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Anglers Forsake Angling to Support N.H. Lead Ban

In New Hampshire, passage of a bill to ban lead jigs and sinkers of one ounce or less is disappointing, but not surprising. The loonies did a bang up job of making lead synonymous with “toxic” and loons synonymous with “threatened.” Facts and common sense were irrelevant to the debate, as was opposition to the bill by New Hampshire Fish and Game.

The legislation is largely toothless, meaning anglers will just buy more of their jigs and sinkers online and most violators will not be ticketed.

Still, this triumph of emotion over science in the management of fish and wildlife is an ominous sign for anglers and hunters. It’s one more victory for the feel-good, animal rights, preservationist crowd. And one more defeat for conservation and the North American model of fish and wildlife management based on science, which has served us so well.

Even more troubling, though, is the fact that an angler organization--- New Hampshire Trout Unlimited--- supported the ban. The decision did not sit well with Brian Emerson, a licensed guide in the state. In a blistering letter to the organization he said, among other things:

I am ashamed, as a trout fisherman, to think that anglers placed their trust in you to oversee their interests only to be sold down the river. I will do everything in my power to let as many sportsmen as possible know what you have done and urge them to no longer support your organization.”

And B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Noreen Clough noted a disturbing parallel. “Clearly all of the angling ‘elitists’ are no longer in the Pacific Northwest, but demonstrated that they are alive and well and willing to split freshwater anglers into factions in New Hampshire,” she said.

“They do so at their own peril.”

In the Northwest, preservationists and native-species advocates have waged war against non-native bass for decades, blaming the popular sport fish for the demise of salmon and trout. Of course, the reality is that dams damaged native species, while creating prime conditions for bass. Likewise, lakeshore development in New England has caused the most harm to loon populations, not lead fishing tackle.

But anglers are easy targets. While loonies and other preservationists organize, raise funds, and storm state capitals, we’ve shown a remarkable resistance to uniting on behalf of the sport we profess to love. Instead, we make excuses for not getting involved, and, even worse, fragment, making it even easier for anti-fishing zealots to roll over us.

For example, trout anglers in New Hampshire now have alienated bass anglers. What’s going to happen when the loonies decide that they also want to ban lead-weighted flies, flies with lead eyes and lead-core line? Who will stand with the trout fishermen?

The need for angler unity and activism is not just in the Northwest and New England either. In Minnesota, fisheries managers decided to sacrifice the Mille Lacs smallmouth fishery through liberal harvest as a way to rebuild the walleye population. In doing so, they largely ignored investigation into how netting by Native Tribes is impacting the latter.

Writing for the Star-Tribune newspaper, Dennis Anderson said, “When the bizarre becomes routine, people accept it as normal. Which might explain the quiet acquiescence among Mille Lacs anglers since the Department of Natural Resources recently announced its two-fish walleye limits for the lake beginning May 11.”

And he closed with this: “Fundamentally, what bedevils the lake and its walleyes hides in plain sight every spring, and will reveal itself again soon--- routine now as ice-out, but nonetheless bizarre.  It’s the nets.”

But the 500-pound gorilla in the room for anglers everywhere is the threat to access. Right now, the focus mainly is on salt water, as typified by the National Park Service’s recent proposal to set up non-combustion zones in 1/3 of Florida Bay, a part of Everglades National Park. In effect, many popular fishing areas would become virtually inaccessible.

Previously, the NPS went far beyond what was necessary to protect threatened bird species, denying access to massive areas of shoreline for surf anglers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

And the National Ocean Council will prove to be just as fervently anti-fishing, as it “zones” how our waters will be used. Yes, it will start with blue water and coastal areas. But it won’t stop there.

“It’s only a matter of time before they restrict access to fishing in freshwater,” said Clough.

It doesn’t have to happen. But if freshwater anglers follow the example of trout fishermen in New Hampshire, it surely will.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Passing It On

Page 122. Fishingi is about spending time together--- as well as catching fish. Photo by Robert MontgomeryThis photo is from my new book, Why We Fish. Please check it out at Amazon or NorLights Press.

It accompanies an essay entitled "Passing It On" by Ben Leal," which begins this way:

The sun rises above the trees. The tires of the boat trailer touch the water. Over the lake, a fine mist makes morning’s air visible. After we remove the tie downs, back down the ramp, and shove the boat off the trailer, our day of fishing is about to begin. With the first turns of the motor, my son and I take our seats.

“Dad?” he asks. “Can I help you drive?”

 Smiling, I tell him to join me at the motor; we’ll share the captain’s chair together. Grabbing the tiller handle, I look down at him . . . “Okay buddy, where to?”  


Smallmouth Angler Catches Monster Muskie

Record-Eagle photo

Imagine connecting to this monster muskie while fishing for smallmouth bass with 8-pound line and a single-hook tube bait.

That’s just what happened to Jim Vozar, while fishing the east arm of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

Weighing 52-pounds, the fish pulled the boat around for 20 minutes before tiring enough for Capt. Tony DeFilippo to get it into a net.

The fish then broke the net in two as the guide tried to lift it into the boat.

“It’s a miracle we got that fish in the boat,” said Vozar, who released it after weighing and measuring it, as well as taking photos.

The fish is 6 pounds shy of the Michigan state record for Great Lakes muskie. Coincidentally, that fish also was caught on 8-pound line.

Go here to learn more


Fishing Tops List for Lightning-Strike Fatalities

NOAA caption

Three of us were fishing on Florida’s Lake Crescent one afternoon in early summer. Skies were partly cloudy, and bad weather was the farthest thing from our minds. We were concentrating on trying to find crappie.

But then Jay from New Jersey said, “Look at my line. What does it mean when it’s standing up in the air like that?

Dave, a long-time Florida resident, knew exactly what it meant. “It means we have to get out of here. Now!” he said as he cranked up the big engine.

Just as we reached the shelter of a boat house, thunder cracked and lightning lit up the sky.

If we hadn't moved quickly, that lightning just might have struck one of our graphite rods, causing a boatload of fatalities.

And we had almost no warning.

I’m sure that’s happened to other fishermen as well, some of whom were not as lucky as we were. In fact, since 2006, fishing tops the list for lightning-strike fatalities among leisure activities, according to the National Weather Service.

In other words, golfers are no longer primary targets. As a matter of fact, fatalities for that activity rank not only behind fishing, but camping, boating, and soccer.

Go here to learn more and to find out how to better protect yourself.

By the way, Florida from late May through September is a prime location for lightning strikes. Check out the stats here.


Why We Fish Revealed in a Child's Smile

That’s 9-year-old Dalton Perry in the photo. He’s holding an 8-pounds-plus bass that he caught on a Father’s Day fishing trip with his father, Steve.

With the recent publication of my new book, Why We Fish, on my mind, I couldn’t help but think that Dalton’s joy show why.

Coincidentally, Steve contacted me when learned about the book because he plans to talk about that very subject to youngsters attending this year’s Texas Bass Brigade camp for high school students at the Warren Ranch. (I’m sending copies of my book for Steve to share with the kids.)

Bass Brigade is a unique educational program designed to teach youth about aquatic ecosystems and natural resource management. In addition to fishing, ethics, stewardship, and water safety, they learn about wildlife and plants, as well as water quality and quantity. They’re also instructed in life skills, including leadership, team-building, critical thinking, and communication.