The amazing popularity of saltwater fishing

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During recent interviews with recreational saltwater anglers all around the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific coasts, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discovered that the spotted sea trout was the most popular catch in 2008. According to NOAA, spotted sea trout are caught in large numbers in the Gulf of Mexico and the south Atlantic regions, which have the highest combined concentration of saltwater anglers in the nation.

As I peruse the report, I can believe that in the Caribbean waters the grouper is most frequently sought, but I found it hard to swallow that the summer flounder was the most popular saltwater fish in the Mid-Atlantic states.

What? Flounder? Look here, NOAA, we Mid-Atlantic fishermen go after striped bass – rockfish we prefer to call them – and after that it has to be the bluefish and white perch. Yes, we like flounder, but I had no idea that this flat, bottom-dwelling summer species rated the top spot.

The NOAA report said that the striped bass was most popular in the North Atlantic, which I suppose means the New England states. In the general Pacific it was the chub mackerel and in the Pacific Northwest, the black rockfish (no relation to the striped bass) was most favored, and in the Western Pacific the skipjack tuna rated the top spot.

NOAA said saltwater recreational fishing continued to provide important economic benefits to America’s coastal communities in 2008, attracting recreational anglers to fish from charter boats, their own craft, or from shorelines, as well bring fishermen into tackle shops to buy bait and equipment, stay in local inns and eat at local restaurants.

Because of the high gasoline costs, saltwater recreational anglers took an estimated 85 million fishing trips last year, down slightly from the 93 million trips estimated in 2007.

NOAA said these anglers caught an estimated 464 million fish in 2008, also down a bit from the 475 million caught in 2007. However, that the decreases were moderate reflects stability in saltwater angling.

“Saltwater recreational fishing is one of the most popular outdoor sports in America, and those who take part in it bring economic vitality to coastal towns and cities,” said NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco. Saltwater angling generates an estimated $82 billion in sales and supports more than 500,000 jobs annually, according to the most recent figures available to NOAA.

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