Martin Luther King Jr. never made mention of fishing in his seminal “I Have a Dream” speech, nor did fishing come up as a contentious subject during the Civil Rights movement. However, neither of those facts are stopping anglers and wildlife conservation organizations around the country from celebrating MLK weekend with a few days of free, unbridled fishing fun. Monday, January 20th marks Martin Luther King Day, and particularly for college and high school students everywhere, that means a long weekend. For students looking for something to do with their day off, several states are holding free fishing weekends.
One such free weekend is being held thanks to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as reported in the McFarland Thistle. Set to be Wisconsin’s inaugural winter Free Fishing Weekend, the event will give residents and nonresidents alike the opportunity to fish anywhere they like in Wisconsin – no licenses, fees, stamps, or other proofs of authorization required.
Sunday and Monday (January 19 and 20, 2014) will be designated as the free fishing days, and will give anglers access to a wide smattering of waters, from the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes and everything in between – with all of Wisconsin’s inland waters included.
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Wisconsin is no stranger to free fishing weekends. Typically, the state’s Department of Natural Resources holds a similar event every year during the spring/summer fishing months, usually on the first weekend of June. However, 2014 will mark the first time that the DNR has brought free fishing opportunities to the winter months.
The event is meant to promote ice fishing participation among the entire family, and the DNR is hopeful that it will spark some interest among first-time ice anglers. The department has even gone so far as to offer complimentary loaner ice fishing gear to anglers at some sites.
However, anglers who do choose to participate in Wisconsin’s free fishing weekend should make sure to review fishing regulations for the state. The weekend may be a “free fishing weekend,” but it is not a free-for-all. Anglers will still be expected to adhere to limits on the size and number of fish they are allowed to harvest over the two days.
If you don’t reside in or near Wisconsin, you may not be so lucky as to score a free fishing weekend. However, that doesn’t mean that Wisconsin is the only state in the Union getting a free opportunity that outdoorsmen and women will appreciate.
In fact, between Friday and Monday, the government will waive admissions fees for over a hundred different national parks. Some states throughout the country will follow suit, opening up state parks for free entry. MLK weekend is one of only a few days and weekends throughout the year that the National Park Service has denoted as “fee-free” days, so be sure to take advantage of it.
Of course, even if your state or town isn’t providing any free opportunities for MLK weekend, you can still take the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the wilderness – especially if you have managed to wrangle yourself a day off of work or school on Monday. Hit up the woods for a coyote or rabbit hunt, or head to your favorite ice fishing spot for a long day of fishing and swapping stories. It’s one of the best weekends of the year for winter weather sports, and you shouldn’t miss out just because you’re not living in Wisconsin.