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Captain’s Log: Recreational Fishing Industry Treading Steady

Sales of tackle and licenses are on the rise as more families spend time together close to home

“Steady as she goes” describes the course of the recreational fishing industry and community trying to navigate the treacherous waters of the recession. So far, we are staying well away from shoal waters, as evidenced by increasing sales nationwide of licenses and tackle.

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

In tough times, people rediscover the joys and togetherness of family fishing outings. Sure, it’s possible to go on an expensive fishing trip, but it’s also possible to have a great time fishing with family and friends on a tight budget. You might even bring home a fresh fish dinner.

Here are excerpts from a study by Southwick Associates for the American Sportfishing Association:

Despite the sluggish economy and cutbacks in consumer spending, there are strong indications that recreational angling remains one of the largest outdoor recreational activities in the nation and one of the most solid industries in the United States. Annually, nearly 40 million anglers generate more than $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy, creating employment for more than 1 million people.

Tom Mackin, president of Rapala USA, an international tackle manufacturing company with U.S. operations in Minnesota, business continues to be good. “I’m pleased to say that Rapala reports a double-digit sales increase in North America for the first quarter of 2009,” Mackin said. “Business is looking very strong for us.”

Gary Remensnyder, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Pure Fishing Inc., a global company with multiple tackle brands headquartered in Columbia, S.C., said, “What we’re seeing in the outdoor marketplace points to an increase in family fishing. Fishing is an inexpensive way for families to enjoy quality time together outdoors. We’re seeing an increase in sales, particularly in products for children and women, as well as for the avid recreational angler.”

Going hand in hand with strong tackle sales are increases in fishing license sales. A sample survey of state fish and wildlife agencies indicates that 2009 fishing license sales are up 11 percent in the first quarter compared with the first quarter of 2008. Additionally, there are strong indications that sales in the second quarter will be stronger in 2009 with some state agencies reporting increases that continued through the Memorial Day weekend.

“An 11 percent overall increase in state fishing license sales is significant, particularly during the first quarter of the year when license sales tend to hold steady,” ASA president and CEO Mike Nussman said. “In fact, these are the best numbers we’ve seen in several years.”

Some statistics on sportfishing:

» The three states with the most anglers are Florida (2.77 million), Texas (2.52 million) and California (1.73 million).

» The top three states in terms of jobs supported by sportfishing are Florida (75,100), Texas (59,000) and Minnesota (43,100).

» The number of American anglers is greater than California’s population.

» Forty-five percent of anglers come from cities of 1 million or more people.

» Fifty-one percent of anglers have an annual household income greater than $50,000, and 17 percent have incomes in excess of $100,000 per year.

» More than half of all anglers have attended college.

» Twenty-five percent of anglers are women.

» Nearly half of all anglers are ages 35 to 54.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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