Fishing can be social or solitary activity

Why do you fish? Have you ever wondered? Or, if you don’t fish, have you ever asked yourself why not?

I suppose we all have at least one answer to the question that best fits our relationship to the sport of fishing. As for me, the answer is really quite simple. I fish because I can’t imagine not fishing. It is simply part of who I am, something ingrained in me since childhood.

Each summer my family returned to Utah for our summer vacation, and one of the activities I looked forward to with great expectation was fishing with my cousins. As our travels took us past rivers and stream, my brother and I would look for the best fishing holes. All in anticipation of casting a line in the water.

Upon reaching our destination, the Nielsen kids would pile out of the car, grab fishing rods and stuff a handful of night crawlers in pant pockets. Then we took off, leapfrogging each other as we made our way along the river my Uncle Ted thought might provide us with the best rainbow trout action that year.

For us kids, this annual outing was always an adventure, but for some reason Dad and Uncle Ted always fished in the opposite direction.

Mom loved fresh trout, so she liked the fishing trips as much as we did but seemed to have a real problem with the dried up night crawlers she found in our pockets in the days following our adventure. I always knew when Mom found the not-so-wiggly crawlers because she would use my full name to call attention to the oversight.

“C. Douglas! I told you to clean out your pockets!”

One of the things I enjoy most about fishing is that sudden tug on the end of my line when a fish takes the bait. That tug may be a subtle and soft take, almost a tease causing you to ask, “Is that a fish?” Or the take could come with all the tact of a framing hammer meeting the head on a 16-penny nail. Oftentimes the type of take is dependent on the species for which you are angling, but either way, it is exciting. You might even say it is addicting.

For Roger, my friend and frequent fishing partner, the attraction of fishing is found in the challenge of finding, catching and understanding the fish. That interest has led him to focus primarily on fishing for wily black bass. Oh, he likes feeling the take as much as anybody else, but his fishing quest has taken him beyond the average angler. You might even go so far as to call him a student of the game.

While some of us like the challenge and others the line tug, the primary reason most anglers fish has nothing to do with either of those reasons. Nor does it have to do with eating the fish we catch, although there is something to be said about a good fish taco made with fresh striped bass. In fact, the reason most of us fish really has nothing to do with the act of fishing at all. Rather, the single biggest motivator for most anglers is “the simple opportunity to get outside and experience the outdoors,” according to a recent poll by Southwick Associates.

“When asked to note all of the reasons they like to fish, 88 percent of survey respondents cited, ‘I like to spend time outdoors.’ It was the most selected response,” the report says. Next in line was “I like to spend time on or near the water” and “fun.” These options were selected by 84 percent and 83 percent of respondents. Then came the challenge experienced when fishing, which was selected by 80 percent of survey respondents.

Another important aspect of the fishing experience is the social component. “Most see fishing as a social activity with 71 percent citing spending time with friends and family as a key motivator,” the report says. I was surprised to learn that “only 50 percent cited eating their catch as a primary reason to fish.”

Though we all have fished alone at some time or another, it always is a little more enjoyable when we have someone with whom we can share the experience. Someone to validate the fish stories when they are later shared with others.

Freelance writer C. Douglas Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at

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