Reviews of past efforts reveal a handful of critical errors that often prevent programs from achieving success in creating new anglers:
Cover all the bases
Probably the most important reason programs aren't successful at creating new anglers is that they do not address all of the steps in the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model and they do not link to other opportunities for participants to progress through the model. Most programs provide the initial “trial” experience and then stop, or provide the same trial experience to returning participants. Programs should consciously design in and provide additional experiences and “next steps” for participants, or link to partner efforts that do this. These activities need not be fishing activities, per se, but can be scouting for new fishing spots, reading about fishing or watching fishing videos, camping, shopping for fishing equipment, and a host of other fishing-related activities. Providing opportunities for long-term mentoring and social support may also be important.
Targeting new anglers
The second shortfall programs often experience is recruiting people who likely were going to become anglers with or without the program. Providing additional experiences and “next steps” is important for all participants. These activities should provide “continuation with support” activities that sequentially and systematically provide both advanced skills and knowledge, as well as advanced fishing experiences for novice anglers. However, be aware that many programs that provide “advanced activities” fall into the “retention” side of the adoption model and are designed for already avid anglers. These programs may play an important role in retaining anglers, who are likely from fishing families who would probably fish anyway.
It is important to remember that truly new anglers have little or no knowledge or skills, nor social support regarding fishing. They may have some general outdoor skills that can be transferred, but they do not have the basic knowledge, skills, or exposure to fishing that we often take for granted when designing how-to-fish courses and activities. Include a member of your actual target group on your planning team to establish their baseline knowledge/experience/comfort level, so you can design a more effective course.
The third shortfall is lack of “participant feedback” in the program’s design or implementation. For additional information, see the Participant feedback and measuring success section. Participant feedback is needed to improve programs and to “prove” programs. Ideally, this entails pre, post and follow-up feedback, as well as opportunities for participants to ask questions during the program. The long-term, follow-up feedback help prove programs, while pre and post-event feedback is used in program improvement.
In many situations, content experts are recruited as instructors. Be sure information they provide is geared toward beginners, not more advanced audiences. Involve representatives of the target audience in program planning so instructors understand the level and type of information the target audience needs. In addition, provide specific opportunities for participants to ask questions to assess their “place” in the Adoption Model and what they need to progress. See Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model and Using “results chains” and understanding your program's "theory of change" for additional information on incorporating these aspects into planning your program.
And lastly, most programs do not consciously incorporate or develop social support systems or self-identity as an integral part of the program. This may be challenging, but additional social support systems will likely be critical for successful programs. See Importance of creating “social support” section for additional information.