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Fishing Tackle and Equipment

December 07, 1987|KEITH BRADSHER

The number of anglers in the United States has shown only marginal growth in recent years but has avoided the outright decline of such outdoor sports as hunting. Annual growth in the issuance of paid state fishing licenses has averaged just 0.5% during the past five years. The number of licenses issued in California fell 10.3% in 1986, as the fee for a state resident fishing license rose to $18 from $13.75.

According to studies sponsored by the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Assn., Americans don't fish as much primarily because they feel the sport takes too much time. Those who live in urban areas must drive ever farther for good fishing as suburbs pave over or pollute the best fishing holes, said Thomas P. Conley, tackle association president. Acid rain and commercial overfishing have depleted stocks in many areas and discouraged potential anglers, he added.

Federal subsidies for state programs aimed at restoring sportfishing areas are increasing. Legislation that took effect in 1984 expanded the longtime 10% federal excise tax on rods, reels, lures and fish cages to include sales of all fishing equipment. Funds from the excise tax have grown to $64.8 million in 1986 from $35.3 million in 1983 and are used to reimburse states for such sportfishing restoration projects as lake construction and hatcheries management, the trade group says.

Rebuilding fish stocks is important because novice anglers need to have a good chance of catching a fish their first time out, said David Ellison, editor of Montgomery, Ala.-based Fishing Tackle Retailer magazine. "(For) those who go out and catch fish, it's addictive. Those who don't, pull the golf clubs out of the closet."

From Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer with his cane pole to Ernest Hemingway's elderly Santiago battling a giant marlin in the Gulf of Mexico, fishing has long been a sport for young and old. Now it is also becoming more accessible to the handicapped. A professional fly fishing instructor in Trabuco Canyon, Calif., has started a mail order business selling specialized fishing equipment for the disabled.

Judy L. Pachner said she began tracking down specialized equipment after her father, a professional fisherman and tackle inventor, was paralyzed and forced to use a wheelchair. Her first catalogue appeared in August, 1986, and listed 42 products, while the second, published last August, carried 84.

Most of the devices are made by disabled anglers who invented products for their own use. For the sight-impaired, there are bobbers that beep as they are pulled under and widgets designed to allow them to thread line through narrow line guides on fishing rods. For quadriplegics, Pachner sells special knives that require no finger movements and casting devices that mount on the side of a wheelchair.

The free catalogues can be obtained by writing to: J. L. Pachner Ltd., P.O. Box 164, Trabuco Canyon, CA. 92678.

Southern Californians who don't fish may think their angler friends have an unfair advantage with fish-finding sonars, which these days can pick out schools of fish as short as two inches. Now tackle makers are going after fish by their nasal pits.

Fish scents come in two varieties: attractants, which are smeared on lures and are supposed to be appetizing to fish, and deodorizers, which remove or camouflage fish-spooking odors on anglers' hands, lures and tackle. U.S. anglers bought about $50 million worth of scents last year, up from almost nothing in 1980, AFTMA's Conley said.

More than a hundred firms have begun selling fish scent in the past five years, said Max J. Baer, special products manager for Keeper Bait of Bruceton, Tenn., which began selling its Fish Formula attractant in 1982. The fish oil or chemical-based scents are sold in two and eight-ounce bottles, with the larger size going for $5 to $9. The fish scent industry even has accessories, such as pivoting tubs that mount on the side of a boat and allow anglers to dunk lures.

Fish scents do work, but exaggerated claims for them may have left some anglers disillusioned, said David J. Ohlaug, fish attractants product manager for Spirit Lake, Iowa-based Berkley. "It's just like another lure in a dime store . . . It's part of a system, not a whole system."

SPORT FISHING LICENSES ISSUED

Nationwide California 1982 29,581,326 2,480,158 1983 29,130,543 2,419,569 1984 29,015,918 2,522,172 1985 29,673,190 2,616,121 1986 30,312,269 1,347,323

Source: Fishing Tackle Retailer Southern California Counties--1986

Los Angeles 122,096 Riverside 50,241 Orange 80,335 Ventura 23,942 San Diego 76,475 Santa Barbara 20,025 San Bernardino 70,896 San Luis Obispo 14,715 Kern 54,460 Imperial 7,959

Source: California Dept. of Fish and Game

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