Fewer go fishing, hunting any more

SANDUSKY Jack Tibbels may be part of a dying breed. Tibbels regularly hunts and fishe
May 24, 2010



Jack Tibbels may be part of a dying breed.

Tibbels regularly hunts and fishes, but he's in the minority as Ohio fishing and hunting license sales have waned in the past several years.

While officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources try to curb the state and national decline, Tibbels said he thinks he knows what's causing the trend.

"It's got to come from within the family," said Tibbels, owner of Tibbels Marina and Charter Service in Marblehead. "It's because it's part of our livelihood. It was something we grew up on."

Ottawa County is consistently among the top five counties to sell fishing and hunting licenses.

But even in this lakeside county the public's interest is fading.

Hunting licenses peaked in the late 1940s with about 725,000 sold. In the 2006-07 hunting season, license sales were about 350,000, a steady decline of more than 50 percent, according to ODNR.

From 1982 to 1989, Ohio maintained a record of about one million fishing licenses sold each year. In 2005, Ohio fishing licenses plummeted to 649,655.

"I think most people would point to changing demographics in society," said Ray Petering, ODNR Division of Wildlife's executive administrator of fish management. "Today it just seems like a heck of a large segment of young folks are out of touch with the natural world. They're content to play video games and stay inside all day."

Tibbels' family seems to defy that trend -- Tibbels, his children and grandchildren all go fishing together.

"The grandfathers are out here in great force, taking their grandkids fishing because they've done it," he said. "That's all we do. We go someplace hunting and we take them with us."

In recent years, fishing licenses have rebounded some thanks to a good hatching year in 2003.

"One thing is pretty clear when you look at license sales -- Lake Erie is the primary driver of (fishing) license sales," Petering said. "We really bucked a state and national trend when we showed an increase and everybody else had a decrease."

Petering anticipates that the 2007 numbers for Ohio fishing licenses will be a little more than 912,000.

Despite the sudden increase, Petering said the decreasing number of fishing and hunting licenses is the "hottest topic" among state resource agencies.

In fiscal year 2006-07, ODNR collected about $65 million, of which hunting and fishing license sales accounted for $39 million, or 60 percent.

"It's becoming a game of who can adapt to the changing demographics and create additional revenue," Petering said. "If you don't, then you're look at your funding declining."

Petering said ODNR has tried to stop the decline through outdoor education programs, like hunter and aquatic education courses to boost interest among children.

While hunting and fishing licenses are declining in number, camping, hiking and bird watching are growing in popularity, Petering said.

"We're trying desperately to maintain that connection to the outdoors," Petering said. "The decision to hunt and fish is an individual decision. We just want to make sure that these young folks at least have some exposure to these outdoor activities. It's sort of up to them where they go from here."