Originally published in The Daily Iowan 7/08/2010
Iowa residents seem to be taking the Department of Natural Resources’ bait, even though officials say they aren’t using any kind of fancy lure.
The department is on pace to set a record for fishing licenses issued this year.
There have been 229,667 licenses issued through June 1, breaking the previous mark set in 2003, after Natural Resources began to keep electronic records, said Kevin Baskins, the director of communications.
Although the number of permits issued in the past decade has decreased overall, Baskins said the economic downturn is responsible for a “pleasant but not surprising” upswing.
“When you look at $17.50 for a yearly license, you could have spent that on one night of golf or at the movies,” he said.
Outdoor sports stores have also noticed an increase. Roger Mildenstein, the owner of Fin and Feather, 125 Highway 1 W., said he has seen a strong interest in fishing this year from a wide range of people.
“I just think fishing is one of those sports that appeals to a broad band of people,” Mildenstein said.
Most people buy their licenses from his store because it is more convenient than ordering them from Natural Resources.
Baskins said other factors for the increase include the weather, the types of fish present, and how successful casual anglers are when they go out.
“Fish are cyclical,” he said, “Some years are very good, some are not.”
A cool Tuesday night brought several fishing enthusiasts to Lake Macbride. Because the sky had just unleashed a summer shower, most of the anglers had already left. But a few remained — such as Coralville resident Harold Stone — to see what was biting.
He said he has bought a fishing license for the past five years. He normally settles in three spots to fish, but he chose a new spot Tuesday.
“I’ve been told I can catch catfish here, so I thought I’d give it a whirl,” he said.
Baskins said Natural Resources sold a large number of licenses last winter because Iowa’s Great Lakes — West Okoboji, Spirit, and East Okoboji — enjoyed a large population of yellow perch that season.
Others come to Iowa for the chance to catch fish that they can’t at home, contributing to a rise in the number of nonresident licenses issued.
“During the winter, we get a lot of trout fishermen from Wisconsin and Illinois,” Baskins said, Mildenstein said the varying cost for fishing gear contributes to the sport’s appeal — especially in tough economic times. The cheaper fishing rods can cost anywhere between $20 to $40 plus the cost of hooks and if the angler chooses, bait and sinkers.
“One of the neat things about fishing is you don’t have to spend a fortune,” Mildenstein said. “When I was a kid, it was a pole, hook, sinker, and bait.”
Corresponding video I shot and edited for The Daily Iowan website: