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Fishing workshop attracts anglers of all ages

Families enjoying bass fishing at the Red River Fishing Area. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

When many people think of Game & Fish officers, they think of them as cops who will write you a citation if you get caught hunting or fishing without a license.

And while that is a big part of their job, what Game & Fish officers enjoy most is sharing with the public their passion for getting back to nature and how to safely enjoy outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. The mission of the agency is to conserve that state’s nature resources and wildlife for future generations.

On Saturday, the local office of the N.M. Game & Fish Department held a bass fishing workshop for anglers young and old at the Red River Bridge Fishing Area a few miles east of the city limits.

The Red River Bridge, just north of the “T” at East 19th Street, crosses the Berrendo River and the property on the both sides of the bridge is privately owned.

Normally, this would mean that you would either have to fish from the bridge, where you could get clobbered by a speeding truck or car, or trespass on private land, which could put you in the back seat of a Sheriff’s Office patrol car.

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But the great thing about the Red River Bridge Fishing Area is that it has “Habitat Management and Access Validation” with the Game & Fish Department. That’s fancy government jargon that means the property owners have an agreement with the State of New Mexico to allow licensed anglers and hunters to use their property.

On one side the bridge, the landowner was generous enough to restock the river with more bass just for the occasion.

By 10:30 a.m., there were barely any places left to park and dozens of families were taking advantage of the opportunity to learn how to fish with lent-out rods and free lures and other gear.

The workshop, however, was not just for beginners. A number of intermediate anglers were there to learn a few ways to tweak their skills from Shawn Denny, a Game & Fish officer.

A free lunch with hot dogs, chips and soda drinks was provided by Farmers Country Market.

Officer Tyson Sanders said Saturday’s workshop was an inaugural event.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done this,” he said. “The whole concept here is to have people who have never fished and let them use a rod and some gear.”

He said the three goals of Game & Fish all start with the letter “R”: Recruit. Retain. Reactivate.

“Fifteen percent of the nation hunts and fishes,” he said.

The long-term challenge, however, is to attract young people — many of whom would rather spend hours indoors on social media than breathing in the great outdoors — to activities like hunting and fishing.

He said baby boomers are the generation with the highest percentages of hunting and fishing licenses.

That’s the good news. The bad news is baby boomers are starting to die off and many have stopped renewing their licenses because of health reasons.

The department gets the lion’s share of its budget from license fees.

Generation X, the demographic behind the baby boomers, also is aging and renewing licenses less and less, Sanders said.

The challenge is to grab the interest of millennials and youngsters, Sanders said while a boy around age 10 or 11 walked by playing on his smartphone.

From the smiles on their faces, it was obvious that the boys and girls with rods and reels in their hands were truly enjoying themselves.

Spurred by the success of this first fishing workshop, let’s hope Game & Fish, along with their sponsors, will continue offering these free workshops.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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