After making its U.S. debut Friday at Bde Maka Ska/Lake Calhoun, a new fishing recruiting tool known as the Pop-up Bait Shop will return for an encore this weekend before rolling on to New York City, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Nashville and Chicago.
Owned by the national nonprofit Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and created by Twin Cities ad agency Colle McVoy, the summer touring mission of the colorful 8-by-12 shack and summer tour is to create surprise moments to introduce urban youth and young adults to fishing.
Marked by a 12-foot-long replica of a lure hung vertically at the site, the Bait Shop dispenses fishing rods and live bait to willing visitors. Volunteers guide kids into casting games while other passersby take selfies at nautically themed photo walls. The structure has an awning made to look like a mosaic of trolling spoons and kids can measure their height against images of a 3-foot striped bass, 4-foot muskie, 5-foot sturgeon or 6-foot tarpon.
“We had people walking by and asking, “What is this?’’’ said Ray Ruiz, a full-time fishing and hunting recruiter for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We tell them to fill out a quick survey, take a tutorial and go fishing.’’
Over four hours last Friday, about 150 people stopped by to check it out. A lot of young couples were in the mix, Ruiz said.
“They were just walking around the lake holding hands and the next thing you know they are fishing,’’ he said.
The interactive exhibit was held over in Minneapolis because of last weekend’s bad weather. It will pop up again this Saturday and Sunday near the fishing pier at 36th Avenue and Lake Calhoun Parkway. The hours are scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day and kids can go home with a souvenir “tackle box” stuffed with fish-themed candy.
Keith Negrin of Colle McVoy said the idea is to show city dwellers that fishing doesn’t have to be an ordeal. It’s doable and fun in waters that aren’t distant, he said. The DNR waived fishing license requirements for the promotion, but interested guests who want to pursue fishing are introduced to an outreach campaign known as takemefishing.org for information on how to fully participate in the sport.
According to the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, fishing is the No. 1 gateway activity that leads people to try other outdoor activities. In Minnesota and other states, participation in fishing and hunting has not kept pace with overall population growth. In many cases across the U.S., license sales have in fact declined.
The trend has natural resource managers, conservationists, sportsmen, sportswomen, tourism officials and outdoor industry leaders working together to change the direction.