June 2, 2008

Free Fishing Weekend

Ordinarily, you need a license to go fishing in Wisconsin.  This coming weekend, though, that’s not the case.  That’s because the Department of Natural Resources has officially designated June 7 and 8 as Free Fishing Weekend in Wisconsin.  For two days, people of all ages, professions, and experience levels can enjoy one of our state’s defining pastimes.  It’s an opportunity that no one should pass up.

Equipment and training won’t be problems, either.  Everything—from rods and reels to bobbers to hooks, lines, and sinkers—is available for rental at DNR sites around Milwaukee.  There are even Angler Education Kits with information about different types of fish, how to tie different fishing knots, and a lot more.  For those who have never fished before, the DNR is offering free clinics at locations around the state.  It’s a great way for first-timers to learn and for veterans to brush up on the basics.

Free Fishing Weekend is a great chance for people to step outside their routines, even if only for a few hours, and enjoy something different.  They can reconnect with friends and family, meet new people with a common interest, or just explore a new hobby.

This year’s Free Fishing Weekend is an important opportunity for other reasons, though.  Most notably, it’s a chance for Milwaukee residents to experience and reflect on the condition of our city’s natural resources.  Too many Milwaukee residents never visit places like Humboldt Park Pond and Brown Deer Park Pond.  Milwaukeeans owe it to themselves to witness, firsthand, the condition of our waterways.

The Blatz Pavilion is a case in point.  A few years ago, the Pavilion would have been a prime venue for Free Fishing Weekend.  This year, though, it’s in the midst of a massive cleanup and renovation.  Industrial contamination of the water and sediment has become so serious that it’s no longer safe to consume fish from the area.  It’s anticipated that the initial phase of the project will be completed by the end of June, after which workers will move onto cleaning up other contaminated sections of the Milwaukee River.

Projects like the Blatz Pavilion cleanup cost millions in taxpayer dollars and frequently hamper day-to-day operations in industrial and business districts.  The worst thing about them, though, is that they don’t need to happen in the first place.  To prevent them, our communities just need to be more conscious of the serious consequences of our actions.  Interacting with nature is a great way to appreciate those consequences.

Fishing is about more than just casting and reeling in the big one.  It’s about understanding things like patience and perseverance; about reconnecting with parts of yourself and your surroundings that you might’ve neglected; about building relationships with the people and places that help make us who we are.  For all those reasons, and more, I’ll be on the water this weekend.  Care to join me?