Reel Conservation Certification Program 


Empowering anglers through certified fishing habitats committed to ecosystem conservation, monofilament recycling, and responsible fishing techniques.

About the Program 

Because outdoorspeople have long been at the forefront of conservation, American Eagle Foundation is partnering with anglers across the nation to make responsible fishing practices more accessible to all involved in the beloved sport. With numerous fishing enthusiasts on staff, we view anglers as our peers in protecting both our national symbol and the incredible wildlife that calls our waterways home.

Reel Conservation Certification (RCC) aims to recognize those fishing spots committed to environmental stewardship. Certified fishing habitats foster sustainable fishing practices and help protect bald eagles and other wildlife. In addition to certification, AEF also offers a pledge program for individuals dedicated to responsible fishing practices. This allows us to partner with and support individual fishing hobbyists along with marinas, retailers, parks, and other conservation or outdoors-based entities.

Why we started the program 

In 2023, American Eagle Foundation intervened at Dale Hollow, a wild bald eagle nest, to disentangle two young bald eaglets, DH17 and DH18, from monofilament and a fishing hook. Though DH17 successfully fledged, DH18’s wounds and subsequent infection would have resulted in an extremely poor quality of life. A difficult decision was made by AEF staff to compassionately euthanize DH18, and AEF promised that DH18 would live on through a conservation initiative in her honor.

Fishing line entanglement has become an increasing matter of concern for wild bald eagle nest cams, and it’s possible that these tragedies occur even more frequently off-camera. In addition to the threat of entanglement, a recent study revealed that 46% of our wild eagle population has harmful lead levels in their blood system, likely due to the accidental ingestion of lead ammunition fragments or lead fishing tackle.

Bald eagles are indicator species that provide insight into the health of their habitats’ ecosystems. This uptick in eagle mortality, which is already impacting their reproductive rates, is concerning because it affects not just our nation’s symbol but our riparian ecosystems.

Certification Parameters

Certified fishing spots actively participate in fishing line recycling programs to prevent discarded fishing lines from polluting water bodies and entangling wildlife.
All items from this category are required for certification.
___ One (1) monofilament and fluorocarbon line bin and one (1) braided line bin are installed at each major boat ramp, fishing dock, or popular fishing zone.
___The certified location has established plans for routine cleaning of bins, and the location has partnered with American Eagle Foundation or another organization for recycling monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided line.
___Each fishing line receptacle is adorned with signage about the appropriate disposal of materials.

*AEF Signage purchased from our store may be used for certification purposes.

Certified habitats make responsible fishing practices accessible and easy for both new and veteran anglers. Educational signage and outreach empower anglers to uphold their legacy as dedicated conservationists.
Choose at least one (1) item from this category.
___ Boat launches feature signage about stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species.
___Where applicable, the certified location commits to monthly educational social media posts about responsible fishing practices.
___ Educational outreach programs encourage individual anglers to sign up for the Reel Conservation Commitment and use responsible fishing practices via AEF’s program.
___ “Tackle Trade” programs allow anglers to trade-in old tackle and fishing weights to receive a local discount for tackle and weights featuring non-toxic materials, such as tungsten or steel.
___ The certified habitat has partnered with a local youth organization or schools for waterway cleanups, responsible fishing education programs, or equivalent programming to empower the next generation of anglers

These spots organize and conduct regular cleanups to remove debris, trash, and pollutants that threaten the health of watershed ecosystems, supporting a thriving environment for native wildlife.
Choose at least one (1) item from this category.
___ Routine habitat cleanups are hosted to remove debris, trash, and pollutants that threaten the health of watershed ecosystems. These cleanups may be managed through a partnership with a wildlife or conservation organization.
___ Stations are provided for cleaning gear and draining watercraft bilges, livewells, and motors to prevent the spread of invasive species.
___The certified location has established a partnership with a local stream ecology organization to monitor water quality and biodiversity.
___ Recycling bins for plastics, aluminum cans, and paper are readily available in heavy traffic areas to cut down on litter.
___ Anglers have access to bags and litter claws to retrieve and store any trash they encounter while fishing.

  1. Application: Fishing spots interested in certification can apply online via our website. A small fee covers the administrative costs of registration.
  2. Assessment: Our team evaluates applications based on the fulfillment of the certification parameters. A minimum of six (6) items (four items from the Conservation Actions category, one form of Educational Outreach, and one form of Habitat Protection) is required for certification.
  3. Certification: Successful applicants receive the Reel Conservation Certification. Plaques and additional educational signage may be purchased to proudly display at the fishing habitat.
  4. Go Viral: The recipient organization, marina, or group will be featured on the Reel Conservation Certification page map and on a curated post on American Eagle Foundation’s social media as proud partners. American Eagle Foundation receives 40 million impressions on our socials annually and is currently the largest animal non-profit organization on TikTok.

American Eagle Foundation also offers partnership support for individual anglers on responsible fishing practices. Commitments are for individuals rather than organizations or habitats, and they’re a great and cost-effective means of joining us in protecting bald eagles.

Individual Reel Conservation Commitments will receive:

  1. A digital certificate
  2. Logo rights for usage on their fishing jerseys
  3. A decal to proudly display on a tacklebox or vehicle
  4. Photo op with the nation’s living symbol, the bald eagle*
  5. Option to purchase exclusive Reel Conservation gear

*Redeemable at AEF headquarters or at REDCREST/ Bassmaster Expos


Join the Movement

Become a part of the Reel Conservation Program and contribute to the conservation of bald eagles and other watershed wildlife. Together, we can ensure a sustainable future for both fishing enthusiasts and the environment. 

Click here to apply