U.S. Hunting & Fishing Down, But Not In Mississippi

The calm water lured a lot of people outdoors on Labor Day. About a dozen fishing enthusiasts lined the Popp's Ferry Causeway in Biloxi, hoping to reel-in the big one.

"Oh, it's been slow right now," said David Bracks of D'Iberville.

Ten-year-old Naajee Harris came out at 7 AM.

"I usually come with my dad or my grandfather," said Naajee Harris. "I feel like I can spend some time with them. We could talk and relax."

This relaxing past time seems to be shrinking nationwide. Based on the latest figures by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of Americans who fish has dropped sharply by 15 percent between 1996 and 2006. The number of hunters also declined by 10 percent.

The trend is different in Mississippi.  Fishing and hunting are still going strong in this state.

"Our sales are very big and they'll continue to climb more and more I think, as more merchandise comes out," Jeff McCartney said.

McCartney is a manager at Academy Sports and Outdoors in Gulfport. He can name several reasons why wildlife-related activities are so popular here: The availability of hunting land, rising interest among women, and parents who are passing on the tradition and training to their children.

"You can tell that they've been taught by the way they don't just wave the gun around, and I think it causes the youth to respect the firearm and look forward to hunting," McCartney said.

Naajee Harris learned to love fishing from his grandparents. Now the entire family will reap the benefits.

"We caught some croaker and crabs," Naajee said.

When asked what he plans to do with them, he smiled and said, "We probably give them to grandma to fry them for Labor Day."

Mississippi is well above the national average for residents who either hunted or fished. The state has about 24 percent of the population participating. The national average is 15 percent.