Though the number of Pennsylvania anglers has increased over the last five years, the long-term trend in fishing license sales is troubling.
In a May-June 2012 article in Pennsylvania Angler and Boater, Fish and Boat Commission executive director John Arway reported that fishing license sales peaked in 1990 at 1.2 million. By last year, license sales had dipped to a little more than 850,000. That's almost a 30 percent decrease in license sales over 22 years.
Those numbers sadden me. Some of my fondest memories are daddy-daughter fishing trips. So why are fewer people fishing today than they did 20 years ago? It's not just a Pennsylvania phenomenon. Fisheries biologists and managers all across the country are concerned about the future of angling. A big part of the problem is how our lives have changed over the last 30 years.
The outdoors is no longer a major player in the lives of many children. Electronic devices and rigidly scheduled activities such as sports, dance and gymnastics control the lives of many young families.
In fact, I suspect many of today's young parents were rarely exposed to the outdoors. When I was a boy in southeastern Pennsylvania, there was always a relative, neighbor or family friend going fishing. Kids tagged along and learned.
I wonder how many of today's parents under the age of 40 missed out on such opportunities. If they never learned to fish, they may feel unqualified to teach their own kids.
When my daughters were young, it was always uncomfortable to try new activities, but I think we had more fun when we learned together. The girls loved when they could master a new skill faster than I could.
A terrific tool for anyone who has never fished is a new book, "The New! Fishing FUNdamentals: Fishing Fun for Everyone" (In-Fisherman) by Chuck Nelson. The book's simple formula is Fish + Location + Presentation = Success. It covers the most popular freshwater fish in North America, where they live, how to hook them, and even how to prepare the catch for dinner. Engagingly written and beautifully illustrated, "Fishing FUNdamentals" is a great introduction to anyone just getting started.
Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 WMNY-AM (Pittsburgh). Visit http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com, and 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.