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On the Water With Capt. John King

The Catalina Islander of Avalon, California

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Fishing economic 101

The business of fishing is among the least understood activities in terms of its economic impact. For most of us, we pick up the menu and order. Within a few minutes we are presented with a beautiful slab of Salmon or a nice Swordfish steak. How does this happen?

There are two major elements to the fishing business. Commercial fishing is the activity that gets that Salmon to your plate. Recreational fishing is the activity that brings you into direct contact with the fish in its native environment.

Having never been a commercial fisherman, I cannot provide much insight into that segment. I too am amazed at the abundance of the sea. It is beyond my abilities to comprehend how the sea can provide for so many hungry humans on a daily basis. It is big business.

Commercial fishing has grown to be incredibly sophisticated. Huge ships work the far oceans with aerial support and fishing finding technology that rivals space exploration. Even the smaller local operators have grown to be pretty savvy at cost cutting.

Consider this. A local seiner targeting squid around Catalina Island will have his catch sent to China for processing before it reaches your plate in a local sea food restaurant. Why? Because it would cost an additional $1.50 per pound to have the squid processed and packaged here.

A stunning 90 percent of the 230 million pounds of squid caught by California net boats is sent to China for processing. That is big business. It is not surprising that these businesses are organized and politically active.

The business of recreational fishing is also huge. The last survey done in 2011 estimated that recreational angling generated $70 billion in revenue (compared to $129 billion for commercial fishing) and created more than 800,000 jobs in the US. Pretty in pressive.

I can tell you exactly how this happens. During an El Nino event in a recovering economy anglers come out to fish. Every day another report hits the Internet and generates more calls for charters. These customers show up and pay to charter a boat, an economic impact.

In order to have that boat ready for charter, the charter company has to own and maintain the boat, hire the captain, pay the insurance, the fuel, the mooring, the taxes and use fees, permits and licenses and, there are equipment costs.

Generally, there is a pretty steep investment in equipment to start a charter business. Each boat needs a full set of spinning reels and rods, conventional reels and rods, some light gear for calico and bonito and some heavier gear yellowtail and white sea bass. Add gaffs, hooks, weights, line, lures, nets, knives and a few other items to the list and you are in the charter business.

Once we are set up, we don't really think that much about equipment costs, it is a part of the deal. However, during an El Nino event, with exotics such as Wahoo, Dorado, Tuna, Blue, Black and Striped Marlin prowling our local waters, we discover that our equipment needs to be updated.

I was doing some research on various tackle and fishing accessories and talking with fishing buddies from Cabo to see what they might recommend. At the end of one conversation I had a page full of notes. I took these to the Internet to do some shopping. I was shocked.

Ever the careful shopper, I went to E Bay and Amazon first to check on pricing and availability. My one page of product notes generated a shopping cart with a total of nine items The price tag to purchase all nine items? Just under $3,000.00!

Am I complaining? No. It is fun to learn about new techniques and to purchase new products for chasing new fish. My mind is fully engaged in techniques and technology. I have not been this excited about fishing in a while. It is energizing.

My problem is the future. What am I going to do with a my Tournament Cable EZ6 3-Tier Collapsible Dredge Kit with one Standard 24-inch 6-Arm, one Tear-Drop 24-inch and one Tear Drop 18-inch dredge arm, Tandem Cables, Duo-Lock Snaps and Wrench with 31 Holographic Strip Tease Baits and my Teaser Boom with 100 feet of Dyneema Teaser Line, Pulley and Heavy Duty Snap Swivel after this El Nino event?

These, and many other purchases are being considered against a backdrop of 124 newly created (2010) Marine Protected Areas that cover 852 square miles of coastal ocean nearly all of it within the recreational zone.

Maybe it's time for the recreational fishing business interests to get better organized and politically active. I am going to need more ocean to fish so I can justify these purchases.

Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours 888-613-7770

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Original Publication Date: November 6, 2015

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