenses are not required year-round. Call 302-655-3441
  • District of Columbia: June 7–13. Freshwater license waived for residents. Call 202-645-6601.
  • Maryland: June 5 & 2 and July 4. Freshwater & saltwater licenses waived for residents; non-resident license waived. Call 800-688-3467.
  • Pennsylvania: June 5. Freshwater & saltwater license waived for residents. Call 717-657-4518.
  • Virginia: June 5–6. Freshwater & saltwater licenses waived for residents. Call 804-367-1000.

For information about National Fishing Week activities, visit the web site, www.gofishing.org  or contact the American Sportfishing Association at 703-519-9691.