Addicted to Angling

It’s getting expensive to be an active angler. Rods, reels, line, hooks, lures, terminal tackle, tackle boxes, planer boards, life jackets, net, bait bucket, electronics, trolling motors, kicker motors, outboards and boats represent a considerable investment.

Now we’re faced with gasoline prices that are rising almost as quickly as the national debt. It hurts to fuel up.

For about $70, a typical full-sized pickup can tow a boat about 200-250 miles. For another $100-$150, we can put enough fuel in that big, beautiful boat for about two full days of fishing.

It’s not like we can just quit fishing cold-turkey, either, even if we wanted to. We’re addicted to angling, and we need help before the guys in the suits come to repossess our cars and foreclose the mortgages on our homes.

In the interest of keeping America fishing, I’m offering advice for anglers who might otherwise be headed for financial ruin. Before receiving a "Dear John" letter from an impoverished and inconsolable spouse or significant other, try my "Dear John" service and I’ll help you stay afloat.

Here are a few examples:

Dear John: I’ve been taking a pair of week-long fishing trips with my buddies every summer for 20 years. Last year, I had to cut out the annual family vacation to make it work. My wife says she’s going to leave me and my boat higher and drier than a frog on the freeway. What’s an angler to do?
J.K.: Compromise. Instead of two weeks, spend one week with the boys and one on a family vacation. However, rather than taking the family to some posh hotel near a mega-mall and a giant amusement park, take the gang camping somewhere near a well-known lake. You can slip out early in the morning for a couple hours of fishing, then put on your Hawaiian shirt and do the tourist thing the rest of the day. With the money you save, buy your wife a Zebco Quantum rod and reel that will help her become the angler you want her to be.

Dear John: I love to fish for fall walleyes, and I only live two hours from the Mississippi River. I used to be able to spend a day on the river for about $40. Now, it’s more like $100. I’ve maxed out my credit card, and traded my four-wheel drive truck for a used van, but I’m sliding down the slippery slope to financial ruin. I’d rather sell a kidney than give up my fall walleye fishing.
J.K.: Fear not, my friend. Selling an organ is only a temporary solution. Eventually, you will have no more organs. What you need are better planning and more fishing buddies. Instead of going by yourself on a Friday when everyone else is working, go on Saturday when others might be able to join you. Instead of going alone or with one friend, take two and divide the cost three ways.

Dear John: We’ve been going to the same lake for a week each summer since we were kids, but we can’t afford to go that far any more. We’re having a garage sale next week, and my daughters are putting price tags on my fishing rods. It’s only a matter of time until they find my Shad Raps, too. I need help!
J.K.: Chances are, there’s a great destination somewhere close to home. If you only go half as far for that week of family bonding and fun, it won’t cost you any more than it did before. Two great sources of information are sports shows and your state Department of Natural Resources website. There are dozens of outfitters, fishing pros and resort owners at most sports shows. Figure out what a realistic range is for your budget, talk to everybody you can and see what they have to offer. Don’t forget about your state park and recreation areas, either. A fair number have cabins for rent at very reasonable prices and a wide range of activities ranging from fishing, boating, skiing and swimming to hiking, horseback riding, tubing and sand volleyball.

Dear John: Since we can’t afford to go to our favorite lake anymore, I’ve been considering some other vacation destinations that are a lot closer to where we live. We’ve enjoyed some great fishing and great accommodations over the years, and I’m really nervous about trying something new. Any suggestions?
J.K.: Talk to people you work with and find out about the places they go. Once you’ve got a few ideas, call a resort in the area. Ask about the fishing, ask about restaurants in the area and ask about convenience stores, boat launches and fish-cleaning facilities. Ask about bait shops in the area, then call them. Tell them when you’re going to be there and ask what you can expect, or ask them what is the best time to be there. Ask what species are present and if there are other lakes in the immediate area to fish. Ask what lures and baits are best.

Ask for their recommendations regarding resorts or motels. If you do your homework and ask the right questions, you won’t be disappointed. Those resorts and bait shops want your business.

Gasoline prices aren’t going back to $1 per gallon. They may not even get back to $2 per gallon. But we can’t quit living the leisure parts of our lives. All work and no play is not healthy. We simply have to be smarter about where we go, when we go, who we go with and what we do when we go.

Cut down the distance you travel. Trade your gas-guzzling outboard for one of Mercury’s new fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly models. Back the rpms down from 5,500 to 4,000 when you’re traveling on the water. When possible, try an Optima battery-powered MinnKota electric trolling motor instead of running the kicker motor.

If you want your family to enjoy the fishing at a new location, look for bodies of water where multiple species of fish are present. Keep them busy catching fish and they won’t care that only a handful are going into the frying pan.

Do as much preparation as you can before you leave home. Know exactly where things are located in the area to which you are headed and make sure you have most of what you might need before you ever leave home.

Think beyond the angling opportunities a vacation spot might provide. Not everybody likes to fish from sunrise to sunset, and there are plenty of destinations close to alternative forms of entertainment or areas with rich historical significance.

Double up. If you’ve been used to vacationing only with your family, consider inviting another family and taking just one boat. If you often fish alone, find a friend or two to join you. And if you’re still frustrated, write a "Dear John" letter. But I’ll probably be fishing.