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The Positive Power of Fishing

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Fisheries leaders long have known that successful advocacy depends on economic justification. They recognize that recreational fishing’s worth must be proven by the numbers to state and federal decision-makers who authorize and appropriate funds for fisheries and conservation programs.

I understand and support that strategy. Recreational fishing generates more than $125 billion annually in economic output and more than one million jobs. It clearly is worth the money that we invest in it, and that is something that politicians understand.

But you and I both know that angling’s intrinsic value is what keeps us going to the lakes, rivers, and oceans. We fish for fun, to relax, to compete, and to spend quality time with friends and family. We fish to forget. And we fish to remember. We fish to lower our blood pressure. And we fish to raise our adrenaline.

Did you know, though, that fishing also is magic? That probably doesn’t mean much to the politicians who control the purse strings, but parents and volunteers will tell you that fishing works in ways that we can’t quantify to enrich the lives of millions who endure illness, injury and disability. As much as we might think angling means to us, both economically and inherently, it can mean even more to them.

“Fishing and other outdoor activities are a diversion from the reality that they have life-threatening illnesses,” says Gene Gilliland, a B.A.S.S. member who helps organize an annual day on the water for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses at Camp Cavett on Lake Texoma.

“This gives them a chance to be a kid again. It’s amazing how fired up they get to go for a ride in the boat and to go fishing.””

Fishing makes a difference, too, for war veterans who have been wounded and are struggling to adjust to the new reality of their civilian lives.

“We see the benefits over and over,” reports Heroes on the Water, an organization that takes injured warriors fishing in kayaks. It adds, however, that “the rehabilitation aspect was an unintended consequence of helping injured service members.”

Realization of that aspect of the magic occurred with a veteran suffering from traumatic brain injury. He stuttered, would not talk, and wanted to be left alone. He had to be persuaded to get in a kayak for a four-hour outing.

“When we were helping him out, we asked how his morning was,” Heroes says. “For 30 seconds, he was jabbering away, talking about how great kayaking was, how he caught five fish, and how he really enjoyed the time on the water.

“Then he --- and we --- realized he was talking normally.”

For the first time in two years.

The stuttering eventually returned, but the soldier said, ‘Now I know I can do it (speak normally). Now I have hope.”

Fishing and other outdoor activities provide hope for children with autism as well.

“What I’ve discovered about people on the (autism) spectrum is that they are highly institutionalized,” says Anthony Larson, owner of Coulee Region Adventures and father of a 6-year-old with the disability.

Such a lifestyle, he theorizes, puts to “sleep” the part of the brain that makes maps and encourages creativity. Additionally, those on the spectrum often have issues with their body placement, as well as linking their body with their emotions and estimating where they are in time and space.

“So, when children participate in the outdoors, they are using parts of the brain that normally don’t get used, as well as utilizing muscle groups that don’t get used.

“Another benefit to being in the outdoors is exhaustion!” he emphasizes. “It’s a lot of work to be outdoors. And, like I tell my son’s therapists, he can’t fight if he’s tired.”

Eli Delany also noted the therapeutic value of fishing for his son, and that prompted him to found My Little Buddy’s Boat, an autism awareness program now promoted by many of the top professional anglers.

“He loves nature and the boat’s movement and the sensation it gives him,” says Delany. “He really is starting to enjoy the fishing part of it, casting his rod and holding the bass after we catch them.”

And Katie Gage, the mother of two sons with autism, adds this:

“Fishing has proven to be great therapy. They can find peace on the water, and they can connect their love of science and nature and stewardship. No pressure, just fish!”

So . . . you can tell the politicians that angling is worth more than $125 billion annually if you want to. I say that it’s priceless. 

(Published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


RF's Fish-A-Thon Funds Local Conservation Projects

Recycled Fish (RF) is providing more than $7,000 for local conservation projects as a result of September 24 Hour Fish-A-Thon Presented by Berkley.

For example, funds will go to help restore urban waterways in the Philadelphia area and in Alaska they will go to stop a dam. In Iowa, they will benefit the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program.

Money also will go toward restoration of the Mississippi Delta through Vanishing Paradise and for local distribution of RF’s Stewardship Kits through the One Million Stewards program.

Learn more here.

And go here to see how funds were distributed.

And if you don't know about Recycled Fish, you should. It's not just about catch-and-release. It's about being a good steward in all aspects of your life because we all live downstream.


Can Software Help Stop Invasion of Our Waters by Exotic Species?


Can software help protect our waters from more invasions by exotic species?

That’s what the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) wants to find out as part of a two-year project entitled “Protecting the Great Lakes from Internet Trade of Aquatic Invasive Species.” With assistance from a variety of sources, it hopes to develop web-crawling software that will identify online sellers of invasive species.

“The purpose of this project is to find out what the availability of the species we are concerned about is online, and then provide sellers information on invasive species and let them know either the species is regulated or that there might be a potential risk with the species they are selling,” said Erika Jensen, senior program specialist at GLC. “Also, to provide that information to state and federal agencies so they have a better idea of what the situation is.”

Although this strategy reminds me of “Big Brother” oversight, it is a good idea, I think.  In fact, I wish that something like this had been developed sooner. In a civilized society, some degree of regulation and oversight is required to protect citizens and their public resources. And we’re long over-due for some innovative and effective ways of combating the invasion of our lands and waters by exotic species.

See the full story here. 


Help Prevent Spread of Asian Carp

Here are a couple of good sources for more information about Asian carp:

Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) and Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

Most importantly, check out the fliers at the MICRA website and be an Activist Angler in preventing the spread of these invaders that are outcompeting native species for food and habitat in many of the major riiver systems in the eastern half of the country.


Your Help Needed Now to Save Sportsmen's Act of 2012

The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 isn’t dead yet. But your help is needed if it is to be enacted. Right now, go to this link at Keep America Fishing (KAF) and voice your support for the legislation.

As I reported yesterday, the Senate failed to move the bill because of the dysfunctional government that we now have in Washington, D.C.  But KAF says there’s still a chance that we can save this legislation:

“The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 may yet again come up for vote in the U.S. Senate as members are working hard to craft a solution to the procedural problem that stopped the bill from passing the Senate. A diverse coalition of angling, hunting and conservation organizations is working hard to support this effort and eventual passage, but time is running out.

“On Nov. 26, in a surprise upset, the U.S. Senate failed to advance the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S. 3525). The bill failed to pass over a party-line vote on a procedural motion, following months of discussion with Senate members by a large and diverse coalition of angling, hunting and conservation organizations who worked to create a historic bill containing 17 key provisions for anglers, hunters and fish and wildlife conservation.

“You can still make an impact and Keep America Fishing provides an easy way to send an effective message to Senate members. We need everyone’s support to help pass this essential piece of legislation.

“This link takes you to a Take Action Now page.

“Please help us convince the Senate to bring this bill back to the floor and vote YES for fish and wildlife conservation!”