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Friday
Oct112013

Florida Guides Rally to Demand Re-Opening of Fishing Waters

Agitated by the Washington budget impasse that has closed the waters of Everglades National Park, fishing guides in the Florida Keys spearheaded a rally Wednesday telling Federal officials to give them back their fishing grounds.

Participants aboard more than 100 boats, kayaks and paddleboards gathered near the park's eastern Florida Bay boundary, less than a mile off the Keys.

Although Keys state and offshore waters remain open to anglers, fall is a prime season for visitors to fish in the park's shallow waters for prized gamefish such as mangrove snapper, snook, tarpon, redfish and trout.

The park's land and water areas have been closed since Oct. 1. Fishing guides who depend on the resource for income have lost money and are frustrated with Washington leadership's bickering and inability to pass a budget to reopen all Federal resources. They add that, while they find no fault with officials based at the park, they are insisting that Department of Interior officials do something to provide reasonable access, especially if a budget solution is not reached.

"The park being closed means we can't go fishing, that means we can't make any money, and that means the days of fishing we are losing, we don't get back," said Randy Towe, a 35-year Florida Keys fishing guide who organized the protest. "Although we have offshore fishing, which is still good and that's all fine, but a lot of people come to specifically fish in the backcountry for its beauty for the different species of fish."

Towe said that more than 500 people participated in the rally to send a message to Washington.

"These are all people of the Keys, these are guides, these are bartenders, these are mates, they're captains, they're store owners, they're hotel owners, residents, so it's everybody getting together to stand up for what's going on because this really needs to get resolved before it gets any worse," he said.

From Florida Keys Newsroom.

 

Support Anglers for Access

If you are bass fisherman, you've invited to Anglers for Access Oct. 18 and 19 at Lake Amistad. Organizers Tim Cook and Grant Goldbeck would like to see 500 to 1,000 boats there for peaceful rally to support the Del Rio businesses whose livelihoods are threatened by the government shutdown.

"We want to make it a political media event, not a confrontation," said Carl Wengenroth, who estimates that he is losing $9,000 a weekend at The Angler's Lodge hotel and tackle shop, as well as $3,000  in just a single weekend morning at the cafe.

Check back here for more information, as well go to the Anglers for Access Facebook page.

Go here to read my article at Bassmaster.com about impact of the shutdown on fishing nationwide.

Thursday
Oct102013

ASA Calls Shutdown of Lands and Waters 'Ludicrous'

A statement from the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is below. Right now, I’m compiling information from around the country about how anglers specifically and the public in general are being hurt by the government shutdown.

Check back here later to learn more.

By the way, the ASA stays away from blaming the Obama Administration directly for much of this. I’m not.

A government shutdown is one thing. But maliciously inflicting pain on the American people in a petulant snit is another. For much of what is happening now, the shutdown is just an excuse by this dictatorial administration because it believes that its opponents will be blamed for the harm that it is inflicting.

The feds are spending far more in money and manpower to keep people away from many areas than they normally do in terms of monitoring and maintenance for those areas. In fact, many of these places usually aren’t even staffed.

And, yes, I am going to go there. National Park Service rangers and other federal para-military staffers are acting like Gestapo. During the Nazi regime, lots of “good” Germans went along to get along.

That’s what is happening here, as federal employees do what they’re told instead of what’s right.

From ASA:

Millions of anglers are now locked out of federal lands and waters and thousands of small businesses are suffering because Congress and the Administration can’t agree on the nation’s finances.

According to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), federal agencies across the nation are warning anglers that they are not permitted to use public waters managed by the federal government during the federal shutdown. A statement from one federal land management agency says, “…facilities and lands are now closed to the public and public use activities have been suspended nationwide.”

“This is ludicrous,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “We understand that public facilities that require staffing, such as buildings and federally-operated marinas and hatcheries, are not open and that federal employees are not permitted to operate these facilities. But let’s face it, most of the federal areas used by anglers are undeveloped and the recreational user typically visits them many times without seeing a federal employee of any type.”

Robertson further said, “We know that many of the complaints being voiced to the Department of Interior are from angry anglers who have planned trips, spent money on plane tickets, guides, lodging and new equipment who now can’t make their trip.”

As the stalemate between the Administration and Congress continues, the damage to the recreation industry mounts. Federally-controlled waters have a sportfishing community support system that is comprised of lodging facilities, restaurants, guide services and bait and tackle shops, just to name a few of the services used by anglers. Sportfishing in the United States on federal lands supports more than 100,000 jobs, providing $984 million in federal taxes to the federal government and contributing $13.8 billion to the nation’s economy each year. 

“The public knows where staff is needed to manage facilities and developed areas and where they are not,” continued Robertson.

“More baffling are statements from federal agencies saying that law enforcement staff will be on hand to enforce the closure of these waters during this federal shutdown. For example, law enforcement staff in areas like Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park will be on hand to stop the public from entering park waters during the federal shutdown. Attempting to ban the public from areas of the ocean due to budgetary restrictions – while paying law enforcement officers to enforce the ban – defies logic and can only be viewed as intentionally burdensome. Where will the closures stop? Will the federal government close down the oceans' entire exclusive economic zone too?”

Aside from the edict from the federal government that all federally owned waters are closed to anglers and all outdoor enthusiasts, the impacts to conservation are considerable. Every day that passes represents approximately $2 million that doesn’t get spent on fisheries conservation and federal fish hatcheries that don’t meet their schedules for fish production. Not to mention the inability of thousands of federal conservation employees to do their job and an even greater number of volunteer fishery conservation efforts that fall by the wayside. The cost to fishery conservation is incalculable.

“Many segments of the economy are being damaged by the failure to come to agreement over the nation’s finances and the recreation community is not exempt,” concluded Robertson. “The American Sportfishing Association encourages anglers to go to Keep America Fishing and send a letter to their Members of Congress saying it is time to stop the shutdown and get the nation back on its financial track so resource conservation can move forward and the public can once again enjoy its public trust lands.”

Wednesday
Oct092013

Wednesday
Oct092013

The Proof Is in the Popper

I love topwater fishing and explain why in "The Proof Is in the Popper."

With cool days already here and fall coming officially this weekend, I think back fondly to an October fishing trip to a farm pond when I was 15. It was a day that I’ll never forget, one of but many filed away in my brain with angling as its focus. One truism for anglers everywhere, I believe, is that we fish as much for the fond memories that we accumulate as we do for the critters that we catch --- or hope to catch.

When I was 8, I caught my first fish on bacon. I don’t remember why I decided to use a breakfast meat, but bluegills and bullheads seem to like it --- as well as a dog or two that put a mighty strain on my cane pole. (How a gang of kids removed a hook from the snout an angry dachshund is a story to save for another time.)

From bacon, I graduated to worms, my bait of choice for most of my childhood. I found the wigglers by turning over rotten logs, discarded tires, and even cow patties in a nearby pasture. Of course, the poop had to be aged to just the right texture to attract the critters. I turned over many that weren’t.

(This is an excerpt from "The Proof Is in the Popper," an essay in my new book, Why We Fish. You will have to read the rest of the essay to find out about the popper.)

Tuesday
Oct082013

Guides Afraid to Challenge Administration on Fishing Closures

Entry to Yellowstone National Park. Sadly, the inscription no longer is true for Yellowstone or other national parks, as well as vast areas of ocean.

Most South Florida guides will not defy the Obama Administration’s malicious and petulant closure of more than 1,100 square miles of ocean at Everglades National Park (ENP) and Biscayne National Park during the government shutdown.

“Really no guides or commercial interests will challenge this and enter the parks, in my opinion, as we all have to have a permit from the (National) Park Service to operate,” one charter captain told Activist Angler.

And if caught “trespassing” in public waters, they could lose those permits. They also could be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced to up to 6 months in jail for each incident.

“Bait shops, boat ramps, hotels, and restaurants are feeling this hit very hard,” he added. “It’s tough out here as it is without this.”

Another guide said that he received an e-mail from the superintendent of Everglades National Park on Sept. 27, detailing the closures that commenced Oct. 1. 

“Within the e-mail, I was advised the parks would be closed to both commercial and recreational activity . . .

“That means that, in addition to the professional guides, the average citizen cannot get in his boat and go into the park.”

This captain also said, “While I am unable to substantiate it, I have heard that more manpower and money is being spent enforcing the closure than when the park is normally open.

“Additionally, I have heard a report that the Coast Guard is also actively enforcing the park closure. I find it hard to visualize the Coast Guard boats patrolling the shallow waters of the ENP.”

So, while Congress, the President, and all of the furloughed government employees are being paid for the incompetent job that they do, guides and others who make their living in businesses related to recreational fishing are being prevented from working.

Another written communication from the ENP superintendent said, “We are allowing vessels to transit park waters from point to point if it is the only route available. This is especially true in our Gulf Coast waters near Everglades City.

“But even those that are transiting cannot anchor up, fish, or recreate.

“Avoiding navigating through park waters is highly recommended, especially if alternate routes are available.

"There are fewer valid reasons to claim transiting through our southern waters in Florida Bay. Vessels should instead use the intracoastal waterway.”

In Montana, meanwhile:

“They closed something down that they never monitored all year long,” said Rick Law at the Bighorn Trout Shop.

He said the nearby Park Service contact station, where anglers pay a fee to launch their boats at the federal sites, had been empty all summer and he never saw a Park Service employee picking up trash or even enforcing the parking rules.

“I could see it if they had people up here working, monitoring and picking up trash, but they’re not,” Law said.

Others, like longtime fishing guide Richard Montella, questioned whether the agency even had the right to close the sites, since they aren’t part of the nearby federally managed Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

“The worst of it is, we’re paying for this service,” he said. “To put it really bluntly, these people have nothing to do here.”

Some anglers defied the closure and launched anyway, hoping park rangers would look the other way. Others were launching at state-owned sites downstream.

But there was no access to the nearby Bighorn Reservoir as concrete barricades blocked access to the federally run boat launch at Ok-A-Beh Marina. Even an interpretive site inside a log fence along the road to the marina had been wrapped in yellow plastic caution tape.

And in North Carolina:

Manager Keith Matthews disputes the Park Service’s explanation that safety was behind ordering concessionaires to close.

“They have no liability. The liability falls on us. We have to carry the insurance to cover anybody that goes on the pier,” Matthews said. “They have no government employees that work here.”

“We’re using our own employees, doing the same thing we’ve always done. Why all of a sudden because they don’t have people to cover the pier we have to close it?” Matthews said. “That’s what I don’t understand.”

Matthews said he had up to 50 vehicles parked in his lot Tuesday morning because visitors couldn’t park in any of the Park Service lots to access the beaches.

“We’ve been two years without being open at all this time of year because of hurricanes,” Matthews said. “Now we’re battling Hurricane Park Service.”

A Blue Ridge Inn attempted to defy the Obama police state:

At a spot 5,000 feet above sea level and 20 miles from the nearest town, an innkeeper decided Friday to defy the federal government and reopen his lodge.

That stand lasted about two hours as National Park Service rangers blocked the entrances to the privately run Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway after owner Bruce O'Connell decided to reopen his dining room, gift shop and country store at noon Friday for lunch. The federal government had forced the inn, in a leased building on federal land, to shut down at 6 p.m. ET Thursday at the height of fall foliage — and tourism — season.

Yes, lots of places legitimately must be closed during a government shutdown for which both political parties are responsible.  But examples cited here fall square on the shoulders of this incompetent President and his thuggish administration who want to punish the American people as much as possible, believing that Republicans will get the blame.

And considering that so many of our once free and independent media now are his slavish lapdogs, they might be right.