Program identities "next steps" for participants

ice fishing_0.jpgThe Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model describes the steps to become an angler as a process that involves several theoretical stages. Because fishing is a complex recreation involving considerable knowledge and many different skills, it is very rarely adopted during a single exposure. Numerous exposures and trials involving both fishing and fishing-related activity will likely be required before a person becomes an independent, long-term angler in the “continuation without support” stage. 

It is critical for program planners, as well as program implementers, to design “next steps” into their programs so that participants can advance along the various stages. Some of these steps will repeat or review skills or knowledge previously presented, while other steps will involve completely new material.  It will likely take numerous iterations for a person to become confident with their newly acquired knowledge and skills to be able to fish independently.

In many situations, these steps can be provided by a different agency or organization. Creating cooperative partnerships is an effective way to share the workload, as well as the responsibility, for creating new anglers.

Creating next steps for participants to do as a large or small group also helps develop a social support network within the group. Developing small group activities within the class structure can help establish social networks early in the program.  In many situations, encouraging and facilitating next steps outside of the program or between sessions can be worthwhile.

For example, assigning “homework” to a group of participants to complete will help establish or reinforce a social support network within the group as well as reinforce the knowledge and skills being taught. For example, assigning the task of planning the logistical needs for a fishing trip to several sub-groups of participants and having each group report on their recommendations during the next class session would accomplish both the logistical planning requirements as well as help improve the group’s social network. Another potential homework assignment could be to have groups of participants “scout” a nearby water body using Google Earth and identify areas of interest to focus their fishing time.

In most cases, participants will want to fish again after they have gone fishing for the first time. Providing information about other water bodies to fish is critical. Generally, the sooner a person fishes again after their first exposure, the more likely they will be to developing a self-identity as a angler and strengthen the fledgling social support mechanisms that they developed.

Do not overlook your state’s regulations booklet as a sources of information for additional fishing opportunities. Spending time to review seasons for other species, and providing additional material about the habits and habitats of these species is recommended.

In addition, asking probing questions about your participants' confidence in and perceived limitations to fishing for different species can help focus discussion about what additional information or skills they may need to feel confident to continue fishing.

In addition, promoting other formal educational opportunities sponsored by partnering organizations as additional “next steps” will help encourage additional partnerships. However, care should be taken so that you do not create participants who are co-dependent on an agency’s or organization’s events for participation. Encourage participants to independently learn and participate in new activities at every opportunity!

For many anglers, fishing is a lifestyle that defines who they are and involves year-round activities. This year-round immersion in fishing-related activities enhances their self-identity and makes them more likely to become long-term, independent anglers.

These year-round activities may not involve actual fishing, but they are supportive of an angler lifestyle. These activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Attending fishing seminars, shows, expos, etc.;
  • Attending boating seminars, shows, expos, etc.;
  • Shopping for new equipment;
  • Scouting new fishing areas;
  • Contacting new landowners seeking permission to fish their water;
  • Fish or game pot-luck dinners;
  • Hunting; and
  • Foraging for mushrooms or other wild foods; etc.

This list is provided as an example of types of activities that can support fishing during the off-season. A similar list could be developed by brainstorming with the group during a class session to identify off-seasons activities the group may be interested in doing.  Having the group generate the list gives the group some ownership in it and some responsibility for organizing some of the activities.

All of these activities would be voluntary, and outside of your formal “program.”  However, the more you can do to facilitate, or have the participants arrange on their own, the more likely the participants will establish strong social support systems, advance through the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model, and become long-term, independent anglers.

Encouraging the group to create a virtual group via social media is also a powerful tool for encouraging the group to continue to support each other and devise ways to continue their angling education.

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