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Pandemic response: Go fishing

ST. PAUL (AP) — Amid a global pandemic, economic recession and profound racial tension in the summer before a heated election season, Minnesotans are going fishing in numbers not seen in decades.

Likely prompted by youths with no school and canceled summer programs under the care of adults working from home, or out of work, 2020 is witnessing a fishing renaissance unlike anything seen in decades.

Fishing license sales are going bonkers, bait shops and boat ramps are busy, and entry-level rods and reels are on the verge of joining the rarefied air of toilet paper and flour as items in a COVID-induced shortage, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

“You name it, we’re selling it,” said Dave Becker, a sales associate at Blue Ribbon Bait & Tackle in Oakdale, where workers can barely unbox new shipments of certain items before they’re grabbed by anglers — or about-to-be anglers. “We’ve had a lot of young couples, and a lot of newer fishermen. And parents with kids buying rods for the first time.”

To an outsider, the bare spots on shelves of fishing aisles might seem arbitrarily illogical, but they actually fit a pattern: Seasoned anglers are fishing more than usual, and newbies are taking up the sport that, until this year, had been witnessing a general decline in participation.

A staple of the beginner setup is a rod-and-reel combo, which often comes with line already attached and a small tackle box with hooks and bobbers. They’re still available — somewhat. Earlier this week, Cabela’s in Woodbury was showing gaps, Fleet Farm in Hudson, Wisconsin, was picked nearly bare — with both stores expecting a resupply soon — and Amazon even saw its most popular combos — the versatile setups in the $40 to $60 range — out of stock.

“Josh has been buying everything in town,” Becker said of Blue Ribbon owner Josh Stevenson, noting that each week the shop either sells out or comes close to it but a new order arrives just in time.

It’s unclear how widespread COVID-19 manufacturing closures around the world affected freshwater fishing supply chains, but it’s clear that demand for a few key items has outstripped humanity’s ability to produce them.

Example: 8-pound monofilament line — the go-to for the typical Upper Midwest walleye angler. “If you find a thousand-yard spool of Berkley XL 8-pound mono, lemme know because I need it for my own reels,” Becker barked.

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