The business of boating is booming this summer.
“The whole spring and summer has been at basically a record pace for us this year,” Lincoln Young, longtime manager at Collins Lake, said Thursday. “2013 has been an excellent year.”
Collins Lake, which saw a record number of visitors in 2012, is seeing a 10 percent increase in attendance over this time last year. Young said only about 15 to 20 percent of visitors are from Yuba-Sutter, with the rest coming from Sacramento, Reno, the I-80 corridor and the Bay Area.
An unusually warm spring and a long, hot Fourth of July weekend pushed both local and out-of-town visitors to the waterways. At Bullards Bar Reservoir, optimism in the economy has reflected in boat rentals and concession sales.
“Holiday weekends are the busiest times of the year for us. Falling on a Thursday, people were able to spend a couple of extra days here. Everything we had we sold or rented, everything,” said Billy Graham, office manager at the reservoir’s Emerald Cove Marina.
Graham said during the four-day weekend, the marina sold about 12 tons of ice, about double what it sells during a cooler period. What has changed this summer isn’t really attendance, he said: It’s the discretionary dollar to spend on things like soda and ice cream.
“They’re more inclined to spend money on novelty items,” Graham said, noting personal watercraft rentals have seen an uptick. “That’s a rental where you would just splurge on it.”
Revenue at the marina is well ahead of last year’s pace, Graham said, and campsites at Bullards Bar are essentially sold out from now until students go back to school.
Graham said the marina had about a 15 percent increase in staffing this year. Young said Collins Lake has 57 employees this summer, up about three or four workers from last year. Sutter Marine Inc. in Yuba City, which opened in 1972, reports good business as well. Store owner Brian Tahara said business has progressively improved each year. Service repairs draw the most revenue for the store, and Tahara said customers have been bringing in old vessels, rather than purchasing new ones.
“We’re seeing a lot of used stuff coming in that’s been in the barn for years,” Tahara said.
Purchasing and operating a boat is affordable for River Valley High School student Dallas Abrams, 16, who stopped by Sutter Marine around noon on Friday. He’s spent the summer fishing on his jonboat that was bought used for $400.
“It’s fine,” he said about the cost of gas.
The fishing connection
Johnson’s Bait & Tackle in Yuba City is seeing more customers following the Feather River’s start of the salmon season on Tuesday. Sales associate Johnny Angel said the striper fishing season wasn’t so great this year because of lower waters, but that things picked up after the shop’s recent salmon seminar.
“We were kind of in a bit of a slump, customer-wise,” he said.
On a busy Friday, shop owner Bob Boucke said the striper and salmon seasons are the most popular, and tourists here to fish also support fishing guide services and hotels.
The Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corp. provides these 2010 statistics on visitor spending for the two counties:
Accommodations: $16.9 million.
Food and Beverage Service: $37.2 million.
Food Stores: $12.7 million.
Ground Transportation/Fuel: $29.4 million.
Arts/Entertainment/Recreation: $17 million.
Retail Sales: $138.9 million.