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Doug Leier column: Taking a kid fishing not an easy task

Take-a-kid-fishing is a common term that relates to ways to involve future generations of anglers, hunters and trappers in appreciation of natural resources and outdoor recreation.

Take-a-kid-fishing is a common term that relates to ways to involve future generations of anglers, hunters and trappers in appreciation of natural resources and outdoor recreation.

It seems like a simple task, taking a kid fishing or hunting, but that isn't always the case. Today's kids have more than just basketball, football and other sports to interest them. Electronic games and Internet surfing also take time away

from opportunities to enjoy Mother Nature's gifts.

Societal changes, more single-parent families, population shifts to urban areas, fee-hunting ... the list of factors that influence how, or if, kids get acquainted with the outdoors is long and varied.

In my view, urban shift is probably the most important, yet least understood reason for an apparent declining interest in outdoor activities related to hunting and fishing. Census numbers indicate increasing populations for North Dakota's major cities. Nearby communities such as Harwood and Horace are also adding people, while smaller towns that do not benefit from urban proximity fight to survive.

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How is this connected to a declining number of hunters and anglers? It comes down to convenience and opportunity.

Growing up and living in smaller towns such as LaMoure and Stanley, it was easy for me to spend a few hours after school fishing or hunting. Even after moving to Valley City, I could ride my bike to the Little Dam and catch a pail of spring perch after school.

All major cities in eastern North Dakota are located on or near a waterway, so fishing would seem an easy outlet.

However, part of the hurdle in taking a kid fishing -- or hunting -- is finding or making time amid the variety of other possible activities. Even as an adult I find my own attention diverted by not just sporting events, but also festivals and other happenings associated with urban settings.

Fishing, or waterfowl or pheasant hunting, is just not as convenient near highly populated areas. Chances are you have to drive farther than a couple miles past the railroad bridge to McDonald Lake for a goose hunt. Even with close-by fishing areas in Red River towns, finding time to take a kid, or yourself fishing is a sometimes a challenge.

Rather than dwell on how and why kids don't spend quality time in the outdoors, however, I will highlight a few ways to get kids involved.

This spring, take a kid fishing. Instead of thinking about it, go ahead and do it. It doesn't have to be a weekend trip across the state. A child's attention span is typically short and a long weekend may not keep them excited if they are hesitant about fishing for even just a few hours. An evening at a local river or lake is usually enough. If equipment is needed, many local libraries offer fishing tackle for check-out, just like a book. And if you run into difficulty locating an extra fishing pole, contact any area North Dakota Game and Fish Department office.

It's important to make sure youngsters enjoy their time spent fishing or hunting, and that often means sacrificing your own chance at success in favor of the newcomer. Adults too often define success as catching a limit or bagging a trophy. Set realistic goals and plan accordingly.

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One small way to help a youngster remember a great fishing outing is a "Fish First" certificate, offered by the Game and Fish Department free of charge. This honor is signed by the Game and Fish director, includes room for a photo, and is suitable for framing. Setting aside gratification for catching a trophy or limit, this recognizes accomplishment for catching a first fish.

Just call the Game and Fish Department at 701-328-6300, or email ndgf@discovernd.com /gnf, and a certificate can be mailed out.

The future of fishing and hunting rests in the hands of all of us who love the outdoors. In spite of the perceived obstacles, don't let this spring pass without taking a kid fishing, and keep that same thought in mind when hunting seasons roll around next fall.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at (701) 277-0719 or at dleier@state.nd.us

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