Some interesting facts about new anglers, boaters

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

There is plenty of positive news on the fishing and boating scene concerning people who are new to both activities as we enter 2021, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

According to a study seeking to retain these new participants, research supports the fishing and boating industry in understanding who these new participants are and how best to engage with them.

Key findings from the report include:

New anglers and boaters are younger, more urban and more diverse. They are also highly socially connected.

Three key elements of fishing and boating are main motivators to these new anglers and boaters: social connection with loved ones, the challenge of the activities and the connection to nature they offer.

The biggest barriers faced by new participants include balancing other priorities, not having the proper equipment or not knowing about affordable options, not having enough experience and not having a fishing or boating companion.

Ninety percent of new anglers and 94% of new boaters wish to continue these activities in the future. Necessary actions that fishing and boating organizations can take to retain this new audience include reminding newcomers of the great fishing and boating experiences they had in 2020, highlighting convenient water access, providing beginner educational resources, emphasizing the social aspects of fishing and boating, and recommending cost-effective equipment.

* * *

Ryan Burke, who has been serving as an at-large wildlife officer in central Ohio since September, has been assigned to Hancock County, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW). A 2020 graduate of the Wildlife Officer Academy, Officer Burke has served at-large in central Ohio since September 2020.

Burke replaces Antoinette Jolliff, who recently transferred to Licking County to be closer to her hometown.

Burke graduated from Muskingum University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and criminal justice. During his down time, Burke enjoys hunting, hiking and boating.

To reach him, call the Wildlife District Two Headquarters in Findlay at 419-424-5000. To report serious activity involving wildlife, call or text 800-POACHER (762-2437). Reports can remain anonymous.

* * *

It’s looking like an ice fishing season in Ohio may be another bust. The years of a solid month or six weeks of fishing on solid water don’t happen often anymore. The trend has been winters with less ice and when there has been enough, the seasons have been shorter.

A few days with highs in the teens or low 20s and lows in single digits are needed to form good, solid ice. We have not had any days like that and none appear be forecast through the end of January.

For those seeking some ice fishing, they have to head north to Michigan or northwest to Indiana. Just across the state line, anglers are on the ice around Hillsdale, Michigan. Earlier in the week, there was a solid 6 inches on third basin on Baw Beese Lake and nearly 4 inches on Bass Lake. Other lakes in that area have 5-6 inches, according to reports.

In northeast Indiana in the Angola area, some lakes had anywhere from 3-5 or 5-6 inches of ice.

If you choose to try and fish in these areas, check in with local bait shops to see what bodies of waters have “safe” ice. Remember, no ice is considered safe ice. Some bodies of water will appear to be frozen solid but can have thin ice in several potentially unexpected areas.

* * *

My wife and I took some of my own advice last weekend and headed to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, located off of Ohio 2 near Oak Harbor, where we met one of our daughters for the first drive through of the year.

The trip was well worth it and during the seven-mile drive, we spotted birds one typically sees during winter, plus a couple of raptors we had not seen in the wild before. The highlight of the trip was spotting a long-eared owl and a merlin. Four of the owls were spotted there, but we saw just one.

We saw more than 100 trumpeter swans, several bald eagles, numerous red-tailed hawks and a couple of kestrels along with a number of Canada geese. In Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, we saw an eagle near one of the two nests in the area and also two flocks of Sandhill Cranes, with at least 12 in each flock.

On the way to the refuge we spotted a pair of eagles sitting in a nest along the Portage River and another one sitting near a nest along Ohio 2.

The next weekend drive through is slated for Feb. 20-21. Some ducks migrating early could be spotted then. There definitely should be ducks back during the March 20-21 drive through.

By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Post navigation