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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Federal fishing legislation would provide up to $2 million a year to get kids fishing

Henry Fisher, 5, lands a trout while his twin sister, Grace, shares the moment during Kid Fishing Day on May 7, 2016, at Clear Lake.  (RICH LANDERS/The Spokesman-Review)
Henry Fisher, 5, lands a trout while his twin sister, Grace, shares the moment during Kid Fishing Day on May 7, 2016, at Clear Lake. (RICH LANDERS/The Spokesman-Review)

A bill that would funnel up to $2 million per year toward youth access to recreational fishing nationwide was introduced to Congress last month.

The Youth Coastal Fishing Program act was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) and Donald McEachin (D-Va.), along with 19 bipartisan cosponsors. The Senate version was introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

“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,” Cantwell said in a statement.

“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.”

If passed, the bill would create a grant program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for projects that take children fishing with an emphasis on underserved communities.

The American Sportfishing Association championed the introduction of the bill. 88% of anglers started fishing before the age of 12, noted John Chambers, the public affairs manager for the association, thus emphasizing the importance of exposing youth to the sport at an early age.

He also noted the mental and physical health benefits of being outside.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, recreational fishing numbers grew nationwide and in Washington as people looked for a socially distant activity. In Washington, 732,000 people bought a fishing license. Post-pandemic, Chambers said those numbers have dipped. In 2021, for example, 703,000 people bought a license.

According to the legislation, a total of $2 million in grants would be distributed to projects that include a recreational fishing experience, offer education about marine science and conservation and provide information on where or how to fish. Grant applications will receive priority if focused on serving underserved communities.

While Congress is in recess leading up to the November elections, Chambers said he’s hopeful that the bill will be enacted when the House and Senate return in mid-November.

“If you’re exposed to fishing and have a love of the outdoors from a young age, you’re much more likely to stand for conservation and environmental values,” he said.

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