With fishing clinics offered in Spanish and English, Baztec Outdoors is helping more BIPOC anglers discover a life-long love of fishing
When Raymundo Ruiz was just getting his start in the world of competitive fishing, he sometimes wondered if he was in the right place. As one of the few Latinos participating in what has traditionally been a white, male-dominated sport, Ruiz remembers how intimidated he felt when he saw competitors pull up with big boats and fancy equipment.
“At my first tournament, when I was 15 years old, I had some anxiety because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. I remember thinking I don’t belong here, and my dad said, ‘Just remember, son, the fish don’t care if you’re a poor Mexican kid from the barrio or a rich white guy with a $75,000 boat. And if the fish don’t care, why should you?’ Hearing that was very empowering for me, and that philosophy has carried over into everything I do now. The lakes belong to everyone, and the fish don’t care who you are.”
This is one of the first rules of fishing Ruiz has been sharing with a new and increasingly diverse generation of anglers this year, thanks to your support for the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. In 2023, the nonprofit he founded, Baztec Outdoors (an elision of “bass” and “Aztec”), became one of 11 organizations to earn project support from MPF’s People for Parks Fund, the new microgrant program that supports community-driven ideas for getting diverse communities into the great outdoors. With help from the People for Parks Fund grant, Baztec Outdoors has just finished hosting a series of Spanish and English language “learn to fish” events at some of Minneapolis’s most visited urban lakes, making sure new anglers know the Department of Natural Resources fishing regulations, while sharing tips and tricks for getting the big ones to bite. (Did you know SPAM makes a budget-friendly bait?)
“Here in Minnesota, we have more shoreline than California, Oregon and Washington put together, with 14,000 lakes, and 13 within the city of Minneapolis,” large enough to support a thriving fishing community, says Ruiz. “There’s just no place like it.”
Diversity within the world of fishing got a big boost during the pandemic, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, which found big gains among women anglers (up by 10 percent between 2019 and 2020), African Americans (up by more than 14 percent), and kids (up 29 percent). And while Hispanic participation reached a new record in 2020, with 4.8 million anglers, Ruiz hopes his Spanish-speaking fishing clinics help make the case for even greater participation. “Human beings have always been thrilled by the water, and culturally, people from Latin America have always liked to hunt and fish,” he says. “Once you see how easy and accessible it is, and that it’s a fun thing to do as a family, it’s just not a hard sell.”
Images Courtesy of Baztec Outdoors.
Could you have the next great idea for getting communities together in the great outdoors? Be sure to follow the Minneapolis Parks Foundation on Facebook and Instagram for news about our next round of 2024 People for Parks Fund applications coming in Spring of 2024.