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Fish for free June 1 in the Cowboy State

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Mark Davis with the Powell Tribune, via the Wyoming News Exchange

Fishing in Wyoming’s blue-ribbon fisheries is free for all on June 1.

Each year the Wyoming Game and Fish Department designates the first Saturday of National Boating and Fishing Week as a free fishing day when anyone can fish in Wyoming (except within the Wind River Reservation and Yellowstone National Park) without a fishing license. Powell and Cody, among many cities in Wyoming, will be celebrating the occasion with fishing extravaganzas filled with feisty fish, fun and prizes.

To top it off, Wyoming State Parks, in conjunction with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's “Free Fishing Day,” is waiving daily use fees at all parks and recreation areas that provide angling on June 1. State Park locations offering free entrance are Boysen, Buffalo Bill, Curt Gowdy, Edness K. Wilkins, Fort Phil Kearny, Glendo, Guernsey, Keyhole, Seminoe and Hawk Springs (Does not apply to camping fees or reservations).

Fishing opportunities also exist at other outdoor destinations that offer free entrance year-round, including Bear River, Hot Springs, Medicine Lodge and Sinks Canyon. All fishing regulations, creel and size limits, gear restrictions and stream closures remain in effect, according to State Parks Public Information Officer Gary Schoene.

In Powell, the Parks The trout stocked in the Homesteader Park fishing pond are bigger than usual this year, with fish up to 14 inches stocked in the pond in mid May. The park will open the pond to all anglers on June 3, according to an official with the Powell Rec Department.

Department has stocked the Homesteader Park pond with 500 hungry trout. Those attending will find the fish are bigger this year, according to Powell Recreation District Director Colby Stenerson. The trout stocked this month generally measured between 11 and 14 inches in length.

Stenerson said he again is hoping for a strong turnout this year.

"We're hoping to get that filled up with kids again," Stenerson said. "That's always a fun day."

There will be a large prize pool available for kids 14 and under, including about 100 fishing poles to give out as prizes, said Joe Cates, recreation supervisor for the department. He also said there are two tagged fish stocked in the pond that, if caught by a lucky young angler and reported during the Kids' Fishing Day celebration, can be redeemed for a fat check in the form of a gift certificate. It’s all part of introducing outdoor sports to children with the hopes they will continue to fish throughout their lives, which supports wildlife conservation in the state.

“These kids will get a chance to do something they may have never done before,” he said. “And they don't have to go out and buy fishing licenses.”

As a person who has enjoyed since he was a kid, Cates said fishing is a great hobby.

“It's something you do the rest of your life,” he said.

Those interested in fishing need to register with the Rec Department for a time slot. They are offering one hour slots starting at 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and will add more time slots as needed.

The pond does not support catch and release fishing, he said. If you catch it, you need to clean and cook it. The Parks Department will restock the pond as needed through the summer. Gates open at sunrise and close at dusk.

Cody will once again host a kids free fishing day at Beck Lake June 1. Registration for the Cody Kids' Fishing Day celebration at Beck Lake is scheduled for 8-9 a.m. and for kids 14 and under the fun starts at 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. A free lunch and prizes are provided by the Cody Optimists, East Yellowstone Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Shoshone National Forest. Assistance will be available for beginner anglers.

The first 350 kids ages 14 and under who register will receive a free fishing pole and gift bag. Additional prizes will be awarded at the end of the event including a grand prize of a two-person, inflatable kayak. Also, lucky participants who catch a tagged fish will win a free lifetime conservation stamp.

“This is a great opportunity for Cody area youth and their families to spend the day enjoying the outdoors and learning about fishing,” said Tara Hodges, Information and Education Specialist with Wyoming Game and Fish. “The event is free of charge and the entire family is encouraged to attend.”

Fishing is among the nation's most popular pastimes, with more than 50 million Americans going fishing each year. According to Google Trends data, search interest in the term “fishing rod” has increased by more than 90% since 2004. Searches for “how to fish” are up nearly 250%, and searches for “where to fish” are up by almost 400%. Each of these search terms also saw pronounced spikes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increased interest in fishing is also good news for conservation efforts and government agencies responsible for managing fish and wildlife conservation. Since the late 1960s, the total number of fishing license holders in the U.S. has risen by more than half, from 20.5 million to 31.0 million, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) data. Over the same span, total revenues derived from fishing license sales in the nation have more than doubled after adjusting for inflation from $424 million to $898 million in 2023 dollars.

Wyoming ranks in the top 20 states in increases in fishing license holders in the past five years with a 4.6% increase, according to the USFWS, and has had a 6.1% increase in revenue thanks to the sale of licenses and fees. The data suggests Game and Fish has seen a 25% in licensing revenue in the past decade with more than 250,000 licenses sold each year with a total revenue of more than $8.5 million.

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Hunting and Fishing Licenses Data. The latest data shown is for apportionment year 2024, which reflects license sales that actually occurred in 2022. To determine the states where fishing popularity has grown the most, researchers calculated the percentage change in the number of fishing license holders per capita over the last five years. In the event of a tie, the location with the greater 10-year change in fishing licenses per capita was ranked higher. This information only includes paid licenses that meet the requirements of the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. The data is not representative of individuals who obtain free licenses or who are not required to hold licenses.

Published May 28, 2024

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