By Joe Kent
Fishing has always been one of the favorite pastimes for a large percentage of our population. If you are a fisherman or, more appropriately phrased, fisherperson, then we can skip reciting all of the fun and benefits of this sport.
A concern of many on the fishing scene today is whether this sport is still affordable to families on limited incomes?
This question cropped up again recently when one of the favorite family fishing parks, Seawolf Park on Pelican Island in Galveston, raised their admission fees.
The increase applies only to non-residents of Galveston Island; however, that includes a large number of the park’s visitors.
Beginning Dec. 1, 2016, non-residents of Galveston Island will see an increase of 50 percent for adults and 33 percent for children and senior citizens. Prior to enactment of the increase, the rates were the same for both residents and non-residents and were $6 for adults and $3 for kids and seniors.
Today non-residents of Galveston Island pay $9 and $4 respectively while Galveston residents did not see an increase in their admission fees.
This added burden on families and other groups of anglers is just another straw added to the camel’s back and raises the question of when will that incremental straw finally breaks its back.
For the benefit of the younger readers, let’s take a look at how recreational fishing has evolved over the past 60 years.
During my childhood, fishing was my greatest joy. I looked forward to my parents taking me to the water to enjoy a day or an afternoon of fishing. There were almost endless numbers of piers and docks available for fishing and just about every dock or pier owner had no problem with families and children fishing and crabbing from their facility.
For me, using natural baits purchased at the bait stands was a real luxury, as my family balked at paying 50 cents for a box of dead shrimp or squid. Often generous anglers fishing near me on piers would offer a few pieces of dead shrimp after seeing me try to catch fish with chicken parts.
So for the Kent family, an afternoon spent on fishing piers from Seabrook to Galveston was an inexpensive way of enjoying a Saturday or Sunday.
As the decades rolled on, more and more of the piers and docks were lost to storms and other events leaving less and less affordable fishing spots for families and others on limited income to enjoy.
Today the situation is worse than ever, with few pier and dock owners willing to allow the public to fish from their facilities. The reason is obvious, fear of liability.
While there are a few free fishing piers around, the more popular public fishing piers are commercial and require an admission fee. So, let’s take a look at what it costs a family of four on a limited budget to go fishing for the day versus to a movie or other recreational activity.
The cost of admission is anywhere from free, meaning free fishing piers, beachfront, or anywhere they can access water without being considered a trespasser to say the rate at Seawolf Park which would be $26 for two adults and two children.
Gasoline from Houston (round trip) would be in the five gallon category which based on today prices would be about $10 or less and bait could cost from $3 to $10.
Most likely a picnic lunch or dinner would be carried, so we will not place a price tag on that.
The other big cost is for fishing licenses. The adults would need fishing licenses if they fish, kids under 17 are exempt. That cost would be in the range of $70 for two adult saltwater fishing licenses for the entire year.
How about going to a movie? That cost could easily run $26 or more and the attraction of popcorn and candy would be hard to resist, so out comes the wallet.
Other activities likely would cost at least that much or more, so while hardly anything is free of cost today, fishing outings can still be integrated into the family budget as one of the less costly activities. This is especially true when considering that other activities usually take up just a few hours while fishing can be a day-long experience with memories attached. Let’s all work to keep it that way!