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Urban Fishing

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

David Rivero watches the evening sky while fishing Thursday at Sunset Park.

For Jennifer Spinkelink, seeing the bright smile and joy-filled eyes of children who have caught their first fish is unforgettable.

The grandmother and recreation coordinator for Boulder City looks forward to the state’s Free Fishing Day every June so she can spend her morning helping Southern Nevadans discover a possible love for fishing.

“I remember my granddaughter catching her first fish, it’s so exciting,” Spinkelink said. “It’s just, you know, a fun day of people enjoying fishing for free because you usually have to obtain a fishing license from (the Nevada Department of Wildlife) to fish, and so it’s just a good way to get people outside and enjoy it and learn what it’s all about.”

And at today’s Free Fishing Day event in Boulder City, Spinkelink — now in her fifth year of helping at the event — and a team from Nevada’s Department of Wildlife are expecting to reel in another big crowd. It’s from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

People are allowed to fish without a license during the event, which annually draws around 300 people to the urban pond at Veterans’ Memorial Park in Boulder City, said Abbey Czarnecki, the Wildlife Department’s angler coordinator for Southern Nevada. It’s a similar scene at other locations statewide.

Spinkelink said Free Fishing Day attracted everyone from young children learning how to cast a reel for the first time to competitive fishermen assisting their neighbors.

Free Fishing Day originated in 1987 when the Nevada Legislature passed a bill allowing anyone to fish without a license on a specified day, Czarnecki said.

Nevada has more than 200 lakes and reservoirs, 600 streams and rivers and almost 400,000 surface areas of sport fishing opportunities, according to the Wildlife Department.

To fish at any of these spots, residents 12 years of age or older normally are required to obtain a fishing license.

A regular fishing license for an adult resident is $40 and valid for one year, and people with children can get a one-year youth combination license for kids between 12 and 17 years old for an extra $15.

“It’s less than $4 a month, which would be a lot cheaper than getting a fine of $500 to $1,000,” Czarnecki said. “(But) sometimes, yes, that $40 definitely is a barrier.”

All of the state’s general fishing regulations must still be followed on Free Fishing Day, and each body of water may also have its own additional rules, according to the Wildlife Department.

Many other states, like neighboring California, have similar events.

The Wildlife Department puts on the event with support from the Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950, a federal fund that allocates money to states “for fishery projects, boating access and aquatic education,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The event is critical in recruiting new hobbyists to the activity, or reigniting a passion for someone who has been inactive, officials said.

“Now that we have electronics and all like that, we definitely see a gap over the last 20 years in anglers and outdoors activities,” Czarnecki said. “And so this one day a year gives everybody the opportunity to try it out to get some help on the water.”

Czarnecki says each registered participant will also get a tackle box filled with “everything they need to set up, including bait,” when they check-in. Loaner equipment will also be available at the “First Catch Center” trailer, and experienced anglers are welcome to bring their own gear, she added.

The Wildlife Department also has experts, like Czarnecki who has participated in this event since 2015, to guide anyone needing help.

“(They) teach younger people that have never been exposed to fishing the basics of it, some safety and just real basic things that I think some people maybe don’t think about was fishing,” Spinkelink said. “The angler education that Abbey does really helps to grow that interest, so to speak.”

Free Fishing Day will also coincide with Discover Nevada State Parks Day, an event sponsored by the Nevada Division of State Parks to also encourage outdoor recreation.

Since the state will be offering free fishing in conjunction with Free Fishing Day, it made sense that free park entrance would be included, said Jenny Jackson, education and information officer at the Nevada Division of State Parks.

“The free fee day is (also) a great opportunity to promote state parks and remind them that they may have an undiscovered treasure in their own backyard,” Jackson said. “Connecting with nature and spending time with family outdoors is something that everyone should get to enjoy.”

And as excited as Czarnecki is to see the fish and spend time outdoors, her favorite part — much like Spinkelink — is meeting participants and watching the excitement of people making their first catch.

“You can definitely tell (from), like, the smiles (that) just from being out there for an hour or two is in their memories that they’re going to create with their family and friends for a lifetime,” Czarnecki said.

Article written by #LasVegasSun