When/if we lose access for fishing on our public waters, it will be because of the following:
1. Live bait and bank fishermen.
The trash that they leave behind --- worm containers, lure packaging, monofilament line --- provides evidence that they are anglers. And we all are tarnished by the acts of a few.
Also, they are spreading invasive species. The Missouri Department of Conservation recently reported that 40 percent of live-bait anglers surveyed said that they release unused bait into the waters that they were fishing.
That can introduce non-native crayfish and fish into waters where they can outcompete native species for food and habitat, spread disease, and, in general, disrupt ecological balance.
Too often, bait-shop owners are selling those non-native species, especially crayfish.
But live-bait anglers also can spread Asian carp after they seine for bait below dams, collecting immature bighead and silver carp --- which they can’t identify --- along with shad.
2. Anglers who “spread the wealth.”
Fishermen who intentionally move a species from one body of water to another to benefit themselves are costing us all dearly.
Resource agencies then spend millions of dollars rehabilitating those damaged fisheries. And the money that they spend comes from our license fees and the excise taxes that we pay on fishing tackle.
Those funds could be put to much better use if not for these selfish and thoughtless anglers.
But the real damage comes from the fact that preservationists can point out these harmful acts as reasons to limit recreational fishing.
3. Pinhead owners of bass boats.
The description speaks for itself. These people cut off others, throw up wakes that can swamp smaller boats, and generally threaten the lives of others on the water.
They may or may not be anglers, but the boat type identifies them as fishermen to those who view their reckless behavior.
In general, I’d say that fewer of 5 percent of all fishermen are guilty of trashing our lakes, moving species, and bad boating. But the damage that they do could be the death of us all.