Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: The sport of fishing is still on the rise nationwide

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The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) recently announced the findings of a 2020 Special Report on Fishing noting that participation is still on the rise The Outdoor Foundation and RBFF-produced report, now in its 10th year, provides insights into demographics, the "leaky bucket," perceptions of fishing and more.

"Thanks to the strong improvements in recruitment and reactivation, fishing participation (in our nation) is up again this year," said RBFF president and CEO Frank Peterson. "Better yet, the key audience segments we feel are tantamount to the future of fishing continue to see gains in overall participation and participation rate."

Key Findings include:

— Participation is up to the highest rate since 2007.

— 17 percent of the total U.S. population participated in fishing in 2019, which equates to a total of 50.1 million Americans ages 6-plus. That is a net increase of more than 700,000 participants.

— 3.1 million Americans tried fishing for the very first time in 2019, making up 6 percent of all active participants.

— Youth participation is up over the last years.

— Hispanic participation continues to rise - 4.4 million participated in 2019, participation rate of 12 percent is the highest ever recorded in the Special Report. Hispanics go on an average of nearly three more trips per year than the general population.

— Female participation grew to 17.9 million, the third straight year of growth. The gender gap is continuing to close.

— "Leaky bucket" is still an issue. Fishing lost 9.3 million participants in 2019 — a loss of 19 percent of the 2018 participant base — and nearly double the 5.6 million lost participants in 2017.

Peterson continued: "Despite losing 9.3 million participants, fishing is still making gains. We are pleased with the increases among newcomers and key growth segments but are again reminded of how important effective angler retention efforts are in safeguarding the future of fishing and boating. To that end, we are continually working on ways to keep participants better engaged, including developing programs and resources for our state agency and industry partners, as well as assisting them in developing their own R3 (recruiting, retaining and reactivating) plans.

"In addition to demographic and participation-related data, the Special Report also looked at intangibles such as perceptions of fishing and trends that can help the industry predict and shape the future of participation.

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"Overwhelmingly, anglers look to fishing as a way to escape the day-to-day, become close with nature, and of course, catch fish. While survey respondents didn't hold strong stereotypes of anglers, more men than women feel that fishing participants look similar to them. Prioritizing youth participation continues to be a theme in preserving the future of fishing; 91% of current anglers first participated before the age of 12."

I don't know about you, but I have never seen so many anglers out on our ponds and rivers as this year, undoubtedly indirectly due to the Coronavirus. Anybody want to bet that the 2020 Special Report will indicate another rise?

Keep an eye out for water chestnut

Thom Smith, popular Berkshire Eagle Naturewatch columnist, is on a mission. He is trying to determine on what Berkshire lakes and ponds the water chestnuts exists. In case you don't know, they are nasty, invasive aquatic vegetation that can severely choke a shallow pond.

So, it you can identify them and know in what ponds they exist, you might want to get in touch with him at naturewatch@live.com. If he gets enough data, he plans to do an article on them. As I understand it, his list is already up to 10 local water bodies.

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Undoubtedly, Thom knows his stuff when it comes to water chestnuts. He did an article about them in the Massachusetts Wildlife Magazine #1, 2006. We hope he gets the required data so that he can put together the planned Naturewatch column. We all look forward to it.

Antlerless Deer Permit instant award period began Aug. 1

If you applied for an Antlerless Deer Permit by the July 16 deadline, you can check back this upcoming week to find out if you have been awarded one. The award period began Saturday and ends on December 31. Your odds of being awarded a permit are the same regardless of when you check your permit status. You can check the status of your permit through MassFishHunt, or by visiting a MassWildlife office or license agent location. A $5 fee is charged only if you are awarded a permit. Good luck!

If you aren't awarded an antlerless deer permit, you might want to consider applying for a surplus antlerless deer permit in zones 9, 10, 11, 13, and 14 until sold out.

Surplus Permits are first-come, first-served and must be purchased within 15 minutes after being placed in your shopping cart. The MassFishHunt online licensing system only allows 1 session per customer, so do not log in on multiple devices or you may be kicked out of the system and need to start over.

You may purchase only one Zone 11 and one Zone 10 permit per day; up to four permits per day may be purchased for Zones 13 and 14.

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Steel Challenge at Lee Sportsmen's Association

Next Sunday, Aug. 9, the LSA is conducting its Steel Challenge. There will be a safety briefing at 11:45 and starting time will be at noon. Cold range rules apply.

There will be six stages with two being classifier stages. Center fire pistol and pistol caliber carbine, 22LR pistol and rifle.

The cost is $20, additional gun costs $10. You must bring exact payment as there will be no change made. You can sign up for the matches at Practiscore.com.

Individuals should use a face covering or mask at all times, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain, and carry a facial covering or mask on their person at all

times while on Club property. Check leesportsmens.com home page for covid-19 requirements.

Lenox Sportsmen's Club Update

In an update for the LSC Board of Directors, it was noted that while the LSC is suffering a little bit with this Coronavirus crisis, fortunately during the summer months the ranges don't see as much use as the winter months but their other events that help make up the revenue stream for this time of year have been affected. They had to cancel their end of summer Steak & Lobster Dinner Dance, the first time in over 30 years. The club is not sure if it will be able to hold its annual Fall Turkey Shoots at this time. It does not look good. It has an outdoor 3D Archery Tournament scheduled for August and they may be able to host that one. They are worried about the upcoming winter indoor shooting leagues for both the archery and pistol range. No determination has been made on those yet, they will see where this virus leads.

Right now, the club indoor pistol range is open, still with the limitations on the number of ports and members allowed in the ready room. The outdoor archery range as well as the indoor archery range are open with the same restrictions.

The saving grace for some of its members is its Outdoor Rifle Range located at the GEAA on Crane Ave in Pittsfield.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.


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