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Gone fishing: In pandemic, New Hampshire sees license sales rise

  • Mark Beauchesne of the state Department of Fish and Game shows a small-mouth bass he caught on the Merrimack River in Concord last week. Fishing licenses sales are up 40% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. concord monitor photos — GEOFF FORESTER

  • Mark Beauchesne from the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game shows a small-mouth bass he caught on the Merrimack River on Aug. 27. Beauchesne has a lifetime fishing license.

  • Charles Virgin and his wife Natalia fish the Merrimack River in Concord near the NHTI boat ramp on Thursday, August 27, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mark Beauchesne from the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game shows Jayvion Johnson, 7, of Pittsfield the finer points of his fishing rod as he was fishing on the Merrimack River in Concord on Aug. 27. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Charles Virgin and his wife, Natalia, fish the Merrimack River in Concord near the NHTI boat ramp.

  • Mark Beauchesne from the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game shows a small-mouth bass he caught on the Merrimack River in Concord on Thursday, August 27, 2020. Beauchesne has a lifetime fishing license. Fishing licenses are up 40% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jayvion Johnson, 7, of Pittsfield fishes off the boat ramp on the Merrimack River in Concord on Aug. 27. Concord Monitor — GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Mark Beauchesne from the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game fishes off his boat on the Merrimack River in Concord on Thursday, August 27, 2020. Beauchesne has a lifetime fishing license. Fishing licenses are up 40% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Concord Monitor
Published: 9/1/2020 9:34:05 PM
Modified: 9/1/2020 9:49:57 PM

CONCORD — Among the many changes that COVID-19 has wrought in New Hampshire this year, one of them comes with a rod and reel. Make that a whole bunch of rods and reels.

Through June, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game, the number of fishing licenses sold to state residents had shot up a full 40% over last year — some 78,879 of them in all, and that doesn’t include 23,893 combination hunting-fishing licenses. Out-of-state fishing licenses are also up quite a bit, rising 20% from last year to 18,584.

This is the first increase in many years in New Hampshire, which like much of the U.S. has seen stagnation or decline in traditional outdoor activities as the population becomes more suburban and other forms of entertainment multiply.

The sudden appeal of fishing is obvious. Social distancing has always been a requirement in the sport, since you can’t bunch up along the riverbank. Another bonus: “f the fish is big enough, you just reeled in dinner without going to the grocery store.

“With people not being at work and being told to stay a certain distance apart, it makes sense,” said Craig Angeli of The Tackle Shack in Newbury, N.H. “Some who have fished at another time in life, gotten away from it and getting back to it, and a lot who are new to outdoor sporting, together.

“The biggest is parents who fished with grandparents as a kid ... now they’ve got young kids of their own, being forced to socially distance so they’re taking their kids fishing for the first time. That’s great to see,” Angeli said.

With more licenses sold, fishing gear sales are up too.

“We’ve seen a definite increase in tackle sales,” said Wayne Hall of White Hunter Sports in Concord, a bait and tackle shop associated with Rocky Ole Farm. “People are home. It’s one thing they can do to enjoy the outdoors. ... And the cost is reasonable, there’s the initial cost of the poles, equipment, after that it’s not much.”

Hall has a further prediction: “Ice fishing I think is going to be huge this year. You can take the kids out, they can go ice-skating while you fish. It’s the same with going fishing — they can play in the water, if you’re at a beach they can go exploring. It’s great for the family.”

There are drawbacks, similar to those seen by other activities that have become more popular during the pandemic. One is supplies.

“Overseas manufacturing has not kicked back up. We cannot get some stuff back in stock,” Angeli said.

Locally sourced materials are in better shape — including worms and crawlers.

Another drawback? Over-popularity.

“People are telling me, they’re saying it’s getting a little harder to catch fish. Places are getting fished up pretty good,” Angeli said.

Sales of hunting licenses have also seen growth this year, although to a lesser extent: According to New Hampshire Fish and Game they are up about 16% from last year, including combination licenses, which are almost always bought to go hunting.

That data is only through June, well before the main hunting seasons begin, which usually increases the number of licenses sold.

Any increase will be a big change from recent years. In the mid-1990s New Hampshire sold more than 90,000 hunting licenses a year, but that number has slowly declined ever since, falling by almost half to about 55,000 annual licenses recently.

This year’s increase is welcome news to Fish and Game, which uses sales of hunting and fishing licenses to pay for about one-third of its budget. Much of the rest comes from federal funding and license fees from off-road vehicles.

Although some hunting seasons exist for various species throughout the year, fall is the main period for hunting in New England. Tuesday saw the state opening of black bear and gray squirrel, with archery seasons for turkey and white-tailed deer starting Sept. 15. The statewide resident Canada goose hunt also started Tuesday and runs almost all month.

By far the most popular season is rifle hunting for white-tailed deer, which starts Nov. 11.




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