Boating / POSTED 12-Dec-2023

Non-Profit MN-FISH® Leads Minnesota to Invest $98.1 Million in Fishing/Boating

Disappointed with direction and the lack of state reinvestment in Minnesota sportfishing and boating resources, a group of volunteers formed non-profit MN-FISH® Sportfishing Foundation & Coalition in 2018.

“We wanted to bring a strong, unified voice to the state capital in St. Paul,“ said MN-FISH® president Ron Schara. “There was and still is a clear need to advocate on behalf of state anglers, our fisheries and the next generation of anglers.”


Fishing and boating are big business in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, generating annually more than $9.9. billion in economic benefit, supporting more than 28,000 state jobs and adding hundreds of millions in state taxes, none of which was being reinvested by the state back into fishing. “That had to change,” said Schara, “and it did this year.”

Historic $98.1 Million Investment 
During the 2023 legislative session last spring, the Minnesota legislature approved “transformational” investments totaling $98.1 million in Minnesota fishing and boating after years of lobbying by MN-FISH®.

Here is a breakdown of the approved funding:
  • $55 million for fish hatcheries  (replacement and upgrades)
  • $38.1 million for public water accesses (2 new accesses and upgrades to others
  • $5 million for improved urban shorefishing access (including fishing piers)
MN-FISH® also helped pass additional initiatives this year, including $1.72 million for needed invasive carp barriers and removal to stop up-stream migration on the Mississippi River, regulated minnow importation to help with severe minnow shortages across the state, boaters’ education and a program to eliminate litter and human waste left by ice anglers.


Path To Success
For flexibility and impact, we formed MN-FISH® as two organizations: 
  • MN-FISH® Coalition, LLC -- 501c4 non-profit grassroots sportfishing, marine and angler advocacy network to give anglers a legislative voice and work to achieve public policies.
  • MN-FISH® Sportfishing Foundation -- 501c3 nonprofit organization to inspire Minnesotans to restore, protect and enhance sportfishing resources for present and future generations to enjoy.

Like many non-profits, MN-FISH® struggled its first few years to establish its voice, build its membership base and create funding sources. Sport shows and social media helped us reach state anglers and other stakeholders with our messaging, as did as our website and contacts in traditional media (print and radio primarily). 


Our initial plans were to follow membership/funding models used by successful non-profits in the outdoor space, but learned quickly that for a variety of reasons was the wrong path for MN-FISH®.

Three things helped us move forward quickly once the pandemic ended:
  1. 1We hired Mark Holsten as part-time Executive Director. As a former legislator and DNR Commissioner, Holsten helped the organization navigate both the legislature and the DNR, important allies for achieving our goals.
  2. We held the first-ever Minnesota Fishing Summit in May of 2022. The Summit was attended by more than 80 stakeholders (anglers, retailers, tourism, manufacturers, government and others.) The Summit sought to identify the leading issues facing
    Minnesota sportfishing and identify potential solutions.  Gov. Tim Walz
    DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen both attended the Fishing Summit and it was clear each heard the need for funding, particularly for state-owned fish hatchery and boat ramp upgrades. Last January, Gov. Walz released his 2023 state budget; it included $110 million for fishing and boating related initiatives, including hatcheries and boat access improvements.
  3. We hired professional lobbyists to strengthen our impact at the state legislature.

Going Forward
Despite MN-FISH®’s successes this year, the organization’s board has no intention of slowing down. We plan to request additional funds for more needed hatchery and public boat access improvements in 2024, as well as work with DNR on a host of other initiatives includes angler education to reducing mortality of released fish, implementing a stronger invasive carp barrier/removal program on the Mississippi River and more.

MN-FISH® supports scientific and common-sense fish management for all gamefish species. This includes previewing DNR fish stocking policies and fish management programs to maximize anglers’ success. We also advocate and promote youth fishing recruitment and fishing programs in school curriculums to sustain the next generation of anglers.

To reach these goals, we plan to leverage our success and encourage more anglers and other stakeholders to join MN-FISH®. Minnesota currently boasts 1.4 million licensed anglers (and an estimated 2 million total), nearly 30 percent of the total state population.

Anglers and boaters, whether we like it or not, need to make our voices heard. You’ve all heard the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This is especially true when it comes to management of our natural resources.  I encourage all anglers and boaters to visit You may be inspired to launch a similar group in your state.

Note: Hall-of-Fame angler Steve Pennaz has been a Yamaha Pro for more than two decades. He was a founding member of the MN-FISH® board and has served as the organization’s secretary for the past three years. He currently hosts Lake Commandos® television series on Outdoor Channel® and World Fishing Network®.

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