WRD Fisheries Expands Program To Get More People Fishing

Mike Bolton | July 18, 2023

Part of WRD’s Angler R3 movement is focusing on introducing women anglers into the sport.

License sales are the lifeblood of state wildlife agencies. The money derived from the sales of fishing licenses is multiplied by federal matching funds based on the number of fishing licenses sold. That money is then used for everything the agency does from stocking fish to upkeep on equipment.

Georgia WRD Fisheries has put into motion an enormous plan to not only attract new fishermen, but to keep the ones they’ve got and reinvigorate those who have drifted away from fishing in recent years.

Georgia DNR Fisheries Chief Scott Robinson says one of the obstacles that his department must overcome is the perception by many who don’t fish that you need a big, expensive bass boat to fish. He says that can be done by bringing good fishing opportunities to people close to their homes.

“We’ve been expanding our R3 program the last couple of years,” he said. (R3 stands for Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation). “We’re working closely with city and county parks departments. There are small impoundments and lakes in parks all over the place. We’re improving fishing in those places. We’re raising bigger catfish and bigger bluegill in our hatcheries for this purpose. We want people to be able to fish close to home. It’s easy and inexpensive. We want people to be able to fish from the banks and have a quality experience.”

The only constant is change, Robinson reminded. Georgia is a growing state and people are moving to the cities where the jobs are, he said. He said fishing opportunities in the bigger cities are limited, and it’s hard to interest most when they believe they need a $40,000 bass boat to get started. He said people are going to the parks anyway, so why not offer good fishing there?

“We need to get in there where people live,” he said.

Marion Baker has the Herculean task of leading DNR’s Angler R3 Program. DNR’s dedication to the initiative is evident by the fact that it’s offering the services of much of its fishery personnel. Those personnel met recently at Jack Hill State Park in Reidsville to submit and discuss ideas. The table was open to ideas for partnership and much more.

Partnership wise, the endeavor is off to a roaring start. Bass Pro Shops has donated 10 trailers to go along with the one that DNR had built to provide equipment and tackle for community fishing events. Those trailers are filled with everything needed to put on a community fishing event, including fishing rods, terminal tackle and even some chairs.

One thing agreed on by many of the personnel is that the local events should include a forgotten member of the fishing public, Marion said.

“Recent research trends show a great percentage of females are being left out,” she said. “They could amount to about 37% of the people recruited to be new anglers. Entire families should be fishing at these events. Not just kids.”

Like Georgia WRD Fisheries Chief Scott Robinson, Marion believes their agency must overcome the perception that you need a boat to go fishing in Georgia. She believes DNR’s Gateway to Fishing program is a way to bring fishing to the masses and overcome that.

Here are the topics discussed at the recent meeting:

• Partner with local communities to enhance fishing in urban and suburban areas that are easily accessible and close to home for Georgians. WRD provides fish, technical assistance and use of a mobile catch unit. Partners and volunteers host fishing events and classes, improve access and promote the program and events.

• Training and certifying staff and volunteers as angler education instructors.

• Promote fishing events for women.

• Promote fish and wildlife conservation (additional value and benefits of fishing licenses).

• Improve access and content of resources to benefit anglers (from novices to experts).

• Provide educational and information resources in other languages.

• Improve and increase web-based resources.

• Partner with Public Fishing Areas (PFAs)

• Identify these areas in urban and suburban areas around the state and establishing partnerships with city/county parks, schools, and communities (scouts, etc.) with accessible, fishable waters

• Partner with state parks that have fishable waters. Improve fishing access, facilities and fishing events. Use fish population assessments, fish stocking and management, habitat enhancements, automatic fish feeders and enhanced access. Growth of the fishing event volunteer base.

• Partner with GADNR education centers. Provide equipment and train park staff to teach fishing classes and assist, as needed. Facilitate, encourage, and promote fishing events and education. Promote/facilitate aquatic education outreach.

• Build a statewide angler R3 team with angler R3 liaisons located within each region of the state.

• Provide each region with a fishing event trailer. Grow the fishing event volunteer base. Establish and improve tackle loaner program for park visitors. Facilitate, encourage and promote fishing events and education. Promote/facilitate aquatic education outreach.

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