The ultimate long-term outcome of your learn-to-fish program is to create an independent, long-term angler who is in the “continuation without support” stage in the Outdoor Recreation Adopting Model. It likely will take several years before you can determine if this outcome became a reality.
Because you have invested considerable resources in each participant, we recommend that you stay in contact with them and periodically check with them to see if they are continuing to be involved in angling.
We recommend that follow-up surveys be sent to each participant at six months and again at 2 years to ascertain what activities they are involved in, and if there is anything you and your partners can assist with. See the Incorporating “participant feedback” and measuring success section for additional details on long-term evaluations.
Another, more informal assessment is to contact their mentors/guides to see if they have kept in touch with their mentee and if the mentee has participated in any follow-up activities.
Monitoring the program’s Facebook page or other social media mechanisms may also reveal clues as to who is remaining active and who may have dropped out.
Tracking participant license purchases
Tracking license purchases is the best means we have to measure a person’s angling behavior. It is not a precise measure, but it is the best tool we currently have.
However, to accomplish this task in real time, the state agency's electronic licensing systems have to be designed to be able to track individual license purchases. The National Hunting & Shooting Sports Action Plan (Second Content Draft) has detailed suggestions regarding upgrading electronic licensing systems.
See the Incorporating “participant feedback” and measuring success section for additional details on tracking license purchases.
Tracking other indicators
While producing a long-term license purchaser is the ultimate long-term outcome, there are numerous mid-term outcomes that will indicate if your participants are on track to reach this goal.
Earlier, we recommended that your program provide participants with “next step” options that they can participate in to improve their skills and increase the knowledge. Their participation in these events is a good indicator that they are still interested in fishing. Tracking their participation in these next steps will require assigning a unique identification number to each participant, AND having the sponsors of the next step events use that number to register their participants. In addition, a data-sharing agreement will need to be in place so that they can share that information with you.
Participants in next steps activities need to be monitored in their own right, because in some instances, participants can become co-dependent on “events” to facilitate their fishing activity. Repeated attendance at events may be an indicator that some of the participants' needs may not have been fully met and they lack the confidence to participant independently. Repeated attendance at events also may be an indicator that they lack social support; the event has become their social support network. We recommend that program managers be alert for these two potential situations, and develop strategies to build confidence and/or improve the needed social support.
Other evaluation considerations
Over time, as your program builds success and becomes known for its high quality instruction, you will likely attract additional partners.
Retail partners can play an important role in you program monitoring. Understandably, they may be leery of untested or unproven programs. However, they are very interested in investing in programs that can make a difference in their business. Creating long-term anglers is good for their business and they know it. Creating program “affinity” cards with local retailers that are willing to track participant purchases and share that information is an additional powerful tool to measure program success.
Creating these cards may require effort and an up-front investment. However, they may reveal impacts that cannot be directly measured by other means. Having these cards will require a strong partnership where clear goals and objectives are in place and understood by all.