LA CROSSE, Wis. - It's the fishing opener in Wisconsin this weekend.
It's a sport that just about anyone can enjoy and interest has been growing in recent years.
With all the bodies of water around La Crosse, it's no surprise that the fishing industry plays a large role in the local economy.
The latest report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service said the number of people fishing has increased by more than 10 percent nationwide.
Here in La Crosse, it's no different.
A little rain is not enough to keep avid fisherman Jim Kowal from enjoying the Mississippi.20010488
"I'm nuts," said Kowal. "There's all different kinds of habitat. You've got river flow, you've got back water like Lake Onalaska and weed cover."
"I usually go about five days in a row before a tournament. Fish change and move," said Kowal.
Kowal said the great fishing conditions in La Crosse are also ideal for local stores.
"People don't realize, they see all the different boats, but the money they spend here is just amazing," said Kowal.
Ace Hardware salesman Ron Gehrke said, take an industry that's already been growing and throw in the publicity from pro fishing tournaments like the Bassmaster and he can't fill his shelves fast enough.
"Having the elite series here has been for our community an awesome step, " said Gehrke. "We've had to raise our normal end caps up 3 feet. We've almost doubled the supplies we have for the fisherman just in the last year or two. We've had to do this and it's tremendous but we have a good ecosystem here."
It's an ecosystem local fishermen like Kowal will continue to take advantage of.
"Very fortunate. Very fortunate," said Kowal.
He knows others travel miles, to play in the beauty he calls his backyard.
"I'm just lucky to be out here is all," said Kowal.
Gehrke said fishing license sales have actually out-paced the deer gun hunting licenses, which has never been the case before.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said anglers spent more than $40 billion on fishing activities in 2011.
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