Retired Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight had a plaque over his office door that I’ll never forget. It read: “Everyone should believe in something; I believe I’ll go fishing!”
Apparently, there are a lot more believers these days. I’m referring to the good news that 354,080 fishing licenses were sold in Minnesota from mid-February through the first week in May — a 45 percent increase over the comparable period last year. It’s also the highest in two decades.
Similar good news comes from Vermont. Through April, the Green Mountain State saw fishing permits up 57 percent, to 21,270.
Meanwhile, officials in Missouri took a different but even more encouraging action by waiving the license requirement, so residents could experience a great diversion from the coronavirus pandemic and experience family angling.
If these bigger numbers can mean anything, they could be pointing to increased boat sales.
“If there’s a bright spot in this horrible covid-19 tragedy,” says Bass Pro CEO Johnny Morris, “it’s the unprecedented interest from fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles to take their family out to enjoy nature.”
This jump in fishing license sales appears to mirror a national increase in fishing interest. A recent Harris poll found that 24 percent of respondents with children under the age of 18 said they would be interested in fishing during the pandemic.
Moreover, there’s evidence that the national Take Me Fishing program by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation — along with the promotion by the industry’s Discover Boating campaign — are both having a positive impact.
With programs like these, literally thousands of families could be getting their first taste of the joy of fishing, which can lead to a desire to do more angling from one’s own boat.
Although many states are slow in reporting their fishing license and boat registration numbers annually to RBFF, it will be interesting to see how this trend plays out on a national scale. And, to go even farther, crunch that data with boat registration numbers, even identifying first-time boaters.