MTSU Outside Pursuits Reels in $70Okay TWRA Grant to Pilot Fishing Program

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MTSUs Blake OsbornOutdoor activities coordinator Outdoor Activities in Middle Tennesseeor MTOP, knew True Blue students were interested in a university fisheries program, and the pandemic slowdown allowed him to pursue it.

“We’ve also begun collaborating with the Abundant Life Adventure Club, which was created for Black professionals and entrepreneurs to recreate themselves outside,” Osborn said. “They challenged me to think about offering activities that appeal to different students… Most of the students asking about fishing were colored students, so the idea of ​​adding fishing to our program was born as we want to serve MTSU’s diverse student body.”

Osborn held out his hand Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, or TWRA, on fishing licenses and equipment, and his discussions led to the discovery of funding. Osborn applied for and received $70,000 of those funds for a new fishing program – the university’s first outdoor recreation program in the state to do so.

MTSU photo by Stephanie Barrette

An MTSU grad and Franklin, Tennessee, Osborn native quickly used funds that arrived in late 2021 to stock MTOP with poles, tackle, kayaks, paddleboards, cargo trailers, camping gear, fly fishing setups and more.

“With our new gear, we now offer free fishing rod and tackle rentals, additional gear rentals at a discount, free fishing trips and free fishing clinics,” Osborn said. “All of these perks are available to both students and faculty, and all equipment is available for rental by the entire Murfreesboro community.”

The only requirement to take advantage of MTSU’s new fishing program is proof of a state fishing license, which is available online here https://tinyurl.com/53fk7cne for $9 for a day license and $38 for an annual license. MTOP also offers a $30 rental credit to annual license holders.

College-age residents represent the lowest demographic of license holders, so a partnership with the university made sense for TWRA.

“We get students excited about fishing, we offer many trips and rentals at no additional cost, and TWRA is able to increase license sales with our participants,” Osborn said.

Zacharias DoohenStudent Pilot and MTOP Fishing Guide, has been fishing all his life and looks forward to sharing this rewarding pastime with his peers.

“We have a unique opportunity to create a large fisheries program,” Doohen said. “Later on, we could potentially expand our team and teach and offer small-scale water resource education classes, whether it be conservation, entomology, fly tying, or philanthropic events.”

MTSU’s fishing program is making waves even beyond the Blue Raider campus.

“I help other outdoor recreation programs in Tennessee receive similar funding,” Osborn said. “Tennessee Tech plans to partner with TWRA in the next fiscal year, and I’ve also connected the University of Tennessee on the Knoxville and Chattanooga campuses and Austin Peay State University to TWRA.”

The development of the fisheries program from a small idea to such a generous grant is incredible, Osborn said.

“These resources can be game-changing for programs large and small alike, allowing more people to enjoy the great outdoors and fishing!” he said. “Typically gear is expensive and a lot of people don’t know what to buy, where to go and how to fish other than to put a worm and hook on a line. But programs like MTOP put a lot of energy into education, safety and conservation, so this scholarship at MTSU and other universities has the potential to bring thousands of Tennessees safely outside.”

To learn more about the university’s fishing program, visit the MTOP website here https://www.mtsu.edu/camprec/outdoors/ or email Osborn at [email protected].