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Fishermen can survive difficult economic times

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

We live in difficult economic times, and sports enthusiasts are certainly not immune to the effects of our nation’s current recession. From the up and down (and up again) price of gas to the fact most of us have far less money to spend on tackle, folks into fishing have felt the pinch on their favorite hobby along with all the other aspects of their lives.

Therefore it was with great cheer we greeted some unexpected good news last week, as the sea-lovers among us learned one encouraging thing has come from the troubled circumstances surrounding our monetary crisis.

Sharks aren’t eating as many of us.

That’s right. Turns out the Jaws of the world are giving us a break since we’re suddenly so poor. A Florida biologist announced there was a previously unrecognized link between our country’s current recession and a decline in shark attacks.

The biologist, who heads something called the International Shark Attack File, told the world shark bites were down because there are fewer people are in the water. With fewer folks taking beach vacations or staying as long, there are apparently fewer opportunities for sharks to indulge themselves on, well, us. Fewer attacks sounds like good news to me, as long as some PETA-influenced lobbyist doesn’t get the idea of offering sharks a human stimulus.

I’m just a fishing columnist, which sounds nowhere near as cool as head of the International Shark Attack File (how do you get that job?) but that puts me in the position of offering anglers a few tips about how to stretch their money as the spring fishing season approaches.

Since you don’t have to worry as much about being eaten by a shark, head to the water and give these three penny-pinching ideas a try.

1. Learn to use a cast net.

If you don’t already know how, buying and learning to throw a cast net is a huge money-saver. Quality cast nets can be found in the $30–$40 range, and if you don’t throw them near rocks or submerged junk, they last a long time. If you compute the costs of a couple of dozen live minnows per trip (or, heaven forbid, live shrimp if you’re a trout lover), it doesn’t take long to come out way ahead.

Live bait isn’t easy to cast net year-round, except for some for the locals and guides who know exactly where to look, but you can usually net bait easily from the late spring to early fall. A lot of times what you can catch in your net is better bait than you can buy.

This makes sense, because it’s what’s currently in the water that predators are feeding on. Bait not usually available in stores, such as live finger mullet, little pinfish, sand crabs (not little blue crabs—remember the size limits), and those wonderful striped, spangled-type mud minnows can be big fish producers.

2. Order your fishing tackle online.

You might think shipping cost would make this a less thrifty option than the stores. Not in my experience. Have you ever seen an angler in a tackle shop? They make a kid in a candy store look thrifty.

Shopping online is extremely simple these days, and it offers you economic advantages. You get to carefully choose exactly what you want and never have to settle for something that is not the size and color you seek. Impulse shopping is dramatically cut down, as you have all the time in the world to reconsider before you hit the checkout button.

You get to choose the quality brand-named stuff and reject the (often foreign imported) rip-off gear that only seems like a bargain until it wears out quickly or breaks on the third cast. Also, sites like eBay.com give you the chance to look for bargains on used tackle that often beat store discounts.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love to go browse the tackle shops. But I split my buying about 50-50 these days. To save on shipping (or get it free) search for everything you want from an online store, make a list, then buy it all together.

3. Re-embrace surf fishing.

Even if you own a boat and haven’t surf fished for years, the price of hauling your vehicle to the ramp and gassing up the boat is no joke these days. Piers are still a good deal on the entertainment scale, but even they can get pricy—especially if you buy a lot of food or drinks while you’re there.

Surf (or shore) fishing remains the cheapest way to go. Access to the water isn’t what it used to be, but if you can find a good spot or a nice sandy beach you can’t beat the price.

The biggest bonus to fishing from shore is that if the fish aren’t currently biting, you can just leave and come back later in the day. Those aren’t as attractive options if you are on a pier where you paid to fish or out in the water boating around.

It is possible to combine all three money-saving options, or it will be once spring gets here. Just buy your surf gear online (shop for the good stuff and don’t settle for cheap imports), then head to the beach and, while you’re there, catch your own bait in your cast net. Once it gets warm, you can even dig bait, as live sand fleas are as good an option from the sand as anything you can buy, and they’re free.

The best thing about going surf fishing these days? You can wade in without fear of being eaten. Apparently, the sharks are taking a break until the economy turns around.

JEFFREY WEEKS is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at saltyweeks@gmail.com.