The great recession of 2008-09 sent Americans fishing, adding one million more additional licenses sales in the U.S. during 2009 compared to 2008.
Today in Minnesota, it’s a lot of the same. With the forced closing of many businesses and the need for social distancing, people are being pushed outdoors. Citizens are feeling the need to escape the 24/7 coverage of COVID-19.
In Minnesota, license sales are up 27 percent compared to the same period a year ago. My best guess is the uptick will remain throughout the year, but maybe not as strong as now. The best in 20 years is still pretty good.
More people are enjoying Minnesota's lakes and rivers than ever before. The uptick in license sales clearly shows a renewed interest, increasing sales of sporting goods, fishing gear and outdoor equipment – resulting in a spike in revenues taken in from excise taxes. It’s sure to add needed dollars and cents to fish and game management funding coffers.
Families are popping up in bait shops and sporting goods retail outlets, seeking starter gear and assistance, especially considering kids have been cooped up at home. All this feeds the desire to head outside and do something different. The news bodes exceptionally well for more new anglers now and into the future.
It is not a good picture for all sectors related to fishing and the outdoors. The hospitality industry, for one, has taken an extreme hit. Fishing guides, resorts, outfitters that rely heavily on those of us that move about are feeling it, too. Closures of the state's many public areas, campgrounds, and ramps are likely to dampen the interest. A situation that is forcing the need of all of us to find outdoor opportunities close to home.
By promoting the fun, healthy, regional and getaway opportunities that fishing and the outdoors provide, it will minimize the negative hit we all are feeling.
Amidst the times we are experiencing, I don't know of a better time to hire a local fishing guide. If you’re wondering where to connect with one, try any of our local bait and tackle shops.
Red Lake, Leech Lake and Lake of the Woods are within driving distance, using one tank of gas for most Minnesotans, are all experiencing heavy traffic from the fisherman at the accesses and on the water.
Bait shops, fish cleaning stations also have anglers coming in droves due to the spike in fishing interest. One aquatic invasive species inspector had this to say: "I have checked 70 boats the first days this year since the opener on an assigned lake compared to 22 vessels the same period last year.”
Mille Lacs is also feeling the influx of a large number of anglers. One favorite fishing spot experienced 100 to 125 boats.
Park Rapids area lakes, as expected, experienced a spotty opener. But they are now kicking into high gear. Bass anglers enjoyed exceptional action over last weekend. Crappies and sunfish arrived on cue in the shallows, and walleyes are actively chewing jigs tipped with minnows or leeches.
Remember to play it safe, wash your hands frequently, keep your distance from others and wear a mask while in a location where people gather.