June 1-9, 2019 is National Fishing and Boating Week, which celebrates and highlights the importance of recreational boating and fishing.
The sun is shining and the water is calm: what better way to spend a warm summer day than dropping anchor, kicking back and casting a line? Every year, tens of millions of people flock to U.S. coasts to enjoy recreational fishing and boating. These days spent on the water contribute approximately 60 billion dollars to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and support over 800,000 U.S. jobs.
Sea Grant supports the recreational fishing and boating enthusiasts and industries by providing resources that teach people learn how to fish and boat, help boaters and anglers determine when and where to go on the water, how to get the most out of their excursions while staying safe, and how to protect the environment so future generations can enjoy the same experiences. There is a Sea Grant program, with customized resources developed for the local area, in every coastal and Great Lakes state as well as in Guam and Puerto Rico.
Preparing for the season
People new to boating and fishing or exploring a new region may not be certain what fish they can catch, which gear to use and how to use it properly, and what regulations they need to follow. Most Sea Grant Programs offer guidance on these topics through workshops or outreach materials. For example, Florida Sea grant encourages catch and release fishing through their Catch and Release website, which contains guidance to help fishermen enjoy the experience and return the fish safely to the water. Outreach is also aimed at groups that are less experienced: Fishing 101 workshops help interested people learn how to fish while projects like Project FLY, run by Pennsylvania Sea Grant, introduces youths from underserved communities to fishing and environmental science.
Planning a fishing excursion
One of the first steps to planning a day of fishing is determining where to go and making sure that the current conditions are safe. Many Sea Grant programs have compiled information on the best places to boat and fish along the coasts in their region. For example, Rhode Island Sea Grant’s Shoreline-RI website has a map and searchable database that includes boating and fishing locations.
Depending on the current conditions, sometimes even the recommended locations are not safe. Sea Grant Programs contribute data that helps the National Weather Service forecast wave and weather conditions and scientists improve future predictions. Some programs even provide data on easily navigable website that boaters and anglers can use to make decisions about safety or good locations for fishing. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant supports two buoys that are part of a large network of buoys within the Great Lakes. The real-time data collected by the devices can be accessed through the Great Lakes Observing System.
Protecting the environment while having fun
While boating and fishing keep the U.S. economy healthy, they can threaten the health of the ecosystems that the fish need to thrive. Sea Grant empowers people to enjoy the water in a way that conserves the environment through a wide variety of programs. Wisconsin Sea Grant was instrumental in an effort that provided kits for boaters to record locations of “ghost nets” (lost fishing gear that can be a hazard to people and wildlife). Several programs teach boaters how to keep species, such as whales, safe or how to stop the spread of invasive species through campaigns such as “be a hero, transport zero.” Many states have Clean Marina initiatives, often supported or run by a Sea Grant Program, through which marinas can be certified for using environmentally friendly practices.
Joining a community
Sea Grant Programs are committed to enhancing the practical use and conservation of aquatic resources, and so is a large community of people who love spending time on the water. After enjoying the free fishing day in your state, celebrate the rest of National Boating and Fishing week by reading about the latest research and news affecting saltwater anglers on North Carolina Sea Grant’s blog Hook, Line, and Science or listen to oral histories relating to U.S. fisheries and coasts recorded by Sea Grant Programs and others.