Outdoor Impact

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Published: April 12,2004

Among the 720,000 identified sportspersons in Mississippi that exercise their outdoor recreational pursuits in hunting, fishing and wildlife watching, some 586,000 or nearly 82% are anglers. This means every year over half a million people go after any species of fish in the state from bass, crappie and catfish to redfish and speckled trout, everything freshwater to salt. In a state like Mississippi with such extensive water resources, a little thing like fishing turns into a mega revenue generator.

The angling styles and strategies vary widely from a cane pole and a coffee can of red worms to a fully decked-out Ranger bass boat or a saltwater gulf cruiser busting waves at 60 miles an hour. Tackle budgets range from plastic Zebco Snoopy rod and reels to Penn saltwater reels costing hundreds of dollars. Whatever the mode or level of angling pursuit, remember it all costs money. That translates into retail sales revenue, and profits. Just add the sales tax and watch that 7% rack up some serious numbers on the tax commission`s ledger sheets.

If one quickly does the math, it is easy to realize that more people fish than hunt. These figures are also reflected every year in state license sales as well. This situation is no surprise though, as those participating in fishing have long outnumbered hunters. In fact, there are roughly 220,000 more fishing enthusiasts in the state than those chasing squirrels and deer. Anglers stand alone as a significant recreational revenue base.

Naturally of course, there is a lot of crossover as well. Many sportspersons in Mississippi take advantage of any opportunity to get outside regardless of whether it is for fishing or hunting. Heck, some of these folks have even been known to give up a perfectly good weekend away from these favorite sporting pastimes to watch a bunch of Rebels fight some Bulldogs over a pigskin filled with stale air. Though I can`t personally justify the time for such undertakings, I do recognize these sports also impact our economy. I`ll let Rick Cleveland investigate that story.

Investment case scenario

A friend of mine moved close to the Mississippi Gulf Coast a couple of years ago and just recently has been bitten by the saltwater fishing bug. As an example of the financial commitment this one individual has put into fishing gear, let`s review his investment.

First came a nice boat, motor, trailer, with all the necessary marine electronics on board. That initial tally added up to just at $20,000. Remember too that the boat requires an annual registration fee and the trailer a license tag. This is long before the boat even goes in the water.

Next came the appropriate fishing tackle and related gear. Add to his list rods and reels including an inexpensive Shimano costing just over $100. He says his backup fishing reel retailed for a lot less. In fact he indicated the really hot reel to own is the Shimano Calcutta going for around $700. I suspect that one is on his Christmas wish list. Anyway he estimates this total tackle costs thus far are around $1,000. That includes some fancy lures, too.

So he can justify all of this expense lay out for the sport of fishing, he has strategically added in a few items for the family. That would be water skis and a tow-behind inner tube for $100. Between his wife and two daughters buying bikini swim suits and color coordinated flip flops for riding in the boat, there is no telling what those accessory items cost. Trust me though that sight is worth every cent.

Each time this guy goes fishing his trip expenses run between $50 and $100. That buys bait, fuel and launch fees. And oh yes, ice. Each year he buys a saltwater fishing license that adds $8 on top of the Mississippi Sportsman`s License at $32. He neglected to share an estimate of the costs for hauling the boat to the dock, meal expenses and lodging on overnight trips. He also left out the girls’ shopping sprees.

Anyway, I think the point is made with this one case scenario illustration that people are willing to spend some significant dollars out of their personal budgets to pursue a favorite recreational sport. Now think about the whole spectrum of fishermen that just buy a simple rod and reel at Wal-Mart to all those guys standing at the Ross Barnett Spillway with fishing gear to those well-heeled anglers sitting in fishing boats costing $50,000 or more.

Once you get a handle on all the money spent by 586,000 anglers, it becomes easier to comprehend their annual outlay of over $210 million. Then the average citizen may also begin to understand how these types of tax-generating activities can significantly impact the economic welfare of the state.

John J. Woods of Clinton is an award-winning outdoor freelance journalist. Please send your questions, comments, critiques or suggestions for his column to mbj@msbusiness.com.

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