One of my favorite outdoor writers of the 1920s and 1930s was Lincoln Werder, who wrote regularly for The New York Times and other august publications. Werder was a conservationist, but more than that, he understood that American's greatest fishing resource was not fish or fishing tackle, but the children who would grow up to be anglers. Here is a typical article from his Woods, Field and Stream column, dated 09 March 1937. I have bolded the section that is as apropros today as it was 70 years ago.
Some statistics pertaining to the activities of fishermen and hunters during the past year have been announced by Frank T. Bell, Commissioner of Fisheries, Department of Commerce.
They are presented not as an argument to convince the doubter but rather as a commentary. According to this data, approximately $500,000,000 was put into circulation during the last year by anglers.
Reviewing this estimate, Commissioner Bell adds that the fishermen is buying more and better equipment than he did three years ago, for example, and that "the sea craft of the angler," among other things has improved. Interest in deep sea and salt water fishing is reflected in the equipment of more and better cruisers and fishing boats.
What the Sportsmen Spend
Here are some of the rather impressive figures contained in paragraphs of the department's statement:
"Visiting fishermen and hunters bring into the state of New Hampshire an annual income of $6,000,000, while New York enthusiasts of field and stream spend $47,000,000 annually and about $2,000,000 is spent annually in that state on fishing tackle alone. Michigan accepts recreation as its third largest industry.
The sportsmen of California spent $63,000,000 in that State in 1936, an average expenditure of $116.80 per angler. In Utah the anglers spent $3,000,000 whipping mountain streams of that state."
Still Room for the Boys
Nevertheless, fishing, we believe, can still be enjoyed by the barefoot boy, though perhaps the sight of him is disappearing.
A rather striking current editorial in the bulletin of the famous organization of the Angler's Club seems more appropriate in discussing one phase of this subject:
"It has remained, however, for one of our veterans to remind us that we have been remiss in our duty to stock the streams with the most important of all creatures, the young angler who shall take up our pursuit of the sportsman's pleasures and ideals and carry them forward.
We need to be reminded, as he has reminded us, that a boy is not a common sight on the trout streams; that the growing scarcity and shyness of 'finny denizens' make the cut pole, string and worm a venture which is seldom profitable; and that the skill and money necessary for successful and pleasing fishing with the fly are beyond the reach of the average boy, unless we interest ourselves in helping him.
It would take a courageous and long-suffering angler to embark on the sort of philanthropy involved in leading groups of 'under-privileged' youngsters to the Beaverkill to work havoc with his fine tackle.
But there is no reason why each of us should not do the thing which lies nearest to hand by seeking to interest, and then to instruct, some likable youngster of his own family or acquaintance. It will involve an undeniable amount of tedious work at first, and undoubtedly will curtail the amount of fishing done in a day, but it will also impose a salutary restraint on the teacher's vocabulary.
It is hoped that the good work started by our anonymous fellow-member will be supported and augmented by all."
-- Dr. Todd