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Trade the Xbox for a tackle box

Tyler Kin, 7, with his first fish.

Tyler Kin, 7, with his first fish.

It’s called “Gaming Disorder.”

The World Health Organization officially recognized this condition in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, saying it’s possible to become addicted to video games.

Let’s face it. We adults have become tethered to our phones, laptops and tablets to stay plugged-in, connected and entertained. That’s not to say we’re obsessive gamers addicted to Grand Theft Auto, though some of us could be in the 2 to 3 percent of adults who have Gaming Disorder.

Arguably, the saddest consequence of our constant use of mobile devices is the impact on kids when we have a phone in one hand and talk to them without looking up from our screens.

A recent Chicago Tribune editorial titled “Gaming Disorder” vs. “Digital Wellness” was on point when it observed that the lure of the digital screen can cause us to “lose sight of the richness of life beyond pixels.”

Every boat on every showroom floor offers that richness of life, and dealers must promote that and conduct programs to emphasize it. In other words, push tackle boxes over Xboxes.

Dealers can emphasize the message that fishing is An opportunity for families to cut the ties to digital. And people are responding to that message by fishing, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

Statistics from 2016 indicate that fishing was flat or declining, especially among kids. But the latest information indicates more than 49 million Americans had cast a line in 2017, demonstrating a year-over-year increase of nearly 2 million anglers, according to RBFF’s 2018 Special Report on Fishing.

At a time when Americans are collectively checking their phones more than 8 billion times a day, this report shows the importance of our fishing message and a willingness to disconnect and get out on the water. A key finding from the report: 16.5 percent of the U.S. population participates in fishing. That’s good, but a whopping 30.1 million people indicated an interest in taking up fishing or rejoining the activity they’d dropped. And new fishing participants accounted for 6 percent of the total and tended to be young.

Also, 11.6 million youth participated in fishing, a 1.2 percent increase. Meanwhile, 4.2 million Hispanics went fishing in 2017, a 400,000-person increase and the highest participation rate since the report was created in 2007. On average, Hispanic anglers went on four more outings per year than the rest of the population.

The report was created by RBFF in partnership with The Outdoor Foundation. It summarizes data from 31,000 respondents to provide one of the most comprehensive looks at the state of fishing and boating participation. You can get the full report and accompanying infographic at the RBFF Resource Center.

There’s no question dealers can benefit from consistently selling and being identified with the family fishing and boating experience. “Disconnect to Reconnect — Go Fishing” could make a strong in-store theme that lists the benefits of fishing and boating. That’s just a start.

Dealers could hold in-store fishing clinics and kids’ contests by teaming up with a local fishing club, wildlife agency nearby tackle store. Or dealers could sponsor established events. For example, SeaArk Boats partners with Pond Hopper Nation to host “Teach a Child to Fish Day” in Arkansas.

“Fishing is better than a video game any day,” says Steve Henderson, SeaArk president.

Another example of being identified with family fishing is sponsoring the Old Salts Fishing Foundation’s special-needs kids fishing day. We take the kids with their parents out for a few hours of fishing, followed by lunch, plaques and prizes. It’s great for the kids and introduces parents to family fishing and boating possibilities.

State and local marine trade associations can be leaders, too. For example, the Marine Industries Association of Collier County Foundation organizes The Kids’ Fishing Clinic, a one-day educational event in Naples conducted with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Outreach Division. The clinic teaches saltwater fishing skills, fishing etiquette, conservation and promotes a positive experience for kids ages 5 to 15.

Bottom line: Every dealership can win by declaring itself a zone that’s free from Fortnite, Sniper Assassin and Killing Floor. Replace that Xbox with a tackle box.


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