Opportunities like Free Fishing Weekend June 11-12 can help hook a new generation of conservationists

Fishing plays a vital role in supporting wildlife and natural resource management

LANSING, Mich. — Nearly 272,000 Michigan residents and visitors purchased a fishing license for the first time in 2021, and sales to young adults ages 17-24 reached 129,553 —exceeding the three-year average of 125,427 from 2017-19.

These two groups were among the 1.7 million people who contributed $66 million for wildlife and natural resource management last year through the purchase of their fishing and hunting licenses.  

And conservationists say the June 11-12 Free Fishing Weekend is a great opportunity to connect even more first-time anglers and young people with all the benefits fishing provides Michiganders.

“First and foremost, fishing is fun. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family, help children learn about nature and unplug from the stresses and demands of daily life,” said Michigan Wildlife Council Chair Nick Buggia.

“But many people don’t realize the impact fishing has on our entire state in terms of jobs, the economy and protecting our natural resources for everyone to enjoy,” he said. “Conservation is primarily funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and equipment, not tax dollars. The more people we can get hooked on fishing, especially at a young age, the more it benefits everyone.”

Buggia said Free Fishing Weekend is the perfect time to introduce and reintroduce people to one of Michigan’s premier outdoor activities. On those two days, Michigan and out-of-state residents can fish on both inland water and the Great Lakes for all species of fish without purchasing a fishing license. All fishing rules and regulations will still apply.

Additionally, during this “Three Free” weekend a state Recreation Passport (parking pass for all state parks) will not be required for entry into state parks and boating access sites and ORVs can be operated without licenses or trail permits on state-designated trails and other eligible routes.

To highlight Free Fishing Weekend, the Michigan Wildlife Council recently partnered with Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare to donate 15 fishing poles and tackle boxes to We’re Fixin to Fish, an organization founded in 2021 to teach inner-city youth and families basic fishing techniques and the overall joys of the activity.  

Beyond funding conservation efforts, hunting and fishing have a combined $11.2 billion economic impact on Michigan and provide an estimated 171,000 jobs, according to a 2019 study released by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs in partnership with Michigan State University.

Conservation activities keep animal populations in balance and protect Michigan waters from habitat degradation and invasive species, as well as safeguard the state’s forests to provide habitats for thousands of wildlife species and reduce the risk of wildfires and flooding.

Licenses purchased by hunters and anglers generated $66 million for the Michigan Game and Fish Protection Fund in 2021. The fund is the DNR’s largest revenue source and is critical to its conservation work. The sale of hunting and fishing equipment raised an additional $32 million to support wildlife and natural resource management.

Outside of Free Fishing Weekend, those 17 years of age or older must purchase a license to fish in Michigan. Any adult actively assisting a minor must also be licensed. Fishing licenses can be purchased online or in person.

“Whether you hunt, fish or enjoy other activities like bird-watching, hiking, camping or canoeing, Michigan’s woods, water, parks and beaches connect all of us,” Buggia said. “Hunters and anglers are the driving force that helps preserve our precious Michigan outdoors for everyone to enjoy.”

The Michigan Wildlife Council is entrusted with educating the public about the importance of wildlife conservation and its role in preserving Michigan’s great outdoor heritage for future generations. More information is available at www.HereForMiOutdoors.org.

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