While our crippled economy is making headlines every day, its painful effects on field sports do not. They should, though, and the current state of the boating industry is a good example.
Those same boats we as fishermen depend on are generally viewed as expensive luxury items. A fairly simple walleye boat with a 75-horsepower outboard, for example, runs $10,000 to $20,000 or more now when new. Major-brand center consoles in the 20- to 22-foot range are hitting $75,000 or so fully rigged. And when a high-end freshwater-bass boat tops $50,000 then I'm really scratching my head in wonder.
Afford them or not, many people were buying such things until the recent credit crunch put the boating industry into a dramatic downward spiral. Home-equity, once often used for boat-buying, has evaporated. Major companies such as GE Capital that financed boat-dealer inventories, meanwhile, are rapidly pulling back.
As an angler, I don't think a boat is a luxury. But at the same time I don't think this is the year when I'll be trading in my fully-paid-for skiff for a newer model. As a matter of fact, maybe I'll look for a new pair of waders instead. Waders get really good gas mileage, too....