For sisters Deb and Tracey Webb, there’s nothing better than teaching a kid how to fish — a lifelong hobby that encourages socialization, teaches patience and problem-solving skills and provides an appreciation of the outdoors.
The native Detroiters, who caught the fishing bug at a young age from their mother and siblings, are spreading their love of the activity with children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy the personal and societal benefits that it brings.
Tracey founded We’re Fixin’ to Fish in 2021 with the vision to teach Detroit’s children the art of fishing. Deb is part of the coalition of family, friends and local businesses who help the grassroots organization hold free family and youth fishing clinics throughout the city.
“We started We’re Fixin’ to Fish so families could get out of the house, get off the cellphones and do something fun in nature,” Deb said. “The most important thing fishing provides is a sense of accomplishment, not to mention teaching kids how to eat for the rest of their lives.”
We’re Fixin’ to Fish shares the same goal as the Michigan Wildlife Council — to highlight the benefits of fishing and how it is a healthy way for kids to get outdoors and connect safely with friends and family.
Fishing benefits everyone
The Detroit area is the perfect spot for experienced anglers like the Webbs to share their passion for fishing.
Ranked the No. 5 fishing city in the country by FishingBooker — an online service for booking fishing trips — Detroit is home to some of the most diverse and plentiful fisheries in the country, including walleye, bass, perch, crappie, northern pike, channel catfish and muskie.
But a person doesn’t have to be a skilled angler to appreciate the benefits of fishing. It isn’t only about the thrill of the catch; it’s also about enjoying the outdoors and supporting conservation.
Fishing plays a vital role in Michigan’s conservation efforts, like keeping wildlife populations in balance, protecting Michigan waters from habitat degradation and invasive species and safeguarding the state’s forests.
Last year, licenses purchased by anglers and hunters generated over $66 million for the Michigan Game and Fish Protection Fund. The fund is the Department of Natural Resources’ largest revenue source and is critical to its conservation work. Fishing and hunting equipment sales raised an additional $32 million to support wildlife and natural resource management.
“A lot of time, energy and money go into restoring, managing and protecting Michigan’s important natural resources, and every angler — from experienced to beginner — drives these efforts,” Michigan Wildlife Council Chair Nick Buggia said. “Hunting and fishing license sales, not state tax dollars, fund conservation, and the more people who cast lines in Michigan waters, the better it is for our entire state.”
Along with conservation, hunting and fishing are significant economic drivers for Michigan.
Combined, they generate $11.2 billion for Michigan’s economy every year and support 171,000 jobs, according to a 2019 study released by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs in partnership with Michigan State University.
Fishing opportunities for families and beginners abound in Detroit
While fishing has a tremendous impact on the economy, it doesn’t have to impact a family’s wallet to give it a try.
Fishing licenses for Michigan residents have cost $26 since 2014. For $26, anyone can fish 365 days a year anywhere in Michigan. And kids under 16 don’t need a license. A person can purchase the basics — a pole, reel, line, hook and bait — for about $20-$30.
There are great spots for families and beginners throughout metro Detroit that provide easy access to fish from the shore or a pier. In the city, Milliken State Park offers a cut in the Detroit River where beginners can fish from the shore without having to deal with the river’s tricky currents that more experienced anglers navigate. Blue Heron Lagoon, Lake Muskoday and Lake Okonoka on Belle Isle are also ideal spots for shore fishing.
Other family-friendly locations include Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, Kensington Metropark, Bishop Park in Wyandotte, Dingell Park in Ecorse and the new fishing pier at the International Wildlife Refuge in Trenton.
The DNR offers an interactive Family Friendly Fishing Waters map that identifies the most accessible sites in all of Michigan’s 83 counties with a high likelihood of catching fish. Metro Detroit is home to 17 Family Friendly Fishing Waters locations, all within a short drive from Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
Additional resources, including information on fishing licenses, rules and regulations and how-to guides and videos, are available at Michigan.gov/fishing.
Jim Francis, the DNR’s Lake Erie basin coordinator, has some advice for families with children and beginners planning to go fishing this summer.
“The important thing is to keep it simple,” he said. “Walking into a tackle store can be overwhelming. It’s a lot of specialized stuff, which we all get to eventually. But starting out, it can just be about taking a kid with a Snoopy pole to the end of a dock and casting bobbers for bluegills and then working your way up from there.”
The Michigan Wildlife Council is dedicated to increasing public understanding of the important role hunting and fishing play in the conservation and management of the state’s natural resources. More information is available at www.HereForMiOutdoors.org.