Tahoe outfitters betting on recession-proof fishing season | SierraSun.com

Tahoe outfitters betting on recession-proof fishing season

Jeff Munson
Sun News Service

Jim Grant / Sun News ServicePerched on a rock, Matt Pierce of Meyers reels in a rainbow trout while fishing in Hope Valley on opening day last year.

LAKE TAHOE “-With the economy forcing many families to retool their summer vacation plans, Lake Tahoe continues to have some of the best recession-proof recreation opportunities around, including camping and fishing.

With the opening of trout season this Saturday, regular anglers should be prepared to move down the shoreline some to allow room for a new generation of anglers looking to provided their families an affordable outdoor vacation experience.

And the catch? It’s doesn’t cost that much.

A family of four can spend two or three days of sun-up to sun-down shoreline fishing, including equipment, tackle, bait and short-term licenses for less than $200. Throw in tents, sleeping bags and campground fees and it will cost more, but it is inexpensive just the same.

Family fishing is a trend the retail angling industry believes will continue to grow as the economy sputters, said Jeff Hanlon at the Sportsman in South Lake Tahoe.

While the Tahoe region has always had its share of visitors who try to get in at least a half-day or so of fishing, the sale of rods and bait picked up late last summer, with more visitors looking to make a day or two commitment with their tackle and fishing poles.

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When the economy began to soften in 2007, fishing gear sales climbed to a decade-high $365 million, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, which tracks sales in sporting goods stores. Annually recreation fishing is a $2.2 billion industry.

Sales for 2008 are not yet available. In the last U.S. recession, from 2001 to 2002, spending on fishing rods and reels rose 12 percent to $343 million, according to the association in a report by Reuters.com.

“Fishing is not that expensive to get into and you don’t need to drive hours away to get a good spot,” Hanlon said. “As much as people are coming to Tahoe to take in the lake and boating and all that Tahoe has to offer, family fishing is a frugal sport because it offers an inexpensive way to do something together that’s a lot of fun.”

But the vacation fishing experience at Tahoe isn’t reserved for families and children. It can be for couples and groups of friends looking for the great outdoor experience, said Victor Babbitt, owner of Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters in South Lake Tahoe.

This year Babbitt has ramped up plans to do two and three-day guided fishing tours along some of the region’s best fishing holes. With the economy the way it is, fishing and camping appear to be recession-proof because more people are doing it, Babbitt says.

“The economy has changed things. People who looked to go across country for their vacations in RVs are now thinking about a great adventure that is inexpensive and closer to home,” Babbitt said. “The thing about fish is they are there and always there, and to catch them all you need is a license, patience, and someone who knows where to find them.”

Poles, reels, tackle and fishing licenses are things people will need for a day or two of fishing and can be found at the Sportsman and at Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters.

Besides the equipment, which can be bought or rented, both shops offer something that novice anglers can’t get from larger retail stores: Knowledge of the local waters.

And when you’re fishing in the region, you’ll need that professional knowledge to not only go after the really big fish, but the holes where they swim and feed, Hanlon said.

“What our store offers that chain stores can’t is we’re going to tell you where the best fishing is, how to catch them and what locals are using on the water for their catches,” Hanlon said. “If you want to know where the fish are and how to catch them because our clear local waters are challenging, you’re not going to find this from someone at Wal-Mart. And that is a great advantage.”