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Baztec Fishing and Outdoors is a nonprofit that wants more BIPOC kids outside

Creating outdoor opportunities and better access for children of color has been Baztec's mission since its founding.

MINNEAPOLIS — According to a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau report on Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 86 percent of anglers identified as white, while nine percent identified as African American, and two percent identified as Asian American.

As a firm believer that the outdoors should be for everyone, Ray Ruiz started out to change that statistic. 

"I saw a huge gap in the community and I thought as a professional outdoorsman, it was my responsibility to do something about that," Ruiz said. "So I did. I started my nonprofit."

Through Baztec Fishing and Outdoors, Ruiz gets kids hooked on everything Minnesota's nature has to offer.

"Our small little programs can spark this great interest so, that's what makes what we do so special," he said. "It starts out really small, and then you can see it sparks these kids-- they go crazy over the outdoors and fishing."

Cultivating especially in kids of color, a love for a hobby they might not have had a chance to try before. Baztec hosts several free fishing events at different lakes around the metro. He's out there with rods, bait, and instructors who help the kids--free of charge.

"One of the main things that stops these communities is that they don't know how to, because they were never taught," Ruiz said. "And if they had someone in their family that did fish or did hunt, it wasn't passed down."

Ruiz says he only caught the outdoors bug after his dad showed him how.

"When I see these kids out here, it fills me with joy, that's all I can think is joy," Ruiz said. "And the joy that comes from what my father taught me. This is generational, this-- it makes me very emotional because this is what my father taught me."

He always tries to be a father figure for the kids who show up, day in and day out.

"My dad--I think about my dad and all the kids that don't have that," he said. "And I was lucky. I just feel that passing this knowledge, these little things take care of all these bigger things in these kids' lives. These two hours we're out here, we're teaching knots, teaching how to remove a bullhead, this is how not to hook yourself, this is how you cast, these things you can take and you have a lifetime of skills."

Each event he hosts leaves an indelible mark on each child's childhood.

Ensuring that the kids say, that one summer in Minnesota was made, unforgettable.

"If someone later on remembers some hairy guy, teaching them how to fish, well I'm honored," he said. "I'm more honored, I can say those teachings that you've learned, came from my father."

Baztec Fishing and Outdoors has a full calendar of events all throughout the year, free for anyone, even in the winter. 


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