Sense & Centsibility Blog

Fishing Without Breaking the Bank

Saving Money Before, During, and After the Season

As you probably already know, fishing can be an expensive hobby.  Basic needs for fishing include rods, reels, boats, motors, trolling motors, life preservers, etc, etc.  Even a modest fishing enthusiast can spend $2500 or more on these basic start-up materials.  My mom always teased my dad, “I could order in fresh Maine lobster every day cheaper than the cost per pound on your walleye production.”    My dad always loved that one…

Some of these fancy boat, motor, trailer combos alone can easily surpass $15,000.  Everyone out there thinks they are Babe Winkelman, and it often appears to be an exercise in showing off shiny new equipment like depth finders and GPS navigation systems.  My grandpa had a sonar GPS, depth finder, and thermometer combo.  He used his brain, a little fold up map, a finger to test the water temp, and a heavy weight on his line to test depth.  Total cost of about $6 in today’s market.

I have searched and searched for ways to save money and have found ways to offset many of the large costs often associated with fishing season, or should I say SEASONS.  Regular angling, big lake fishing, fly fishing, ice fishing; the list goes on and on.

Keep these 3 tips in mind to minimize expenses and still make the necessary purchases for a successful and enjoyable season. These tips also carry over into other potentially expensive hobbies: 

  1. Always shop for used and clearance items first, especially bigger depth finders, downriggers, trolling motors, etc.
  2. Find ways to make things at home, especially the disposable items like snacks, food, and even bait.
  3. There are some purchases that are unavoidable or necessary for safety, such as licenses and required floatation devices.

Here’s how these tips apply before, during, and after the fishing season:

Before the season

I have been there, going from store to store, spending a seemingly endless amount of money to prepare for the looming opening day, where dreams are often crushed, but lies of epic proportion are always born.

Why do we all of a sudden “need” every new gadget available?  Make a list of necessities.  This list is quite short, actually.  You need a license, rod and reel, line, lures, and bait.  This is all you really need to go fishing.  Throw in a life preserver if you are going on a boat or are uncomfortable on shore without one. Everything else is just clever marketing to make you think you need these things.

During the season

Again, keep it practical.  Try paddling a canoe or fishing from shore instead of motoring across to the far reaches of some secret lake.  And why drive by 857 lakes to get to that special lake in the first place?  Less driving means more time on the water.  If you don’t know a lake close to you, learn one.  This will save you a ton of travel time and money in the long haul.

Remember, check your local laws for license and life vest requirements and NEVER cheap out on safety!  Only harvest what you need, and never exceed your local or state laws for harvesting fish.

Be ready for a shore lunch and prepare meals ahead of time to save money and time on the lake.  The best meals I can remember are things that were prepared on a small stove or fire on the remote shores.  It is a great way to spread out the cost of being gone all day.  Be prepared with peanut butter, jelly, and bread just in case the fishing isn’t as good as the weather.

This saves gas, wear and tear, and even gets your blood moving (chances are it is before sunrise).  Also, your ability to creep quietly is much better in a canoe than it is riding a boat with a loud motor that is spewing fumes into the air and water.  I know these seem like little changes and minor expenses, but they all add up to big savings over the course of the season.

After the catch

You have harvested your fish, and are now ready to turn this into storage ready portions.  Many people resort to the freezer if they catch more than enough fish, and some only take what they can eat that day.  Keep in mind that smoking fish and then canning it is also an excellent way to store fish for the long term.  This also opens up the fishing to include types of fish you may normally not consider for harvest like catfish or larger northern pike.

Buying garage sale canning supplies and a clearance dehydrator, I spent about $80 or so and gained a whole slew of jars and rings, a canning pot, and a nice little dehydrator with four trays and several inserts.  Another will get you all the canning lids and spice combinations you could possibly want, with enough left over to buy freezer wrap and a few other necessities.  Canned fish, if you have never had it, sounds nasty. But it is actually my favorite way to store and eat several species of fish.

Again, if you are not big into fishing, but prefer other hobbies, keep the general tips in mind.  Think creatively and always use a discerning eye to determine needs from wants.  You do not need a top of the line rod, nor do you need to buy $300 worth of gear for your new yoga class.  Remember, shop carefully, buy clearance or used, and don’t cheap out on safety.

Even small changes can lead to big savings. Our Financial Counselors can help you create a budget and action plan to improve your finances.  Call LSS at 888.577.2227 or go to our website. Don’t wait - start today to improve your financial future!

Author Malcolm Johannessen is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling, and he specializes in Foreclosure Prevention Counseling and the outdoors.