A fish warden is a law enforcement officer who watches over public lakes, rivers, and wildlife reserves. He or she primarily enforces various boating, fishing, and environmental protection laws. A professional may also be required to perform the same duties as other police officers when he or she comes across dangerous or criminal activity. Some fish wardens record information on populations of fish, vegetation, and other marine life, monitor water and air quality, and provide educational resources to the public about sustainability and safety.
In the United States, local, state, and federal agencies employ fish wardens to patrol public waters. A fish warden usually makes routine rounds around a lake or river, keeping an eye out for illicit activity. He or she may stop fishermen and recreational boaters to make sure that they have valid licenses and are following safety regulations. A warden might inspect a boat or a trailer to ensure that all lights are in working order and that life jackets are on board. Many wardens provide helpful information to fishermen and boaters, telling them about local regulations and the best places to enjoy their activities.
When a fish warden discovers illegal activity, he or she is authorized to write citations and detain suspects, if necessary. He or she might help other officers with investigations, participate in search and rescue missions, or appear in court to testify for or against suspects. A fish warden usually keeps detailed records of his or her patrols, makes notes about potential criminal activity, and closely monitors suspicious persons.
Environmental protection is a major concern of most fish wardens. Many professionals monitor wildlife, noting changes in behavior, migration patterns, or population numbers. A warden may investigate water and air quality, and report pollution or other abnormal findings to the proper authorities. He or she might also provide resources to fishermen and boaters about the importance of protecting wildlife and keeping water sources clean.
To become a fish warden, and individual is usually required to have about two years of college experience, though some agencies require new wardens to hold bachelor's degrees in law enforcement or environmental management. In addition, a prospective fish warden must complete training at an accredited academy to become licensed. Training may take anywhere from four months to a year, depending on the program. Once educational and training requirements are met, a new warden typically receives on-the-job instruction from an experienced professional to learn details about a specific area.