Fishing has a unique quality in that nobody is left behind. Barriers and hurdles for entry and participation are very low. Regardless of where a person lives, their economic status, man or woman, young or old, participation and enjoyment of the sport is easily attainable. Endless varieties of fishing niches exist to accommodate all! Fishing also has the quality of scalability, meaning that a person can begin very basic and then over time invest in more equipment and plan more exotic adventures.
A huge barrier for many sports is of course money! For example, the average green fee to play golf in the United States in 2020 was $61. Ski lift tickets across the U.S. average $94. Water skiing/wake boarding has a steep upfront cost of purchasing a boat. Jet skiing, well requires buying a jet ski. However, with fishing, upfront costs can be minimal, consisting of a fishing license and some basic gear. First of all, a boat is not a necessity to enjoy fishing. Decent shorelines, river/stream banks, and fishing piers are available in most areas. For example, in Minnesota there are lakes with designated fishing piers. There are also many public lands on our lakes where shore fishermen can set up. On Lake Minnetonka for example, nearly every channel between lake basins has an area for shore fishermen. Then there are many streams and rivers where anglers can walk the banks and catch fish. Depending on the river/stream just about any species can be targeted, whether it be steelhead around Lake Superior, or sand sturgeon and catfish on the Minnesota River.
The beauty of fishing is that it has the option of scalability. A person can begin with the minimum and then over time, invest in more equipment and plan more exotic adventures. If the desire to get off the bank is eating at you, the cheapest way is to purchase a float tube. This is basically an innertube mated with chest waders. I have friends that take these to small lakes with limited boat traffic and/or no public boat launches. They get into some awesome catches! In the north, ice-fishing is a great way to move off shore. Costing a bit more, but providing greater range are canoes and kayaks. Kayak fishing is becoming very popular even on bigger lakes. I’ve seen them fishing ledges in the middle of Kentucky Lake! Kayak bass tournaments are everywhere now, providing a lower cost for competitive angling. More money will be needed to own a fishing boat/motor, but even here a wide range in prices are offered. Generally, bigger boats and motors mean a higher cost. Remember, fish don’t care how much money is spent on a boat. Great catches and fun times can be experienced from a $14,000 rig as well as a $70,000 one. I imagine at the apex of the scale would be owning a large, deep sea sportfishing boat. They’re spendy, they burn oodles of gasoline, and the deep sea fishing equipment costs a bundle, but I am not aware of other options to experience that type of fishing (although I have viewed some kayak videos where they have ventured pretty far off shore).
The other part of scalability pertains to the money invested into fishing destinations. Fishing options close to home may not cost anymore than commuting to work. So participation may only require less than 30 minutes to reach fishable waters, and less than $30 in gasoline. Growing up as a kid in New Brighton, MN, my friends and I had multiple fishing options all within a reasonable bike ride! We had a blast catching carp, bullheads, panfish, northern pike, and the odd snapping turtle. The stories and mishaps these adventures generated are well remembered amongst my pals. Arid regions unfortunately may have fewer options nearby. Beyond home, exist the weekend trips. These would be destinations perhaps within 300 miles, but far enough away to require lodging. But then ultimately, what fisherman doesn’t dream of fishing some exotic location? For example, outfitters will fly clients into secluded Canadian lakes stuffed with fish that barely ever see anglers. Or how about booking a deep sea adventure based in a Central American country? Or imagine finding yourself in the Amazon jungle battling peacock bass? That’s scalability for you!
A fish doesn’t care who you are either! When a fish grabs the bait, it doesn’t know who is holding the rod and reel. Age, sex, and physical appearance does not matter. A fish will take the bait from a rod held by a 5-year-old girl just as well as that held by a 75-year-old man. A person can begin fishing very young and enjoy it into old age. Plus the young can participate right alongside the old at the same time. This shared experience across generations is a wonderful opportunity for the passing of family stories and fishing traditions.
Because fishing is so diverse, offering countless niches of opportunity, fishing enthusiasts can find a niche that best fits into their lifestyle and personality. For example, even ice fishing has its own niches. I always tell people from the south that ice fishermen fall into two niches – those who emphasize the pursuit of catching fish and the others who use their ice fishing house to party and play cards with their buddies. The first bunch will fish will a portable ice house that can be repositioned in an instant. They also drill, drill, drill, and drill some more until fish are found. A variety of tackle options is at their side and they are armed with electronics, mapping, and possibly underwater cameras. Now the party bunch, they tend to have ice houses resembling small motor homes which require a four-wheel truck to move. Inside you’ll find TVs, gaming consoles, poker chips, elaborate cooking paraphernalia, beds, Triple Crown Royal, and similar such. Oh, and a minnow will go down on a rattle reel over in the corner.
Sure, fishing isn’t for everybody, but fortunately for those interested, there are tons of options and niches available. This broad spectrum of diversity and opportunity allow fishing to be available to everyone! And it allows each angler to suit and customize their experience to accommodate who they are and the adventures they desire!