A few years ago on “Wildfire,” a television show hosted by George Smith and Harry Vanderweide, the manager of a restaurant and inn in Freeport highlighted the risky nature of tourism strategies developed around an unstable fish or wildlife resource.

In a polite but no-nonsense manner, the innkeeper criticized Maine Guides and outfitters for pushing brook trout while praising his sports-packaging angle of targeting striped bass, at the time a world-class sport in this state.

Back then, our brookies were struggling, while stripers were booming.

So, according to this successful businessman, why push brookies when stripers swarmed along the coast and up rivers from May through October?

Crank the clock ahead to December 2010, and Maine’s striper fishery — if not collapsed — has certainly declined big time.

Theories abound for these woes, blaming everything from commercial-fishing exploitation in states south of us to summer sand eel blooms off the Massachusetts coast. The latter concentrates the stripers south of us during northerly migrations.

Not to belabor Maine’s striper problems, but last season, an angler walking by me at Popham zinged this fishery with a touch of wit.

“Hey, Ken,” he said with a wry smile, “got ja’ striper yet this year?”

It took me a few seconds to grasp his take-off on the perennial question, “Got ja’ deer yet?” He was intimating that we can expect one striper per season, but of course, it’s not that bad — yet.

In the 1990s, dumping money into a striper-guiding business made sense, but that investment strikes me as chancy these days.

Meanwhile, our north-country brook trout are showing glimmers of hope, thanks to the brookie initiative Forrest Bonney, a fisheries biologist at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, started several years ago. He has retired, but the program continues to improve this fishery.

In recent years, Maine fly rodders are telling me about catching north-country brook trout that resemble the giants from northern Canada.

One such successful angler, Dr. Roger Hall of Augusta, has targeted Maine’s big brook trout and chases them with dogged determination. He has told me stories about Maine’s northern brookie ponds and shown photos of fish that he describes in pounds, not inches.

In short, in a decade, brookies and stripers have flip-flopped. Pity the guide trying to target one species. Development or management changes can easily alter a resource for the worse or better in 10 years.

Small-business owners relying on fish and game often criticize Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development for pushing “lobsters and lighthouses.” However, L&L offers a dependable market year after year, decade after decade — as do most green sports or any business that doesn’t rely on unstable fish and wildlife resources.

(Bear and moose hunting and black-bass fishing are apparently holding up and have looked safe for investors for decades.)

Successful guides and outfitters, particularly in job-strapped northern and eastern Maine, have changed with the times, and two prospering markets include snowmobiling and ATVing, the latter in its infancy as a sport.

And on the opposite end of the combustion-engine spectrum, green sports such as backpacking, cross-country skiing, kayaking, canoe-tripping, rafting and bicycling can and do offer a stable platform to build tourism.

One green sport is really taking off, and here’s a striking example:

On Nov. 6, a Saturday, meteorologists had predicted warm weather, so I bicycled rather than deer-hunted. My ramble took me on roads through ideal deer habitat in Belgrade, Mt. Vernon, Readfield and Fayette.

That day, I saw 30 bicyclists, give or take a couple, but did not see a single parked vehicle that might have belonged to a hunter.

It’s no hyperbole to say the observation shocked me.

If I were out to make guiding money these days, I’d offer packages for road bicycling from one bed and breakfast or quaint inn to another. It would be a fun job, with built-in clients just itching to pedal in Maine.

Right now, the League of American Bicyclists has ranked Maine as the third best bicycling state in the nation because those all-important amenities for the sport are already in place. Like L&L, biking that doesn’t rely on fish or game won’t change for the worse anytime soon.

That’s what we’re looking for, too, resources that won’t collapse in a few years. That’s the key to a successful tourism strategy involving the outdoors.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]