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State's Economy Makes Big Catch
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The average angler fishing along a river probably doesn't realize this pastime is profitable business in Mississippi and a great use of natural resources.
The most recent statistics show that in 1991, anglers spent $236 million to fish in Mississippi, or about $360 a person. This amount includes everything from fishing licenses and bait to equipment, travel expenses and memberships. Sixteen percent of Mississippians fish each year, compared to 14 percent nationwide.
"Mississippi is a moderately big fishing state," said Dr. Hal Schramm, a fisheries biologist at Mississippi State University. "If categorized as a commodity, recreational fishing would rank among the top five most valuable in the state."
Bubba Hubbard is a fisheries coordinator in Jackson with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. He said good fishing means the waterways are healthy and natural resources are managed wisely.
"Recreational fishing can be used as an indicator of a healthy environment," Hubbard said. "If the fishing is good, you can broadly say the water is good and the lake and watershed are in pretty good shape because it all has to work together."
The MSU Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Social Sciences Research Center recently survey licensed anglers in the state for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Anglers surveyed fish most often to be outdoors, relax and break their routine. Recreational fishing attracts almost 750,000 Mississippians each year from all walks of life. Ninety percent fish in freshwater, while 10 percent choose saltwater.
Mississippi has 14,000 miles of streams, 345,000 acres of ponds and 295,000 acres of larger lakes and reservoirs, as well as the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
"These aquatic resources provide easily accessible, high quality fishing not only for Mississippi anglers, but also for anglers from neighboring states," Schramm said.
While remaining popular and accessible, the sport is changing some in Mississippi and nationwide.
"The diversity of tackle, the technology that goes into fishing, the quality of the boats, and the ease and safety of operation has broadened the scope of fishing," Schramm said.
Fishing, like most other sports, has gotten more high-tech with fishing shows on television and information being publicized on the Internet. Equipment such as reels and fish finders have also kept pace with new technology.
"As Americans, we use the technology provided to us, and we've seen that true in fishing as well," Schramm said.
But as with other pastimes, fishing sometimes gets crowded out of busy schedules. Schramm said Mississippians today are fishing slightly fewer days than before.
"People just don't have the time to fish," Hubbard said. "They have less time for leisure activities because so many other things occupy their time."