Monday, August 04, 2008

Is High Gas Prices Hurting Summer Fishing?


Well, duh! It’s true that the high price of gasoline is affecting everyone in this and most other states. It’s hurting the overaleconomy, and yet major oil companies announce they’ve made record profits last year. It’s something to be proud of: take money from the little guy, stick it to them on high gasoline, and as soon as barrels of gas start costing less, we start getting slightly cheaper fuel.

And just think, the gas companies feel p good about their accomplishment. And they probably wonder why everyone is ornery with them. Everyone needs to make a profit but where do those profits come from? You and me, folks.

We have to go downstate for a wedding next week, and I got to chatting with one of the relatives. They told me that spring and summer fishing trips were no longer being considered in their budget. They said they no longer can afford to drive north to fish for spring steelhead or fall salmon.

Another person told me that although he drew a tag for the first turkey season for Area K this spring, he didn’t hunt. He also said that money was tight, fear of layoffs at Ford and General Motor, and a lack of money would keep him near home. No hunting for this this past spring.

Frankly, where I live at Traverse City, people are accustomed to the local gas stations raising prices Thursday, and dropping them slightly on Monday morning. They try to tell us that demand dictates price, and to a point that is true. It’s just become too much for me to comprehend how and why gas prices rise and fall like the tides. The big problem is the increases usually outweigh any decrease in gas prices.

Gas stations have known for years that more people fill up prior to the weekends. So ... the fuel prices get cranked up. Makes sense to everyone except the consumer.

I read somewhere that Michigan tourism hopes more people start traveling around the state. Good luck on that one, because many folks are having a tough time just buying enough gas to drive back and forth to work.

Sure, people can car pool but most don’t want to. There may come a day when people will be forced into carpooling whether they like it or not. We, as a nation, have become so dependent on low-priced fuel that we’ve become spoiled.

So what happens? Big Oil figures it out, and starts jacking up the prices, and what happens, they have record profits several years in a row. Does anyone need a road map to figure out how those profits came happened?

Sunday my wife and I drove around some, and wound up down at the Platte River mouth. Cars line both sides of the road for a half-mile on each side. Tons of people but I never saw a single out-of-state license plate. The majority of the cars were from the Traverse City area. Odd how that works; people stick close to home, lay on the beach, splash around in the river, and go home. It’s been an inexpensive outing.

Many local fuel company owners claim they do not manipulate the prices, but any second-grader could figure out why they raise prices on weekends. I’m not a big fan in trying to get people to do things, but ...

I’ve often wondered what would happen—if anything—if everyone took a week vacation and stayed home. No trips to town, the bowling alley or onto Lake Michigan to fish? How much impact would that have on local oil companies? Would it reach out and grab their attention?

We all know the oil companies could ride that out, and could probably ride out a month-long boycott, but somehow, some way, this business of high-priced gas gouging must end. Both presidential candidates are jumping on the bandwagon for more drilling, less dependence on foreign oil, but regardless of who wins in November, nothing will change. The oil companies have strong lobbyists.

The automakers are working on cars that will run on alternate fuel. Is anyone naive enough to believe that this alternate fuel won’t become just as expensive as fossil fuel? It may even be more expensive.

And then, one trip into downtown Traverse City, and we’ll see foolish drivers going 15 miles per hour over the legal speed limit. They weave in and out of traffic, and crowd up on the next car’s back bumper, goose it hard to get around, and then sit idling at the stop light. That’s a waste of good gas.

They’ve gained nothing but have wasted enough fuel to ruin any chance for better gas mileage over the long haul. So I ask: Are gas prices affecting sportsmen and the traveling angler and hunter?

Absolutely. The summer salmon fishery seems to be sputtering along but the number of anglers are down. I don’t see as many people trolling but there seem to be a few more folks casting spoons or fishing bait off the piers. The cost is reduced when the boat stays home.

Let’s face it. An angler that lives downstate, and wants to drive anywhere up north on Friday night, fish hard on Saturday and Sunday, and drive home Sunday night, will probably spend $75 to 100 on fuel, each way. Add meals and perhaps lodging, and it will cost them a minimum of $300 for a weekend.

If I were working at Ford, General Motors or any of their parts suppliers, I’d think twice about making the trip. I talked last week to a guy that wanted to drive up to fish for lakers and chinook salmon, but changed his mind and fished a nearby river for suckers. He caught some fish, they put a bend in his rod, and he had fun. His total expense was 10 bucks.

Anglers and hunters will soon learn that doing things near home may be all they get this summer. And, Michigan tourism, bless their souls, may find fewer and fewer people making the trek up from the southern ‘burbs.

And they don’t have to look any farther for someone to blame than the national and neighborhood gasoline companies. This has been a sorry mess.

Posted by Dave Richey on 08/04 at 07:49 PM
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