This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

March 8th, 2004

Tax Bucks Blown?

Every month or so a copy of a magazine, Fishing Tackle Retailer hits our mail box. It is published by ESPN. Quite often the magazine will feature new products we haven't seen and the magazine's editor, Deb Johnson seems to keep an eye out for legislation which impacts fishing and hunting too. Keith Jackson, Port Townsend, WA who posts on the Bulletin Board here is a Senior Writer for the magazine as well.

The February issue has an interesting editorial, entitled "Losing Ground, And No Wonder." Losing ground refers to the dropping numbers of fishing licenses with numbers given from 2001 to 2002. A couple years lag it appears, but I have no argument with the premise of dropping numbers of anglers.

In the editorial, according to Don Gabelhouse at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission the reasons not only include drought, but "poor economic times," an increase in license fees, and pointed out the largest decrease (2/3) came from the counties with the largest and fastest-growing populations. He says, "In urban areas, it is easier to find things to do other than go fishing."

While you are pondering that, the Kansas Dept of Wildlife and Parks also raised license fees and saw a drop in licensees sold as well. (Well, somebody has to pay the bills, so raise the prices to those who still fish! Same thing here in our state last year.)

Editor Deb Johnson says, "Natural causes - be it drought one year, flood the next - mask the fact that fishing isn't as popular as it used to be."

She goes on to comment that, "Millions of dollars in Sport Fish Restoration funds are being spent each year on the Water Works Wonders program to raise public awareness of sportfishing and boating." She wonders if, "would we have taken a much larger hit in license holders without the promotional efforts? Possibly: I don't have an answer to that question, and I don't know of anyone who could honestly say one way or the other."

She strongly urges retailers to use the free materials available through the Water Works Wonders program (, because "we don't have a better chance of reversing the negative license-sales trend..."

I have several concerns. We were contacted several years ago by the RBFF (Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation) and asked to bid (with a complete proforma) on the website for the Foundation. We declined. They are, I believe, now on the 3rd re-design of the website. I wonder how much that cost. While the money which funds the Foundation comes from boating and fishing, it is our/your excise tax money paid on everything for fishing or boating.

The current Water Works Wonders campaign is a series of ads in magazines, some on television (which we haven't seen) and some banners for websites, and even bill board ads. Of the current series, all but one have a boat in the photo. Some of those images are used in this article.

I thought about the editorial for several days, went through the Water Works Wonders website, and finally sent her a respectful email.

I explained my concerns about the program as it exists, and the fact that the changes in American families may have more to do with the perceived problem than anything else.

With the divorce rate at 50%, the number of single parent families is staggering. Single dads may take a kid fishing, but how many single mom's are going to buy a boat to take their kids either boating or fishing? The money simply isn't there.

Grandpa and Uncle are no where to be seen - the 'extended' families are now spread across the world - not across the street or town. Fishing, or fly fishing specifically is just not part of the family corporate memory of the majority of American families.

I personally believe our best bet to get kids into fishing is through the schools. There are some programs with decent funding - more on that another time, and we've been involved with a few individual teachers who have set up classroom programs and have had great success. Perhaps we need to find a way to do more of exactly that. Kathy Scott in Maine has a success story which she shared with us here: School of Fingerlings. She has offered to help others wishing to start such programs.

What do you think the RBFF should be spending your money on? How would you bring new people into fishing (not just fly fishing). Is there something which has been done in your local which works? What do you see as the future of our sport?

These are serious questions. I hope you will take some time to ponder them, and post your thoughts on the Bulletin Board. ~ The LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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