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Monday, May 07, 2007

Fishing opener boosts area businesses

'I've never seen a year as busy as this one'

By Kevin Naze
Press-Gazette correspondent

Jeff Toneys of Green Bay will be casting for Door County smallmouths today in preparation for the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament in two weeks.

Toneys, a veteran employee at Pamp's Outboard in Green Bay, deserves the break. He and others in the boating and fishing industry have been swamped this week as anglers prepare for today's inland game fish and Green Bay bass season openers.

"I've been here 10 years, and I've never seen a year as busy as this one," Toneys said. "It's been busy since the boat show in February. This week it's accessories like oil, anchors, batteries, trolling motors, electronics, pumps — anything that has to do with their boat."

Toneys said those bringing in boats for service are going to have to have patience. "We're backed up two weeks," Toneys said. "It's like that all over."

Tim Dawidiuk of Howie's Tackle in Sturgeon Bay said with a favorable weather forecast, opening weekend should provide a dramatic economic boost for the entire peninsula.

"It's not just Sturgeon Bay," Dawidiuk said. "They fish smallmouths all the way to the tip."

Tim Landwehr of Tight Lines Fly Fishing Company of De Pere said the March and April catch-and-release trout season jump-started his business by two months. This weekend's regular trout opener provides another boost.

"It's a big influx of people gearing up," said Landwehr. "And it's not just trout. We have amazing fisheries for all sorts of game fish, and people are just discovering that now."

Landwehr said nearly 600 people have participated in Tight Lines' fly fishing schools the past seven years. "It's a lot of young guys and guys who might be retired and have a lot more time," he said.

Keane Lohmiller of Sunset Grill on Shawano Lake said opening day is the kickoff of his busy season.

"I'm anticipating a very big weekend," Lohmiller said. "The panfish and bass action could be the best it's been in years."

Fran Barbeau of Fathead Fran's in Howard is looking forward to his first opening day at his new business on Velp Avenue.

"With the price of gas, I think they might stay a little closer to home," Barbeau said. "Then again, it's tradition, like deer hunting, so all that might just go right out the window."

George Langley of Eagle Sports in Eagle River doesn't think high gas prices will stop anglers, either.

"It might hurt the more remote places, like Canada and northern Minnesota," Langley said. "But from Green Bay and the Fox Valley, we're just a half-tank away."


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