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Why We Fish: 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.

When I was 8, I caught my first fish (as well as a dog or two) on bacon. From there, I graduated to worms, my bait of choice for most of my childhood. I found the wigglers by turning over 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.

Although I fished exclusively with worms for years, I carried a couple of “lures” in my single-tray tackle box. One of them was a knockoff Bass Oreno and the other an inline spinner. They came with a fishing kit that I bought through an advertisement in the back of a comic book.

But I didn’t catch a bass on artificial bait until I discovered the plastic worm on a propeller rig. That was my first “confidence” bait.

It also inspired me to fish with other lures more often. Using money that I made from babysitting, cutting weeds, and cleaning boats, I bought a yellow Hula Popper, an orange jointed Inch Minnow, and a Shannon Twin Spin.

I never caught a fish on the Twin Spin --- and still haven’t --- while the Inch Minnow proved a great bait for catching bluegill and green sunfish in farm ponds.

But the Hula Popper. Wow! On that memorable October afternoon, I cast the popper nearly all the way across Turner’s pond. The water was flat calm.

Based on years of experience since and what I have learned from the pros, if I were to throw a topwater on water that still today, I probably would twitch it.

But I had nothing to guide me in the proper technique that fall day. And, since the bait was a “popper,” I popped it. In fact, I popped it as hard as I possibly could, sending ripples all across that pond.

As the pond returned to glasslike following my second pop, water under the lure  exploded, and I suddenly was tied fast to the biggest bass that I had ever hooked.

Of course, it wasn’t large enough to pull drag on my Johnson Century spincast reel. But at 3 pounds, it was a trophy in my eyes as I dragged it up on the bank. My heart nearly leaped out of my chest at the sight of that fish, and, after I had placed it on my rope stringer, I looked down to see my hands still shaking.

In the decades since, I’ve caught thousands of bass larger than the one that I caught at Turner’s pond that fall day, including more than a dozen that weighed 10 pounds or more.

But I’ve never caught one that excited me more than that 3-pounder did. In honor of that, I’ve kept that old yellow Arbogast Hula Popper as one of my most treasured keepsakes. And when fall comes for another year, I always think of that special day.



Records Set in RF's 2012 Fish-A-Thon

As fund-raising totals still are being confirmed,  it seems certain that more teams fished in more places and raised more money for conservation than ever before in this year’s 24 Hour Fish-a-Thon, according to Teeg Stouffer, executive director of Recycled Fish.

Top winners included Team Playland from Pennsylvania, which became the all-time fundraising leader as it accumulated more than $4,000, and Team J&J Kalico Kings of California, which caught and released 126 quality fish from San Diego Bay.

To learn more and see photos of winners, go here. Also, you can watch a 3-minute video version here.


Candidates Shares Views About Recreational Fishing

Activist Angler sends a respectful “thanks” to Keep America Fishing for asking both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney how they would address fisheries conservation and angler access issues.

“We asked these questions to inform and empower anglers to be active advocates for the sportfishing community” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.

 “Anglers represent a huge voting block that can significantly impact the 2012 presidential election. It is vital to the future of sportfishing that anglers are informed and use their vote as a voice.”

The questions addressed to both candidates are good ones. But, alas, both men (or their staffs) answered mostly in generalities and platitudes.

As you can read for yourself, neither man is an angler. But on the plus side for Romney, his vice president running mate, Paul Ryan, is an avid hunter and angler and a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

Also on the plus side for Romney, he favors smaller government and less federal intrusion into matters that can be handled by the states. The states have shown remarkable success in managing our fish and wildlife, but Obama’s National Ocean Policy (NOP), if/when fully implemented, could end all of that for fisheries.

Of course, Obama does not view his NOP, fully embraced by preservationists and environmental groups, as a threat to recreational fishing.

“My administration is working to responsibly manage our nation's oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes to ensure that fishermen can access the local waters they care most about and that those waters support healthy, vibrant populations of fish,” he said.

But that “responsible management” includes a huge top-down management system in which federal bureaucrats tell us where we can and cannot fish.

“There has been a lot of talk surrounding the National Ocean Policy, so let me set the record straight: the new policy in no way restricts any ocean, coastal, or Great Lakes activity,” the President also said.

And, you know what? He’s right. The same can be said of California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). It has in no way restricted recreational fishing in that state’s coastal waters.

But you know what else? Those administering the MLPA have used it to shut down fisheries. And the same almost certainly will happen with the NOP if Obama wins a second term.

On the Republican side, Romney was asked about his intent to divert fishing and hunting license fees to other programs when he was governor of Massachusetts. Not a good thing.

His answer was a good one. Here is a part of it:

“I reconsidered the decision to divert license fees after I received input from local stakeholders, both anglers and others, who expressed to me why this decision should be reconsidered,” he said.

“Once I understood what this diversion of funds will do, I reversed course and found another way to leave my state with a $2 million rainy day fund when I left office.

“This is the same attitude I will bring to the presidency. I have a plan to get this economy back on track, but I also understand the importance of hearing our state and local agencies and fishermen themselves when these types of decisions are made."

Read the full interviews here.


Lake Erie Also at Risk for Asian Carp Invasion

Environment Report has produced a five-part series on Asian carp.

Part 3 deals with an alternative pathway for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes. Most concern focuses on the canal connection between the Mississippi River basin and Lake Michigan near Chicago.

But to the east, in Indiana, Lake Erie is vulnerable.

Read about the danger here.


Angler Criticizes Behavior of Catch Shares Supporters

Pushed by this administration and environmental groups, Catch Shares is a scheme to manage a public resource (fisheries) as a commodity for the benefit of a few. Mostly its implementation impacts commercial fishermen, as is playing out right now in New England, where smaller operators are being forced out of business by larger, who consolidate shares.

But if this scheme is used with “mixed” (commercial and recreational) fisheries, it also would limit access and participation for sports fishermen.

To gain support in the recreational community, those advocating Catch Shares seek to divide and conquer with “sector separation.” In other words, favored charter captains would receive guaranteed shares separate from recreational fishing in general.

Angler Tom Adams recently attended a Congressional field hearing regarding Catch Shares in the Florida Panhandle. In a letter to the editor of The Sun, he expressed his dismay at the behavior of those favoring Catch Shares. Here’s an excerpt from his letter:

“I was surprised with their obvious lack of manners when they interrupted a full Congressional hearing with shouting and clapping when someone made some statements promoting Catch Shares. It shows their lack of respect for the democratic process. It also shows this group will do anything to promote Catch Shares and sector separation, which will only put more money in their pockets and take away from the recreational fisherman.

“This loud group that represents maybe 10 percent of commercial and even less than that of the recreational side of fishermen is backed by groups such as EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) and other environmental groups who are shutting down our fishing seasons and limiting our access to all fisheries in the name of environmental protection.

“All of us who live here know that we have had more snapper in the last six or seven years than we have ever had, and yet they only give us 40 days to fish for them. These unnecessary short seasons are killing our economy. “Now we have found Steve Southerland, someone willing to stand up for us in Congress to help cure these wrongs and have our plight listened to by all of Washington!

“This is great except for this small group of people that is attacking him in newspapers and on the internet. They don’t care about the truth, only winning. This is part of the same group that interrupted the field hearing last week.

“Part of this loud group is not even from this district of Florida for that matter and the money that brings them here and pays for their articles and their buses to bring them here to disrupt a formal democratic process is not even from this coast.”