No fish tale -- more hard evidence that recreational fishing is back in style

You know the saying, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Well,German philosopher Karl Marx had an interesting twist on the teach a man to fish quote: 'Sell a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you ruin a wonderful business opportunity."

But Marx was thinking of the people selling the fish and not the $2.2 billion recreational fish industry, which is doing quite well and may be seeing an uptick in popularity, according to Reuters (and our own 2009 comebacks series, which named fishing among the top 25).

And there probably is something to what Reuters is saying. Element 21 Fishing Rods' revenue, for instance, has increased by 345% in the last year, and according to the National Sporting Good Association, spending on fishing rods and reels hit a 10-year high at $356 million in 2007, and it was December of that year when the recession actually began.There are a couple theories out there for fishing's popularity, all having to do with the economy. With more people feeling cash poor, they're turning to cheaper alternatives, and after you buy a fishing pole, your costs for things like bait are pretty inexpensive compared to, say, taking the family to an amusement park. Then, of course, there's the idea that it's also a hobby that's not only fairly cheap, it can pay for itself in food, if you're able to catch something for dinner. I wouldn't be surprised if some households, feeling squeezed by the credit crunch, are eating more trout and bass these days.

I think there's also something else to the popularity of fishing. You can't help but conjure up images of the past, whether imagined or real, although for my money, I'd rather think about Andy and Opie Taylor going to the fishing hole rather than my own fishing experiences. I remember being 5-years-old and catching a fish, which, as soon as it began flopping around, gasping for air, terrified me. I ended up dropping it through the slats in the pier, and I assume and hope, it managed to get back to freedom.

Still, I may try to resume fishing soon. My young daughters, 5 and 7, have both been bugging me for awhile to take them fishing also, which is the type of thing that owners of bait and tackle shops like to hear. I was a bit skeptical that fishing is all that cheap, but after looking on the web, I found fishing poles that seem to range from a few bucks to $500. Coming from a novice's perspective, this Field & Stream fishing pole looks reasonably priced at around $25. If you don't feel the need to buy the fishing hat, to rent a boat, or to buy a lot of fancy hooks and lures, fishing could be quite the inexpensive outing.

Foster's Daily Democrat, a newspaper for southeastern New Hampshire and southern Maine, also just did a story on the recreational fishing comeback theory, quoting George Taylor, owner of Taylor's Trading Post in Madbury, New Hampshire, saying, "It's an inexpensive thing to do and a family thing. There's nothing difficult about it. People are outside on weekends and a lot of families are doing something together."

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and only can be considered a fisherman, if picking up the occasional Mrs. Paul's in the freezer section counts.

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