MN-FISH president Ron Schara stumped the audience of 80 stakeholders when he asked this question at the first-ever State of Minnesota Fishing Summit held last week at Clam Outdoors:
“How much general tax revenue has the legislature appropriated in recent years to make Minnesota the State of Fishing?”
“The answer is zero,” he shared. “Zero dollars to support a multi-billion-dollar fishing industry.
“Isn’t that wonderful?”
Currently, the DNR’s fish management program has an annual budget of roughly $31 million, funded primarily from fishing license sales. It’s not enough.
Minnesota is one of the nation’s most popular fishing destinations. Annually, 1.4 million anglers purchase a fishing license each year. More than 25 percent of Minnesotans will fish this year.
And they will spend a lot of money in the process.
Sportfishing supports more than 28,000 Minnesota jobs and generates $4.4 billion annually in economic impact. Fishing is especially important in rural Minnesota, but its impact is also clear in the metro area, home to leading outdoor employers like Clam Outdoors and Rapala.
That’s why MN-FISH is pushing for greater state reinvestment in fishing. This legislative session, MN-FISH is supporting bills that fund $60 million for dedicated fish hatchery improvements and $37 million for boat access improvements.
“Both the hatcheries and boat accesses are owned by the state of Minnesota,” said MN-FISH Executive Director Mark Holsten. “Upgrades are needed now to meet current and future needs.”
Past legislatures invested into making sure Minnesotans had access to our lakes through Public Water Accesses and that we had good fishing by building fish hatcheries to stock our lakes. All MN-FISH is requesting is for the state to fix what we already have.
Schara wasn’t the only one asking questions last week, as MN-FISH created this event in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to gather perspectives from a wide base of stakeholders – anglers, retailers, tourism, manufacturers, government and others – to identify the barriers to better fishing.
Presenters included DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen, Fisheries Chief Brad Parsons, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, as well as several representatives of state angling groups.
Governor Tim Walz also joined the meeting and spoke. He agreed Minnesota fishing is underfunded and pledged his support for bills funding hatcheries and boat access upgrades, if passed.
The last hour of the Fishing Summit was dedicated to fielding questions from the audience.
Holsten called the Fishing Summit “an important first step” and pledged to host more Fishing Summits to answer all the questions anglers have in pursuit of better fishing.
“We accomplished a lot today, but there is much more to do going forward,” he said. “We are anxious to take what we’ve learned today and begin to work on solutions that currently stand in the way of making Minnesota the State of Fishing.”