With gasoline prices headed North of $5 per gallon, fishing poles are sitting in the corner gathering dust and boats are staying in the marina. Many outdoorsmen are finding that cutting back is no longer the answer. That’s been done. The real question has become how to continue fishing at all. It’s a desperate situation when your hobby has to suffer because of the price of foreign oil. But what can you do? I’m not an expert on saving or managing money, trust me on that one, but I can pass on some advice that might keep you on the water a little longer.I’ve been down this road before even at times when gas was cheap — so to speak — and creative thinking helped save my fishing. Realizing I might have to quit fishing for a while felt like someone ripping cash right from my wallet and telling me to go home. It made me ill to think I would be standing on the shoreline casting a lure while the boat sat in the yard. So I adapted to the lack of cash by changing the way I fished and the species I pursued. In the end I only had to give up a couple weekends of fishing. Much easier to stomach than the majority of summer fishing I expected to lose.
I won’t hash through all the vehicle and boat maintenance tips. You can find those tips elsewhere quite easily these days. And you should as they can save you a tacklebox full of cash. I will however suggest you get the map out. Whether that’s an old fashion paper map or something you find online, or in an app, have a closer look at what’s really around you. And carry a map with you. Many people drive right past some great fishing every day without giving it a second thought. A map coupled with the local fishing regulations and rules book can put you on the fish in a hurry.Trout for instance are finicky fish but can often be found in tiny creeks and canals that skirt the edges of town and sometimes run right through the center. You can identify these fishing hotspots by their stream classification in the regulations handbook. You can verify the trout population and possibly recent stocking efforts with a simple call to the local natural resources center. A designated trout stream requires you to have the proper stamp or licensing even to walk along it’s bank with a fishing pole. So be prepared if you are typically an open water fisherman but don’t let these often ignored areas become passing scenery. Investigate while you’re in the area and adapt to the fishing that they provide.
I was a die-hard bass fisherman that would often turn to Northern Pike when the bass went on a hunger strike. It was mainly open water or pond fishing and that’s where I preferred to be unless I were in a boat. So when my favorite bass fishing spot become too far to travel every week I resorted to scouting the area in search of a closer place to fish or, a new species. And in my quest to retain my fishing fix I found both.
Just two miles down the road is a river that is admittedly scarce with trout but that’s part of the allure. This isn’t news to me it’s just never been that enticing and part of that is probably because it was so close to home. The idea of ‘going’ fishing was going somewhere – not hiking it down the road. Pulling a nice brown trout out of this stretch is considered a victory by anyone’s standards. In itself a challenge that most fisherman would eagerly welcome, myself included, even though I had to resort to trout fishing.
The bonus came when I wandered the river to the mouth where it emptied in the bay. And there before my eyes were stumps, stones as big as Volkswagen’s, reeds, narrow sand flats, and rocky points, all rolled into one single bass heaven. I had written this place off as a piss-poor trout fishing area and now had access to a mile of pristine shoreline and I couldn’t see a competitor in sight. Working poppers through the pads and running buzz baits through the stumps brought enough action to keep me alert and interested. And even the few trout that were pulled from the river provided added excitement and incentive especially after that first grilled brown trout graced the dinner table.
And in there somewhere I matured into a more well-rounded fisherman. Just months earlier I had to be catching fish. I’ll re-phrase that to say I had to be catching fish to call it fishing. Faced with the option of not fishing at all my actual time on the water took precedence. The fish had become the bonus. As corn-ball as that sounds I would guess at some point this becomes the truth for everyone who stays active in the outdoors. Back to the matter at hand.Take a closer look at where you’re currently fishing. I’m fortunate to live right along Lake Michigan and the commute along this portion of the country could send me on a 350 mile drive which would include most of the shoreline and a ton of fishing options. I have not fished every single possibility of that stretch of road and never will. The purpose of explaining this abundance of opportunities isn’t to brag about my location. Nearly every single fisherman that travels that same stretch will infectiously watch the shoreline and the endless miles of water that lay just beyond the waves crashing against the sand and rock. While there are a whole host of bass fishing and panfish hotspots along the way the greatest fishing is on the rivers and creeks that feed into the lake. It’s those same rivers and creeks that people drive over and never give a second glance that provide a chance to cut your traveling expenses down. It’s very easy to find fantastic smallmouth bass fishing in the larger streams and rivers and again some native trout fishing. Get your map out and do some digging. Follow these streams and creeks to the mouth of the bay or lake when you can. Often you will find small marinas maintained by residents or county workers. These areas will attract more schooling fish like Sunfish, Perch, and Bass. And anyone who fishes panfish realizes that the predators like the Northern Pike are never far away. These make for a well rounded fishing spot and when they’re closer to home you save time, gas, and money.
For those who can’t stomach the thought of shore fishing and feel that need to be floating on the water you might be able to save money by mooring your boat at a nearby harbor. Daily trips pulling the boat behind the truck add up quickly when gasoline prices are climbing. The cost of that action might quickly be turned around by paying the fee to dock your boat at the harbor especially if the harbor is close to your workplace where you could fish after work hours. If a harbor isn’t an option you might find a local launch site or a public boat launch that could cut-down on the miles of towing. But don’t make the mistake of launching your boat and then motoring past a second launch site thinking you will save money by running the small boat motor rather than the truck. That’s a losing proposition with outboard motors. Depending on the type of boat and boat motor you will find fewer fuel efficient models and the gallons per hour rate of most boats falls well behind the miles per gallon associated to vehicles. Resorts and even campgrounds will often allow residential or even county residents to use the boat access site for free. Tips like using your electric trolling motor whenever possible should be common knowledge and used to their capacity.
What’s interesting in times like these where money is short for many families is the fact that we rally around sports like fishing. People who love to fish find ways to keep fishing. While families who may have never fished, or given it up at some point, are finding and reverting back to fishing as an affordable resource for entertainment and family fulfillment. It makes perfect sense that we fall back to our basic resources in times like these. In the spirit of the article I plan to dig my mountain bike out of the garage and pedal down to the river a couple miles away. Water levels and the possibility of some steelhead have stirred that internal instinct to visit the water’s edge. And the price of gas is enough motivation for these 46 year old legs to keep those pedals turning. See you on the shoreline!