How Washington Is Working To Increase Latino Fishers
WENTACHEE, Wash. -- About 150 people line the shoreline at the Beehive Reservoir in north central Washington. Spanish and English mix, as anglers plunk lures into the lake. And just as quickly as the lures sink to the bottom, rainbow trout bite down on the chartreuse-colored bait.
"You've got a bite," someone on the shoreline shouts.
The small reservoir is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Wenatchee. But Norma Gallegos said it’s a trip made by only a few of the city’s Hispanic residents.
“Most of them have lived here for more than five years and never have been out here,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos is with Team Naturaleza, a group that connects Latinos with nature.
Gallegos says not many Latinos attend the fishing events she goes to, like a recent event in Entiat, Washington.
“I look at the numbers, and our Latinos are not reflected in the numbers we want to see at the outdoor environments that this beautiful country has to offer,” she said.
State officials have another reason. Bruce Bolding manages the warm water fish program for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Traditionally natural resource agencies have not paid a lot of attention to them,” Bolding said
In Washington, enforcement officers say workers who live in the area only for a few weeks at a time to pick fruit sometimes fish without licenses. So the department is trying to boost outreach to the Latino community. Oregon is also working to encourage more Latinos to go fishing -- but to first get a fishing license.
This event is the first fishing clinic the state of Washington has geared toward Latino anglers. Stations teach people how to leave no trace, how to tie a fishing knot, and how to identify fish.
Kimberly Castañeda, 11, said she had to throw back a fish because she caught the wrong kind, which she learned about from the fish identification station. But she did get to help when her brother reeled in a rainbow trout.
"It's slimy, and it keeps on slipping from your hand when you try to grab it," Kimberly said.
At the lake's entrance, fish and Wildlife Sergeant Dan Klump sits in the shade of a white canopy. He passes out the state’s half-inch thick fishing rulebook.
"That way they can kind of have it in their mind of what’s legal, what’s not, and so we can avoid any possibilities of violations,” Klump said.
Right now, the rulebook is printed only in English.
Officials say the agency is trying to make inroads into the community -- a way to help the cash-strapped department raise more money by selling more fishing licenses.
And a way to get a new generation interested in fishing. Nine-year-old Valeria Quinones helps put bait on her sister’s hook.
“It feels like a marshmallow, and it feels gooey,” Valeria said.
The two try to cast the line out into the middle of the lake, with a little help from experienced fishermen.
“It’s fun because you actually get excited, and you feel like you’re going to catch a fish,” Valeria said.
Valeria said she’s hopes her family will come back to fish at Beehive Reservoir soon.