Fishing gear sales pick up after slow start

MARSHALL – If fishing were a company it would be 51st on the Fortune 500 list.

There are an estimated 60 million anglers in the US, of which 46 million are fishing in any given year, according to the American Sportfishing Association. The number of anglers has increased about 11 percent in the past five years, and tackle sales have increased 16 percent.

Nationwide, the ASA estimates sport fishing has an economic impact of $115 billion.

In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources estimates based on a 2007 study that local fishermen spend more money on their passion than any state except Florida and Texas. That would make Minnesota the leading state for fresh water fishing, about 75 percent of sport fishing.

The same study estimated the economic impact of fishing on the state at $2.8 billion in 2007.

But unseasonably cold weather this year tended to keep even dedicated fisherman home on weekends, which tends to depress sales of fishing gear.

“Sales have been a little soft due to factors like the cold weather,” said Wayne Shellenberg, sporting goods manager at Borch’s Sporting Goods. “Cold fronts are typically negative events. Fishing in this area, we believe, is more determined by weather than the fish.”

On Thursday when the sun came out Shellenberg said he saw more people come in to buy fishing-related gear. He estimates fishing-related gear makes up about 30 percent of the hunting and fishing gear sold by Borch’s.

Todd Raske, sporting goods manager at Runnings, also said sales have picked up lately. Runnings has the largest store area devoted to fishing gear in Marshall.

“It started out slower than normal after the opener,” Raske said, “once the weather warmed up things got better.”

Ryan Moline has been a fisherman for a long time. Moline was in Runnings on Thursday picking up some hooks and extra tackle because he hasn’t been out yet this year.

“I waited ’til the end of May, beginning of June,” Moline said.

Wal-Mart has about one-quarter of its sporting and exercise equipment area devoted to fishing, according to Todd Sieve, sporting goods manager. Sieve said sales of fishing-related gear were about the same as last year.

“Maybe one day it’ll be soft, then the next day it picks up,” Sieve said. “It started later because of the cold.”

Of the major retail outlets, Menards has the smallest area devoted to fishing gear but does good business in tackle and may expand in the future.

“We have a wider selection of tackle this year than last year; it’s brought people in,” said sales associate Todd French. “It has been slow, but as the weather warms up people come in raring to go. Certain lines are being sold out as people redo their fishing poles. There’s definitely a rebound, and we’re seeing it now.”