April 1995 // Volume 33 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT3

Previous Article Issue Contents

Fishing for Cleaner Waters--An Environmental Education Tool

To help adults use angling as a tool to teach youth about the aquatic environment, six "Fishing for Cleaner Waters" posters were developed by the Ohio Sea Grant College Program. Each 12" by 18" polyethylene poster has a different environmental message, a line drawing of a popular sport fish, angling tips, and information on the fishes' habitat and spawning habits. Species covered include walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, crappie, and sunfish. Evaluations indicate that the posters were useful in helping youth learn more about fish and the aquatic environment.

Frank R. Lichtkoppler
District Specialist, Sea Grant
The Ohio State University - Painesville
Internet address: lake@agvax2.ag.ohio-state.edu


Building a sense of environmental stewardship in youth can be enhanced by hands-on learning of an outdoor activity such as angling. Studies suggest that citizens are more likely to support actions for clean water and a cleaner environment if they are active participants in an aquatic activity such as angling. Research by Fortner, Mayer, Brothers, and Lichtkoppler (1991) and Lichtkoppler, Kelch, and Berry (1993) suggests that Great Lakes boaters and anglers are more informed and more concerned about the Great Lakes environment than the general public. Introducing youth to the aquatic environment may increase their environmental literacy as adults.

Goal and Action

To help adults use angling as a tool to teach youth about the aquatic environment, six all-weather posters were developed with the assistance of the Ohio Sea Grant communications office. Each poster has a different environmental message to teach and promote a conservation ethic. For example, readers are encouraged to, "Be a part of the solution to water pollution: reduce, reuse, recycle." The posters enable adult anglers, 4-H and scout leaders, and others to take research information to the pond bank where youth are motivated and primed for a "teachable moment." The posters can also be used by naturalists, tackle shop owners, and teachers to help create environmental learning centers at campgrounds, stores, or in classrooms. The estimated minimum two-year lifetime of the posters allows outdoor use for maximum citizen contact.

Peer review of the poster content helped insure accuracy. Individual posters feature one or more species of sportfish (walleye, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, largemouth bass, sunfish, and crappie). The posters provide an accurate drawing of the fish with easily seen characteristics for identification purposes. Information on the habitat, spawning, fishing methods, and tackle to use for each species is provided. All posters display the promotional slogan, "4-H Teaches Kids to Fish."

Evaluation and Feedback

Forty-two of sixty-one poster recipients responding to a user survey ranked the posters on a 1 to 5 point Likert-type scale with 5 being the highest ranking possible. Up to three mail contacts were used to increase response rate. Two surveys were undeliverable. Respondents gave the posters a mean ranking of 4.5 +/-0.6 for organization, 4.5 +/-0.7 for ease of understanding, and 4.3 +/-0.6 on ability to hold reader attention. Mean ranking for increased knowledge of fishery biology was 4.4 +/-0.7. Increased awareness of the need for cleaner waters received a mean ranking of 4.2 +/-0.8.

Almost 93% of 347 youth responding to a survey by their teachers indicated that the posters helped increase their awareness of the need for cleaner waters for fish habitat and 88% said the posters increased their awareness of the need to wisely use aquatic resources. Almost 94% of responding youth indicated that the posters helped them learn more about fish identification. Eighty-six percent of youth responding to their teachers' survey said the posters helped them learn more about fishing.

Poster users have provided many favorable written comments including:

     "The poster(s) were very beneficial to our unit.

     Students liked the poster format and easy to read

     "...I have been looking for something exactly like your
     posters for years...  Students take notice--even those
     not involved in fishing will step closer to read (them)
     in our school cafeteria."

     "Well done - simple to understand - love the

     "I like the durability - can be kept and reused ...good
     for camps..."

For More Information

Individuals interested in using the posters for display in public access type areas or for teaching youth about the aquatic environment are asked to contact the author. The posters are free, but a $4.00 per set postage and handling fee is required.


Fortner, R. W., Mayer, V. J., Brothers, C. C., & Lichtkoppler, F. R., (1991). Knowledge about the Great Lakes environment: A comparison of publics. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 17(3), 394-402.

Lichtkoppler, F. R., Kelch, D. O., & Berry, M. A. (1993). Attitudes of 1990, 1991, and 1992 Mid-America Boat Show and 1991 Fairport Fishing Symposium patrons concerning the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), Lake Erie and Great Lakes pollution. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 19(1), 129-135.

Author Notes

This work is a result of research sponsored in part by the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, Project A/EP-1 under grant #NA90AA-D-SG496 of the National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Innovative Grant Program of the Ohio State University Extension, the State of Ohio, and the County of Lake.