DNR Aiming to Retain Anglers Through New Campaign

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources aims to lure folks back into fishing this season through a combination of direct mail, digital billboard and radio advertising, and other outreach efforts.

The agency, which issued just under 1.4 million fishing licenses last year, recently mailed 40,000 reminder postcards to former anglers who did not purchase a 2007 fishing license last year. The postcard’s message urges these “lapsed” anglers to rediscover fishing and boating and purchase their license. The postcard campaign is being complimented by billboard advertising across the Twin Cities metro area, including a daily countdown to the fishing opener on digital billboards. Radio advertising and promotions with the St. Paul Saints and the Minnesota Vikings sports teams are also in the offing.

“Fishing is incredibly popular in Minnesota,” said C.B. Bylander, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division outreach chief. “Yet the percent of Minnesotans who fish is declining. As a result, we are looking at proactive new ways to recruit anglers and retain those we have.”

The DNR’s direct mail, billboard and radio advertising efforts are collaborations with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and Minnesota-based Wildlife Forever. RBFF is helping offset costs of the direct mail and billboard efforts. It is also investing $1 million in radio advertising in Minnesota and 29 other states to support its Take Me Fishing campaign.

Bylander said one of this year’s new slogans – The Fish Bites the Lure, and Yet, You Get Hooked – was developed by an advertising agency hired through RBFF. This slogan will be used by natural resources agencies in 30 states this spring.Nationally, angling participation is on a downward trend. In 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the national angler population at 35.2 million. In 2006, the estimate had fallen to 30 million, a 12 percent decrease. In Minnesota, fishing license sales have remained relatively stable at 1.3 to 1.5 million each year. However, despite bucking the national trend in license sales, interest in angling has not kept pace with population growth. Said Bylander: “Years ago nearly 40 percent of Minnesotans age 16 and over purchased a fishing license. Today, it’s about 28 percent.”

Jenifer Matthees, coordinator of the DNR’s angler retention project, said license sales help support the natural resources that everyone enjoys. “We want to retain those already hooked on fishing while encouraging others to discover the escape, relaxation and connections fishing brings in their lives,” said Matthees.

Research has shown that anglers list spending time with family and friends among top reasons they fish, and that fishing builds connections to nature.

“Nationally, there’s growing concern that everyone, especially kids, are increasingly disconnected with nature,” said Matthees. “The Take Me Fishing campaign is a way to connect people with our environment while also complementing existing DNR outreach programs.”

Frank Peterson, CEO of RBFF, agrees. “When you take someone fishing – especially someone new or someone who hasn’t fished for a while – you’re building memories and investing in conservation.”

Tthe DNR offers a variety of ways to introduce kids and adults to fishing, including its MinnAqua fishing clinics, Becoming An Outdoors Woman fishing clinics, and Fishing In the Neighborhood local fishing opportunities. The agency recently hired Mike Kurre, formerly of Gander Mountain, to head-up an angling mentoring program. The DNR is developing a Web site of kid-friendly fishing locations. The DNR also supports Anglers’ Legacy, a RBFF program in which avid anglers make a commitment to introduce someone new to fishing.

Minnesota’s 2008 fishing licenses are now sale at more than 1,200 retail outlets. Licenses can also be purchased by calling 1-888-665-4236 or going on-line at www.mndnr.gov.