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Why We Fish

Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies

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Discriminating Anglers Read Why We Fish

If Blake Muhlenbruck of Naked Bait Co. reads Why We Fish. Shouldn't you?


Tonight and Tomorrow

First, Jesse, my 13-year-old Little Brother, and I built a crackling little fire, with warmth that was welcome on this unusually cool evening. The hot dogs charred quickly. We used buns to pull them off the sticks and then slathered them with mustard. They had just the right amount of wood-smoke flavor. Ursa the Devil Dog stayed close in the firelight, in hopes of finding a fallen crumb.

Then we loaded the boat with fishing tackle and paddled out into the starry but, as yet, moonless night. We left a lantern on shore to light our way back and to assure Ursa that we would return. She wouldn’t hear of it.

About  20 feet out, we heard a “kersplash!”  I shined a flashlight beam on two glowing doggie eyes, as Ursa paddled determinedly toward us. I had taken her for rides on other days, and she inferred that we somehow must have forgotten her this time. She circled the boat, whining, until we lifted her aboard.

She did the doggie shake, giving us a Saturday-night shower in lieu of a bath. Our laughter carried out over the quiet water. Now we smelled of wood smoke and wet dog.

Farther away from my property, darkness thickened and I turned on a small electric lantern. Tiny yellow mayflies flocked to it--- and bats followed. They swooped and dived all around us, occasionally lightly touching our lines with a wing. A typical boy, Jesse thought that was pretty neat. Ursa checked under the seats for a pith helmet.

Jesse caught the first bass, and I quickly followed with another, as we glided past the small dam.

And then we saw them. All along the woody shoreline in front of us, fireflies blinked in the shoreline grasses, hoping to attract others of their kind for a little Saturday night frolic. Except for the dam, they circled the lake with delicate green fire, and we followed their beacons as we fished. It was wondrous.

The fishing was good too. During the next hour or so, Jesse pulled in one bass after another on his red plastic worm--- until he cast it into the sticky branches of a tree. A hard jerk broke the line.

“Just put on another,” I said.

“I didn’t bring any,” said Jesse. “They’re all back at the dock.”

Secret: Never, ever, go fishing with just one of any bait, but especially soft plastics. If you do, a corollary of Murphy’s Law dictates that you will lose it in a tree. I knew that, but Jesse was just a beginner. My fault for not teaching him such wisdom.

And the red worm was Jesse’s “confidence” bait. He didn’t want to try anything from my tackle box.

“That’s okay,” he said. “I think that I’m ready to go in. Are there any hot dogs left?”

With the remaining hot dogs consumed, we spread out our sleeping bags and relaxed, ready to watch the meteor showers that were predicted for after midnight.

We talked about bass fishing and building fires and other “guy things” until the first fiery arrow streaked across the sky. The wattage of the moon probably stole much of the light show from us. But we counted a dozen or so before Ursa cuddled up to Jesse. He put his head next to hers and both slept the sleep of the innocent.

As I watched for more of nature’s fireworks, I thought about another child, decades before, and how lucky he was to know generous adults who made the time to take him fishing.

My father didn’t fish, but a co-worker of his did, and he took me frequently to a farm pond. One fall day, a 3-pound bass exploded under my Hula Popper, a moment frozen in time that still causes my heart to pound when I recall it.

And there were others: A neighbor took me fishing in a boat for the first time. A family friend invited me along on an overnight camping and fishing trip. I’ve been fishing thousands of times since then, but those generous acts still are as vivid in my mind as the day they happened. I feel the sun as it warms the orange lifejacket that I wore. I look down and see the purple worm with the propeller harness tied to the line on my Johnson spincast reel. I smell the coffee brewed over a fire and see the mist at sunrise on the tailwaters of Bagnell Dam.

I hope that Jesse will have the same type of memories of our trips when he is an adult. And, when he comes of age, I hope that he will share the sport that we both love with someone new.

(This is an excerpt from my first book, Better Bass Fishing. But it is the exception to the rule for that book. Most of it is about how to catch more and bigger bass. This piece  is more like the content of my latest book, Why We Fish, which is about the many reasons that we keep returning to the water.)


Berkley Honors New York, Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nations

The Berkley Conservation Institute (BCI) announced the award of the 2013 Berkley Conservation Award to the New York B.A.S.S. Nation. The award, worth $2,000 in cash, will be presented at the B.A.S.S. Conservation Awards banquet February 22nd in Birmingham during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

"The New York B.A.S.S. Nation is a role-model for other organizations to follow," said Jim Martin, BCI Conservation Director.

"Their members are making a difference. They have a great plan, are organized and dedicated. The Ramp Monkeys concept is something that every state B.A.S.S. Nation should emulate. Getting youth involved in conservation efforts is vital to the future of our aquatic resources. I salute the New York B.A.S.S. Nation for their commitment to the principles that the Berkley Conservation Institute holds dear."

In winning the Conservation Award, the New York B.A.S.S. Nation took a multi-pronged approach to battling invasive species in the Empire state. State Conservation Director Barb Elliott worked with NYBN youth clubs to form "Ramp Monkeys." These groups attend area bass tournaments and first remove plant debris from launch areas, then as anglers pull their rigs out, the Ramp Monkeys use kid-power to "Clean, Drain and Dry" each boat and trailer. The operation is an opportunity for outreach to anglers and boaters and an educational experience for the youth members.

The NYBN members also continued to battle invasive water chestnuts by physically removing the plants from lakes, canals and rivers and worked with state agencies, lake associations, universities and watershed alliances to distribute educational/outreach materials to increase awareness of invasive species.

"The New York B.A.S.S. Nation is honored to receive this award," said Fred Blom, NYBN President. "I am proud of the accomplishments of the whole organization. We are all working hard to make a difference."

*         *         *

The Berkley Conservation Institute (BCI) announced the award of the 2013 Berkley Angler Recruitment/Retention Award to the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation. The award, worth $1,500 in fishing tackle, will be presented at the B.A.S.S. Conservation Awards banquet February 22nd in Birmingham during the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

"The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation is to be commended for utilizing an approach that highlights the many activities in which their members are involved," said Jim Martin, BCI Conservation Director.

"All 26 clubs exhibit a willingness to get involved in activities that benefit youth, their communities and the aquatic resources that our sport depends on. We at the Berkley Conservation Institute are proud to honor the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation with our Berkley Angler Recruitment/Retention Award. In winning the award, the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation increased awareness of their organization and increased membership by utilizing a multi-media approach at outdoor shows and other public events.

A poster using the image of Uncle Sam was created with the slogan "The CBN Wants You" to attract attention to their booth. A large state map was displayed to help potential members locate clubs near their homes. Brochures were distributed which contained information about the CBN, contact information for joining, and examples of the CBN at work. A continuous-looping PowerPoint presentation was shown to provide a visual representation of CBN activities and projects such as Toys for Tots, The Bryan Kerchal Memorial Fund, The Robert S. Malloy Scholarship Fund, Riverfront Recapture’s Sporting Chance for Youth Day, CastingKids, Wounded Warriors Foundation, Youth Tournaments, the 26-Angels Event, as well as the CBN Tournament Trail.

"The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation would like to thank the Berkley Conservation Institute and B.A.S.S. for this honor and we want to recognize our members who worked hard on this project," said Bob Nelson, CBN Vice President.

Silvia Morris, CBN President added, "We feel that this was beneficial not only because it increased membership in 2013 but if gives up a plan to follow and we are confident it will pay dividends in the future."

BCI is a division of the Pure Fishing Company, the world’s largest tackle company headquartered in Columbia, SC. The brand names of Pure Fishing include Abu Garcia, All Star Rods, Berkley, Fenwick, Mitchell, Penn, Pflueger, Shakespeare, Spiderwire and Stren.


Why We Fish Emphasizes 'Common Thread' That Anglers Share

Photo by Robert Montgomery

“Some of it's light, some of it's serious. Some of it is education, all of it is good. There are only a small handful of Homer Circle Lifetime Achievement Award writers, and Robert is one of them. You'll see why when you read this book.

“Robert has fished all over the world - from South Africa to Central and South America and all over North America. But that doesn't matter when it comes to this book. What matters is that if you've ever picked up a rod, you'll be able to relate. Whether our fishing is confined to the county lake or includes waters across the globe, we have this common thread, and this book weaves that through stories that keep you turning the pages.

“Oh - and if you know someone who just doesn't 'get' why you love fishing so much - give them a copy of this and they'll understand!”

Excerpt from review of Why We Fish at Amazon.


Plan Unveiled to Conserve Fisheries, Maximize Benefits

Here are the steps needed to conserve marine fisheries, while maximizing recreational fishing’s economic and social benefits:

  • Establish a national policy for recreational fishing
  • Adopt a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management
  • Allocate marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation
  • Create reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines
  • Codify a process for cooperative management
  • Manage for the forage base 

Those are the recommendations of the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fishing Management.

"For many reasons, I'm deeply committed to protecting and enhancing our nation's fisheries to ensure a bright future for the great American tradition of fishing,” said Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops.

“It's not only vitally important to our economy, it's also very important to our society and for getting kids connected to the outdoors and understanding the need for conservation.”

Morris co-chaired the group of biologists, economists, conservationists, fisheries managers, and policy makers, along with Scott Deal president of Maverick Boats.

“It’s an honor to participate in the commission’s work and in the development of this landmark document,” said Deal. “This is the first time the recreational fishing community and the fishing and boating industries have clearly set forth what we believe the majority of the nation’s recreational anglers want regarding our saltwater fisheries laws, management policies and regulations.”

Read more here.