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Free Fishing Day should expand

Larry Woody • Jun 20, 2017 at 8:30 AM

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency held its annual Free Fishing Day on June 10, with more and more communities sponsoring special events like Fishing Rodeos.

On that one day a year state residents get to fish for free. To encourage participation, the TWRA stocks numerous ponds with catfish, invites kids to catch them. The Agency provides tackle, bait and hands-on instruction as needed.

It’s one of the best investments the TWRA can make. It’s an investment in the future of fishing.

For a lot of kids the Free Fishing Day is the first time – perhaps the only time – they get to go fishing. It could be the only chance to get them hooked on a wholesome outdoors sport they can enjoy for a lifetime.

The benefit is not limited to only kids; by not requiring a license on Free Fishing Day, adults are also encouraged to get out and give it a try.

As great as the Free Fishing Day and the subsequent Free Fishing Week is, I’d like to see the Agency go even further. Under current regulations kids 12 and under don’t have to have a fishing license; I suggest raising that age limit to 20. It would encourage more teens to go fishing.

I’d also let any adult who fishes with a kid to fish without a license. That might prompt more parents to take their kids fishing.

Granted, a fishing license doesn’t cost much – a one-day resident license is just $6.50. But it’s not the cost that’s the drawback, it’s the hassle of getting the license. The parent – who probably is not familiar with the regulations – first has to figure out what kind of license is required, find a location that sells licenses, then go pick one up.

Suddenly what should be a simple matter of tossing some tackle in the car and heading to the lake becomes a lot more complicated, requiring research, advance planning and extra travel.

Since the goal of Free Fishing Day is to get more kids involved in fishing, why not make it as easy and economical as possible for their parents to take them year-round? Why limit it to just one day a year?

There would be no substantial loss of TWRA revenue by allowing parents who fish with kids to fish free. Most of those parents are one- or two-trip summertime fishermen. Serious fishermen will continue to buy a license.

If a kid gets hooked, after they are grown he or she will be buying a fishing license for a long time to come. Seems like a great investment by the TWRA: swap a few days of free fishing for a potential lifetime customer.

I’d also encourage the TWRA to stock plenty of fish – kids who go fishing tend to get bored if they don’t catch any fish. A few loads of hatchery-raised catfish dumped into public lakes and ponds across the state is a small investment for a huge potential return.

If the budget is tight, I’d shift some funds from the Agency’s expensive non-game programs to the fish-stocking program. For my money, I’d rather see excited kids catching fish than bird-watchers viewing a Nut-Hatch.

The TWRA’s Free Fishing Day is a great idea and a tremendous success. It should be expanded and made ever greater.

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