Tahoe outfitters betting on recession-proof fishing season | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe outfitters betting on recession-proof fishing season

Jeff Munson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jim Grant / Tribune file photo

With the economy forcing many families to retool their spendy summer vacation plans, Lake Tahoe continues to have some of the best recession-proof recreation opportunities around, including camping and fishing.

With the opening of trout season this Saturday, regular anglers should be prepared to move down the shoreline some to allow room for a new generation of anglers looking to provided their families an affordable outdoor vacation experience.

Two fishing supply stores at South Lake Tahoe ” The Sportsman and Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters ” are preparing for what could be a season as bright and alluring as spinners in cool fresh water. The hook sells itself: Lake Tahoe and its nearby rivers, streams and alpine lakes offer some of the best fishing in the Sierra.

And the catch? It’s doesn’t cost that much.

A family of four can spend two or three days of sun-up to sun-down shoreline fishing, including equipment, tackle, bait and short-term licenses for less than $200. Throw in tents, sleeping bags and campground fees and it will cost more, but it is inexpensive just the same.

Family fishing is a trend the retail angling industry believes will continue to grow as the economy sputters, said Jeff Hanlon at the Sportsman in South Lake Tahoe.

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While the Tahoe region has always had its share of visitors who try to get in at least a half-day or so of fishing, the sale of rods and bait picked up late last summer, with more visitors looking to make a day or two commitment with their tackle and fishing poles.

When the economy began to soften in 2007, fishing gear sales climbed to a decade-high $365 million, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, which tracks sales in sporting goods stores. Annually recreation fishing is a $2.2 billion industry.

Sales for 2008 are not yet available. In the last U.S. recession, from 2001 to 2002, spending on fishing rods and reels rose 12 percent to $343 million, according to the association in a report by Reuters.com.

“Fishing is not that expensive to get into and you don’t need to drive hours away to get a good spot,” Hanlon said. “As much as people are coming to Tahoe to take in the lake and boating and all that Tahoe has to offer, family fishing is a frugal sport because it offers an inexpensive way to do something together that’s a lot of fun.”

But the vacation fishing experience at Tahoe isn’t reserved for families and children. It can be for couples and groups of friends looking for the great outdoor experience, said Victor Babbitt, owner of Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters in South Lake Tahoe.

This year Babbitt has ramped up plans to do two and three-day guided fishing tours along some of the region’s best fishing holes. With the economy the way it is, fishing and camping appear to be recession-proof because more people are doing it, Babbitt says.

“The economy has changed things. People who looked to go across country for their vacations in RVs are now thinking about a great adventure that is inexpensive and closer to home,” Babbitt said. “The thing about fish is they are there and always there, and to catch them all you need is a license, patience, and someone who knows where to find them.”

Poles, reels, tackle and fishing licenses are things people will need for a day or two of fishing and can be found at the Sportsman and at Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters.

Besides the equipment, which can be bought or rented, both shops offer something that novice anglers can’t get from larger retail stores: Knowledge of the local waters.

And when you’re fishing in the region, you’ll need that professional knowledge to not only go after the really big fish, but the holes where they swim and feed, Hanlon said.

“What our store offers that chain stores can’t is we’re going to tell you where the best fishing is, how to catch them and what locals are using on the water for their catches,” Hanlon said. “If you want to know where the fish are and how to catch them because our clear local waters are challenging, you’re not going to find this from someone at Wal-Mart. And that is a great advantage.”

Lake Tahoe itself can be intimidating to any novice angler because of its daunting size. Fortunately some of the best fishing on the lake, aside from being in a charter boat catching the big mackinaws, is right at Cave Rock. With regular stocking by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the East Shore spot has a unique shelf where fish naturally swim to find food.

At the right time anglers can pull 15 to 17-inch rainbow trout out of Cave Rock, and, if they’re patient and methodical enough, they can wait around for the 4 to 5 pound wild trout, which have been caught by experienced and inexperienced anglers and even children.

Other shoreline fishing options at Lake Tahoe are a little more cumbersome to get to but not impossible to pull trout out of the water, Hanlon said. The idea is to find spots that don’t have sandy bottoms. Since much of the shoreline is sandy, finding the best rocky shelf to fish from is trickier. Lake Tahoe shoreline anglers can find some success around Eagle and Rubicon points.

The places are “just a little harder to get into if you’re towing children and coolers full of lunch,” Hanlon said.

The very best fishing in the region though is within an hour or less of the lake itself. Some of the best family fishing and camping is at Indian Creek Reservoir near Markleeville, and at the higher-elevation waters such as Blue and Silver Lake and Caples Lake along the Highway 89 corridor. The east and west forks of the Carson River provide some of the best stream-fishing in all of California.

The Sportsman is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. It is located at 2556 Highway 50 on the corner of Sierra Boulevard across from Swiss Chalet. Call (530) 542-3474 or (530) 542-FISH.

Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. It is located at 2705 Lake Tahoe Blvd., in South Lake Tahoe, across from Chapel of the Bells. Call (530) 541-8208 or go online at http://www.tahoeflyfishing.com.