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WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2005
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OP-ED

Fishing a healthy activity whole family can enjoy

By Corky Pugh

Fishing is an important recreational activity in America. More than 50 million of us fish, a greater number than those who golf or play tennis combined. In Alabama, fishing's economic impact runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and it is the source of almost 20,000 jobs.

For all of that, fishing seems to be a misunderstood and underappreciated activity. Many people think of fishing as a sport, but a recent survey indicates most anglers fish to relax and to spend time with other people. They see fishing as a lifestyle option rather than as a sporting activity.

There is a perception among some people that fishing is a competitive activity, and anglers are obsessed with catching a lot of big fish. However, generally speaking, people fish to relax and spend quality time with their families. Fishing takes them away from the stress of everyday life and gets them outside, where they can enjoy nature and spend time with friends and family.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Va., provides supporting data. According to the RBFF:

  • 35 percent of America's anglers fish as a means to relax.
  • 33 percent fish to be with family.
  • 13 percent fish to be close to nature.
  • 7 percent do it for sport.
  • 3 percent are trying to "catch the big fish."

    Psychologist Paul G. Quinnett devotes an entire chapter of his book, "Pavlov's Trout: The Incomplete Psychology of Everyday Fishing," to the issue of fishing to relieve stress. Throughout the book, he makes the point: People don't fish to catch fish; their gratification from fishing comes from other sources.

    Quinnett devotes another chapter to fishing and ethics; for example, driving home the point that learning how to fish correctly and appreciate nature helps an individual — especially a child — to appreciate discipline and order in his or her life.

    Fishing can be a very important activity for children. Family Life First, an organization committed to helping parents reclaim family time, reports that children's playtime has declined by 25 percent during the past 20 years, and their unstructured outdoor activities by 50 percent. And according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, parent/child family time decreased 22 percent between 1969 and 1996.

    Fishing is such a wonderful way to connect with your children. It's fun, first of all, but the opportunity it creates for quality time together is what's great. Catching fish is an important part of the whole experience, and the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries' 23 public fishing lakes are chock full of fish waiting to be caught. Every child should have the opportunity to experience the thrill of catching fish. Many of us vividly remember the first fish we ever caught and fondly remember the adult who showed us how to catch the fish. Passing the tradition along is an enriching and enjoyable experience.

    There is at least one public fishing lake within a short drive of any Alabama resident, and the lakes are operated with families in mind. The lake properties are clean and safe with open areas for bank fishing, so a boat isn't required. Each of the lakes has a store that sells bait, tackle and snacks, and each property has a lake manager who knows where to find the fish and how to catch them. The lake properties also have picnic tables and open-air pavilions.

    Nothing could be easier or more fun than a family outing to one of our lakes.

    Corky Pugh is the director of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

    The ADCNR promotes the statewide stewardship and enjoyment of Alabama's natural resources to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy them. For more information, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

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