Angling participation has stagnated or declined in many regions, threatening the political and financial support for fisheries management. Angler recruitment programs aim to counteract these trends, but most are public programs targeting public water bodies. There are about 4.5 million small ponds and lakes in the United States, most of which are privately owned. These systems may play a major yet hidden role in angler recruitment. Using an online survey of avid pond owners and managers, we explored the ideas that private waters are providing youth angling opportunities, increasing fishing participation, and contributing to angler recruitment. Survey results indicated that pond owners are engaged in angler recruitment and retention by providing youth fishing opportunities to friends and family beyond that generally available in traditional recruiting events on public waters. About 90% of respondents had at least one child (persons <18 years old) fish their pond in the past year, most of whom were immediate family and children of friends and neighbors. Pond owners and managers actively fished with children on the property as well as took children fishing on other private and public waters. This process of mentoring and activity reinforcement appeared to lead to angler recruitment in that 75% of children who had fished in respondents' ponds continued to fish on their own. Agencies tasked with addressing angler recruitment and retention rates should consider implementing programs that support youth fishing outreach on privately owned ponds and lakes as another tool to combat declining participation rates.
Fisheries Outstanding Technical Paper