Vantage Point

Free Samples

The woman in a grocery store aisle with a frypan sizzling on a small table in front of her offers each passing customer a chunk of bratwurst on a toothpick. The management hopes you'll like and buy the bratwurst, which of course is on sale.

The mail brings a special magazine offer: "Try us free for three months." the pitch reads. The publishers hope you will like the magazine or won't bother or remember to cancel your new "subscription" at the end of the trial period.

And then you hear that the Conservation Department offers free fishing days every June. This year, on June 12 and 13, anyone can fish without a license. An alert consumer might reasonably ask, "What's the gimmick?"

The Conservation Department first offered a free fishing day in 1986. For one day, no annual permits were required to fish, and trout parks and other fee fishing places waived the daily tag price. The goal was to let people test the waters with respect to fishing without any financial investment in a permit.

People liked the idea and took advantage of the offer, and the next year--1987-- the Conservation Department expanded the free fishing offer to include a weekend, the Saturday and Sunday following the first Monday in June. The provision was put into the Wildlife Code in 1996, institutionalizing Free Fishing Days.

You should be suspicious when someone offers you anything for nothing. The fact is we have something up our sleeve when we hand out these free samples. We know that if we can get you out onto the water for a nice morning or afternoon of fishing, you might enjoy it so much that you will want to fish more than one weekend a year and will buy a fishing permit. The money generated from your $11 license will go toward rearing and planting more fish and toward other conservation programs.

That only touches the surface of what we really have in mind, however. We believe that anyone who fishes often and earnestly naturally places a high value on clean water and air, favors green stuff to concrete, is gentle on the environment and enjoys watching wildlife.

We want more of these people in Missouri, not just for the support they give the Conservation Department and its mission, but because these are the people who speak out against rampant development and habitat degradation and who pressure their local civic leaders to open up fishing lakes and accesses and look to parks and lakes as tourist attractions.

Our surveys tell us that once you begin fishing, you will start to bring your kids along. Although this doesn't immediately improve our revenue, since kids age 15 or younger don't need a permit, it does start the work of building a generation of conservationists who will protect our resources in future decades.

As a bonus, we'll have more secure neighborhoods, since kids who fish don't get into nearly as much mischief as those who roam the streets looking for something to do. They also become healthier, thanks to breathing the outside air and being active, instead of sitting at home watching television.

We believe fishing will improve your well-being. Days on the water force you to relax, which brings about peace of mind. Fishing also develops confidence, as you improve your skills and learn more about the natural world. We suspect that once fishing grabs hold, you will become better people, parents and citizens,

That's the inside story on Free Fishing Days. Consider this revelation of our ulterior motives as a consumer advisory. Yes, you may fish free on June 12 and 13, even at places that normally require the purchase of a daily tag. However, before you nibble at this free sample, keep in mind that, by partaking of this offer, you may be changing your life forever.