Once Upon a Time

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  • It has been a few decades since I attended a meeting of the San Diego Fish and Game Association, which was the county’s oldest club comprised of anglers and hunters.  The club had long been a force socially and politically when it came to fishing and hunting issues.  It took an active role in everything from supporting the introduction of Florida bass to the status of antlerless deer hunts, but maybe more importantly it played a role in the organization of those who fished or hunted.  Its members provided support for Hunter Safety Education Programs, had members who worked with scouting organizations, fought for the establishment of a Kid’s Fishing Hole at Lake Murray and sponsored Kid’s Fishing Days.

    Knowing that I had a history with youth fishing that ranged from running a program in which kids were rounded up at local playgrounds and recreation centers, loaded into a prisoner transport bus and taken to Lake Murray where they were “guided” by San Diego Police Department officers, to opening Chollas Lake for kids only – they wanted to know my thoughts about the future of fishing.  

    I think it is safe to say they didn’t like my view of the crystal ball when I told them not only was the number of kids fishing going down, but the average age of anglers was going up while fishing license sales were going down.  Their next question was “why?”

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  • I explained there was not a single and absolute answer, but that I could give them a few things to consider:

    • I reminded them that when I was a boy, I attended their meetings, as well as those of the Federal Employees Rod and Reel Club with my dad and then asked them why their kids or grandkids or the child that lived next door was not at the meeting.  Worse I pointed out that at 35, I was the youngest person in the auditorium of the War Memorial Building that day and that their average age qualified for Social Security;
    • I pointed out that there active membership, aside from those who participated  almost exclusively at their gun range at Hester’s Sand Pit (now P2K), was a fraction of what it had once been as more and more people were drawn away from general interest clubs like theirs to the more specialized groups that at that time numbered about 20 bass clubs along with the San Diego Fly Fishers and that out of all of them, only one – the San Diego Bassmasters – offered a kids club and even that was eventually discarded;
    • I described my observation that as a result of being so specialized and in most cases organized around competition, that their members were largely too serious about competition to have room for a likely noisy and needy kid in the boat because instead of a family just “goin fishin” time on the water was considered a practice day for the next tournament.  Of course I saw a few exceptions to this overall observation, but it stood and I’m guessing still stands as a general observation of those who fish competitively;

    In summary, I told them that as fishermen we were not only at risk of becoming dinosaurs, but responsible for the demise of the thing we cared so much about by in many cases loving it to death…for ourselves.

    Within a few years ago, the San Diego County Fish and Game Association, like the Federal Employees Rod and Reel Club and others…were gone.

    About Author

    Jim Brown

    Jim Brown ran the San Diego City Lakes Program from 1974-2003, where he oversaw the operation of the fishing programs of the county's biggest and best fisheries. Over his 70 years as a native San Diegan, including 65 of them as an avid fisherman, Brown describes himself as someone who has fished most bodies of water in and around the county that hold fish, and all of those that don't.

    3 Comments

    1. That was a very cool experience to be a part of. Very well mannered kids. I’m looking forward to volunteering for future tourneys.

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