a boy fishes with his father

Youth Fishing Bill Aims to Get More Kids Fishing

Last month, Congress introduced a bill that would provide $2 million each year and give kids nationwide access to recreational fishing. The bill, known as the Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act, was part of a bipartisan effort from U.S. Representatives Maria Salazer (R-Fla.) and Donald McEachin (D-Va), who introduced the bill to the House with the support of 18 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.

Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss) introduced the Senate version on September 22, 2022, and both of them are on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. In a statement, Cantwell said, "Fishing is one of our favorite pastimes in the Pacific Northwest, and our bill will support Washington state organizations that take kids fishing in their local coastal waters, rivers, and bays. This bill will help more kids get the tools, gear, and support they need to experience the outdoors and the benefits that come with it."

Wicker agreed, saying, "More of our children should be fishing. My Youth Coastal Fishing Program Act would get more young anglers, particularly in underserved communities, out on the water enjoying this pastime."

According to the American Sportfishing Association's (ASA) 2022 special fishing report, 12.9 million kids between the ages of 6-17 went fishing in 2022. In the past year, 52.4 million Americans fished, a 4.5% increase from 2019. Out of that total, 3.7 million were first-timers. According to the report, anglers in the 6-17 age range logged more than 184 million outings in 2021.

The biggest takeaway the ASA had from their recent study was how important it is to introduce fishing to youth, preferably before they reach 12 years of age. According to the report, 86% of current anglers' love affair with the rod and reel began when they first went fishing before they were 12. Another interesting data point is that half of all anglers begin to participate less between the ages of 12 to 24. This bill will provide the resources needed to introduce fishing to new anglers and keep current young anglers engaged in the sport. If the bill passes, grants will be given through the NOAA to nonprofit organizations, local governments, and education centers for things like fishing rods, gear, learning tools, and more.

ASA's Vice President of Government Affairs said, "Countless studies show that while there are ample health benefits to spending time on the water with family and friends, young people and those in underserved communities face significant barriers in accessing the outdoors. The grants provided through this bill will go a long way to remove those barriers and help children develop a love of fishing."

READ MORE: Fun Fishing Techniques for Beginners and Kids