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Editorial - Anglers contribute mightily to local economy

After one of the slowest starts in history, the fishing season in Douglas County is warming up.

Although ice on the lakes on opening day kept many anglers away, water temperatures are rising and fishing is getting better.

Our area is brimming with local fishermen who enjoy the hundreds of lakes in the county year round. This area also draws anglers from afar who make a trip to the Alexandria lakes area a weekend ritual or an eagerly anticipated summer vacation.

We welcome these out-of-town anglers back for another summer of successful outings.

According to a new survey released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, anglers who enjoy Minnesota's waters are a powerful engine for the state's economy.

Direct spending of resident and nonresident anglers in Minnesota totaled $2.4 billion in 2011 (the latest year for which information is available).

That amount included $1.4 billion on equipment, $925 million on trip-related expenditures and $41 million on various items such as magazines and fishing organization membership dues. Angler spending supports about 35,000 jobs.

The federal survey found angler spending has declined by $315 million since 2006. The average amount spent per angler was $1,537, down from $1,843 in 2006. The average angler fished 14 days per year. Collectively, anglers fished 21.7 million days.

The 2011 survey ranks Minnesota second in the nation for angling participation. Thirty-two percent of residents age 16 or older have a fishing license. Minnesota has about 1.5 million licensed anglers.

The federal survey of hunting, fishing and wildlife-related recreation listed total direct expenditures by hunters and anglers at $3.3 billion, about $300 million less than 2006. Together, hunting and fishing supports 48,000 Minnesota jobs.

Clearly, there is much more at stake here than bringing home a few fish to fry. Anglers are a powerful economic force that contributes mightily to the local economy.

We can show our appreciation to them by giving them a friendly greeting at the accesses, gas stations, bait shops, community events and other stops on their visits to our area. With a few smiles, a helping hand and some encouraging words, we can help make their time here more memorable, giving them more reasons to return. Don't let them be the ones that got away.