Gone Fishin' : Forget the clunkers, how about cash for fishing clankers
I have a Penn 704Z fishing reel that is older than my daughter, who heads off to college next week. I have boxes of plugs with rusty hooks, and three sets of waders that leak.
Help me, President Barack Obama, to upgrade my fishing equipment. My clunker is just fine for getting me to the beach. It is new fishing gear I need.
I understand the point of providing an incentive for old cars. Sure, the official line is that it will promote fuel economy and stimulate the economy.
But the underlying reason is that you are a nice guy. When the Detroit executives asked you to help eliminate the evidence of more than 30 years of poorly built vehicles and marketing missteps, you agreed.
You felt bad for the Detroit guys who had to look at the evidence on the side of the road as they headed to their gleaming offices, while reliable, small Japanese cars whizzed by them on the highway. But, like many well-intentioned government plans, this cash for clunkers program has had unintended consequences.
You have never met Bob "Hawkeye" Jacobs. He is a former software engineer, computer programmer, taxi driver, current retiree and full-time Derby fisherman. I won't try to explain the Derby in this column (Pick up a copy of "The Big One," by David Kinney in a local bookshop for a good Vineyard beach read about the famed tournament), but a few weeks after you depart the Vineyard that will be the Island focus.
Bob currently owns a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee he said he got for a good price. Some would call it a clunker, others, an "Island car."
Ever since I first met Bob he has driven a clunker. Big, old oil-leaking, gas guzzling beasts; beach wagons that provide ample space for fishing rods, lures, bait and more than an occasional big striped bass.
He did not need to travel far. Oak Bluffs to Chappy and back, with an occasional detour to Tisbury Great Pond, Gay Head and Squibnocket, sometimes all in the same 24-hour period.
And when the car broke down, or burned up (honest), well... somebody would drive by eventually. As I said, Bob is a Derby fisherman and that is a state of mind, or no mind if you subscribe to the Zen view of fishing.
By the way, no knock on Professor Charles Ogeltree, Jr. but it is a little tiring reading about the Harvard lawyer wanting to take you "fishing." I know you and he would have fun fishing with an experienced Island charter captain and you will catch fish, but do not let these reporters try to pass it off as a rite of initiation.
Francis Endicott, a 19th century writer and fisherman wrote about a visit to the fabled Squibnocket Bass Club. His admonition for would-be striper fishermen was that, unless you can "take a thorough soaking philosophically and as a matter of course, you had better give up all thought of being a bass fisherman."
When I see the good lawyer and you standing in the surf I will count you in that group. (By the way, standing in a pair of waders on the beach would not hurt your poll numbers.)
Back to Hawkeye. You would not believe what that guy puts in his fishing car. Lures hang from the dashboard and there are mummified eels in various vehicle crevices. The point is that old cars suit a purpose.
I do not want to carry a bucket of squid or throw a big striped bass into the back of a Prius. I just don't see my pal Cooper Gilkes getting out of a Smart Car in waders. No, fishermen need clunkers, old inexpensive cars they can beat the hell out of until they finally bio-degrade into rust.
Your policy is going to price fishermen out of the market. Where will we find our old cars?
As I understand it, you and members of Congress put $3 billion in U.S. taxpayer money into the CARS Program (Cars Allowance Rebate System - who comes up with these names?).
The way it works is that eligible clunker owners get between $3,500 and $4,500 in taxpayer money towards the purchase of a new vehicle. More than 338,659 cars have already left the lots.
Well, as long as my fellow taxpayers and I are doling out money, how about spreading it around. I want a cash-for-tackle program.
Fishing is an important part of the American economy.
According to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), a fishing trade group, "Despite the sluggish economy and cut backs in consumer spending, there are strong indications that recreational angling remains one of the largest outdoor recreational activities in the nation as well as one of the most solid industries in the United States. Annually, nearly 40 million anglers generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation's economy creating employment for more than one million people."
By way of explanation, Gary Remensnyder, executive vice president for Pure Fishing, Inc., a global company with multiple tackle brands headquartered in Columbia, S.C., said, "What we're seeing in the outdoor marketplace points to an increase in family fishing. Fishing is an inexpensive way for families to enjoy quality time together outdoors."
Fishing is also important for the American national psyche. When people are fishing they are happy.
"In times of economic stress, many people turn to simple, outdoor pursuits that are easy to do, are close to home, are not expensive and can be enjoyed by everyone in the family," Jeff Pontius, president, ZEBCO Brands and ASA board chairman said. "Recreational fishing certainly fits that description. We know from past experience that in recessionary times, fishing retains, and even increases, in its popularity."
Think of the thunder you could steal from the Republicans by combining family values and economic stimulus in one package.
When you return from Martha's Vineyard I want you to announce a plan that allows fishermen to bring in frozen, salt-encrusted reels to a tackle shop and lures with rusted or broken hooks for a cash credit towards the purchase of new gear.
The result would be that more people go fishing; more fish get caught; more food in the freezer; and happier people. What is there not to like about this plan?
You appointed Stephen Ratner of West Tisbury your car czar and Kenneth Feinberg, also of West Tisbury as your compensation czar. Appoint me to be your sport fishing czar.
Think of all the Americans who would go fishing if they could upgrade their tackle. Forget a chicken in every pot; I want a fishing rod on every clunker.
I think I can get the job done for under $1 billion. Chump change, right?
Bonito, mini-tuna that provide excellent table fare and sport, have arrived around the Island. Reports have bonito off State Beach, Vineyard Haven Harbor and at the Hooter off Wasque.
DMF public hearing
The Division of Marine Fisheries will hold a public hearing at 4 pm Monday in the Tisbury Senior Center. A number of agenda items directly affect Island fishermen.
DMF will hear comment on rules affecting commercial lobster gear; coastal shark regulations; and rules that would increase the minimum size and decrease the daily possession limit from 50 to 25 for recreational and commercial harvest of blue crabs.
For more information, go to www.mass.gov/dfwele/dmf/.