9 Fishing & Boating Gifts That Last a Lifetime

By Ken Schultz

Dec 03, 2018

Gifts that keep on giving: books, workshops, fishing schools, lifetime licenses, boating safety courses, club memberships, natural resource publications, and more.

Photos © Ken Schultz

If you’re looking to get a fishing or boating gift for someone, please don’t get them a rod, reel, tackle box, boat accessory, or other fishing- and boating-specific product because you think it’s something they’d like or would use. That is, unless they’ve already given you some very specific guidance.

Most people who would like to give a hobby-related gift to an angler are not clued into the sport or to the nuances of different types of fishing or methods, or boating needs, so their default is a gift certificate to a local or national store. That’s fine, and, of course, the recipient can use the certificate to acquire an item they truly need or covet.

But why not think a little bigger? Fishing products usually have a limited life. What about a fishing and boating gift that will have a lifetime of value? Here are some options.

1. Get a Young Angler a Lifetime Fishing License

A lifetime fishing license is a good idea for people of any age, but especially for youths who are still too young to need a license (even a baby or toddler). The initial outlay is steep, but the money that the license holder will save over their lifetime is significant. In many cases, such a license remains valid even after the recipient moves from the state where the license is issued.

I have three different lifetime licenses, purchased as an adult, and they were great investments. Moreover, the money that the state agency receives, may, in some cases, be placed into a fund that helps state conservation programs in perpetuity. See if your state, or the resident state of your intended recipient, offers a lifetime fishing license.

2. Get A Book

As the author of many books, and someone who has inscribed many hundreds of books that were being given as holiday and birthday gifts, I’m partial to the idea of giving someone a printed or electronic book that will inform and entertain them, as well as help them enjoy or become more proficient in some or all aspects of angling.

Large-format (“coffee table”) books are delightful, but since many of these are produced by European publishers, they tend to address European species and techniques, which aren’t helpful to an American audience. Make sure a good-looking book, or one on a specific type of fishing, or a guide to fish species, is right for your recipient. That is easier done in person in a store, than by viewing an online description.

3. Sign a Female Angler Up for an Outdoor Education Workshop

A general-instruction course for new anglers, especially women and girls, is an especially good way to learn fishing, boating, and other outdoor-activity fundamentals in a non-pressured, supportive setting. Many state fisheries and wildlife agencies conduct Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshops. These usually focus on both hunting and fishing activities. Here’s a very good article about such a program in Delaware. You should also check with the proper state to see if they’re aware of any strictly fishing-related workshops, whether conducted by them or by some other source.

4. Send Someone to Fishing School

Most of the fishing schools that exist are for fly fishing. Orvis is the hands-down leader in conducting fly fishing schools, and has over 1,500 certified instructors at retail locations around the country who conduct free classes on specific dates. I attended a fly fishing school (not Orvis) decades ago, and it was very helpful in getting my casting mechanics on track. While a school is a good idea for anyone new to fly fishing, it is especially good for youth and women.

5. Send Someone to a Boating Safety Education Course

Such a course is required in some states, but not in all. It’s a prudent thing to have taken this standardized course, and by gifting someone with a paid educational session (usually through the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or online), you can ensure that they learn about boating safety and navigation, and gain local knowledge. Moreover, the card issued after completion allows the recipient to operate a motorboat if they were to move to another state where having taken such a course is required.

6. Gift Someone Membership in a Local Club

This will take some legwork on the gift-giver’s part. You have to speak to a knowledgeable source at a local bait and tackle shop to find out what clubs exist in the gift-recipient’s area and who the contact person is. 
Some clubs just hold fishing outings or tournaments (not so good for a beginner). Some have regular meetings with guest speakers (better for learning). Some have regular sessions for learning certain activities, like tying flies or building rods.

Annual membership in a local club is modest. I jump-started my entry in fishing by joining a large fishing and hunting association and attending their meetings, so I know that being part of the right one can be helpful to a person’s angling development in many ways.

7. Gift a Complete Novice With A Pay-to-Fish Experience

There are “pay ponds,” “pay-to-fish preserves,” “fish farms,” and similarly named places that are commercial operations stocked with catfish, trout, and assorted panfish, as well as perhaps other species, and where you pay by the pound for what you catch. No license is required, and tackle is usually provided.

Purists scoff at this nearly-guaranteed-success type of fishing, but as a starter for a youngster (or disabled person), getting a sure pull on the line is a good thing. I used to belong to a group that brought inner city kids to such a place every year and it was always a big hit with the children. Check with your state fisheries agency and/or a local bait and tackle shop, to find such a place, or start an online search with these words: pay to fish ponds + pay-per-pound.

8. Get A Subscription to a State Fish & Wildlife Agency Publication

Many state wildlife agencies publish a magazine on a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly basis that is about the natural resources of that state. Some of these are very broadly focused, others are centered on fish and wildlife topics. Most are very informative about species of interest to outdoor enthusiasts, as well as state-operated public areas, and can really help a person know their own state’s resources much better. More knowledge makes for more interested stewards, and this compliments the whole fishing and boating experience.

These publications may be available in print via a modest paid subscription or readable online for free. Go to the homepage of your state fish and wildlife agency or state department of natural resources, and look for publications. You may have to sort through a lot of fact sheets and bulletins to find the type of periodical I’m referring to, and not every state has one.

9. The Greatest Gift

If you’re an accomplished angler, perhaps the greatest gift you can give is your time. Taking a newcomer fishing at a time and place where the experience will be enjoyable, fruitful, and educational, will form a lasting impression on that person. You may hook them for life. That’s the best gift of all.

Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar, and his writing has appeared on various websites for more than two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com