Mentoring the mentors to promote fishing

Posted on: July 14, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Make that a double.

If you’ve been reading our outdoors blog here, you know that last week we said the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission was looking into buying a recreational vehicle to serve as a “mobile catch center.”

The idea is to take the brightly wrapped, eye-catching RV to urban centers around the state – Philadelphia initially, and maybe Pittsburgh and other cities later – and teach people to fish.

Its mobility is the key. The RV might be used at a stocked trout lake on week, then go to a panfish lake later when those fish were biting, then to the Delaware River when the stripers were running, and so on, always moving to be where the fishing action is hottest.

Well, this week, the commission announced a change of plans.

It’s not going to buy an RV.

Instead, it’s going to buy two.

Steve Kralik, chief of the commission’s bureau of outreach, education and marketing, said one will operate in Philadelphia exclusively. The other will serve the counties that surround it: Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery.

They’ll debut this fall, be heavily promoted during the winter outdoor show season, then really get rolling next spring, he said.

Will they work? Will they get more people fishing?

Maybe, but only if the commission can mentor the mentors.

That’s the opinion of Frank Peterson, CEO of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

For years, he said, the key to getting children fishing was to hook them up with an adult mentor, and doing so early in life. That remains true today, he said.

He pointed to some new survey work that shows 94 percent of active fishermen had their first experience on the water before age 18. Seventy-six percent had theirs before age 12.

By comparison, first-time fishermen are rare after 18 and “nonexistent” after 35, he said.

So the key to sustaining interest in fishing is to get more kids out, right?

It’s no longer that simple, Peterson said.

“We really believe we need to shift a little bit,” Peterson said. “A lot of state-run fishing programs focus on children alone. We really think we need to involve entire families.”

That’s because of what might be called a missed generation.

Surveys have shown that younger parents today use technology daily in their normal lives, Peterson said. Their children do as well.

But, that data shows, when it comes to family time, those parents want everyone to unplug and, ideally, engage in activities where they can all participate together.

That means – at least potentially — fishing.

Peterson said the problem is many of those young parents haven’t fished themselves and don’t know how to teach their own kids.

“We’ve got a whole generation that needs to be taught how to mentor,” he said.

Fixing that is the job of those who love fishing, he said.

Participation in the sport is healthy right now. A total of 47.2 million people nationwide fished last year. That was up 1.5 million over the year before, and enough to rank fishing as the No. 2 outdoor recreation sport, second only to jogging, Peterson said.

“However, our job is to look to the future, not just today. And I think we’re all coming to realize that we’ve got to do things a little differently than we used to,” he said.

So the next time you’re thinking of asking a kid to go fishing – or hunting or trapping, for that matter — ask his or her parents, too. Help to create what Peterson calls “an army of mentors.”

A couple of flashy RVs might help, too.

But there’s nothing that says fishermen themselves can’t be a part of the solution.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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