Merwin: Boating Blues

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....