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Faith and Fishing

Photo by Robert Montgomery

(Teeg Stouffer is found and executive director of Recycled Fish, an organization that encourages conservation through stewardship. This is an excerpt from his compelling essay, "Faith and Fishing," in my new book, Why We Fish. You can buy the book from Amazon--- see button on the right side of page--- or other booksellers.)

 God uses lots of images of nature to describe His Nature in the Bible. In fact, I think that all of Creation reflects its Creator. And early on, God entrusted it to us. He said, “I’ll take care of Heaven, you take care of Earth.” And in the thousands of years since, we’ve done a pretty terrible job of holding up our end of that deal.

But something happens in our wiring when that inanimate graphite rod in our hands springs to life, connected to another living thing. Think about this: Why would it be fun to catch a fish? Why would it be even more fun to watch a big fish swim away? Who knows, but it is.

Logic cannot define it. There is no reasoning to it, no explaining it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. But it is fun. It’s healing, being out there. It transcends a peace, and it’s about more than neurons and psychology.

That dancing rod does something in our soul, and, if you ask me, something in our spirit, too.


Launching Is Easier When You Follow These Guidelines

BoatU.S. photo

The fishing and boating season now is in full swing, meaning this is the busiest time of year on our lakes and coastal waters. Following are some great tips from BoatU.S. for happy launching.

Be talkative: The most surefire way to cause ramp snafus is to be silent with your guests. Speak up. Let them know they should avoid parking in spaces reserved for trailers/tow vehicles. Tell them how you will load and unload (more on that in a second). Before your return to the launch ramp dock, let your crew know what they can do to help. One more friendly tip: don't yell.

Know where to load and unload: Unloading your gear at the bottom of the boat launch ramp, which could have been done while waiting in line at the top of the boat ramp, shows a lack of courtesy Miss Manners would detest. It also is an all-too-common mistake boaters make when launching and one of the biggest causes of delays. Plan ahead. Put a checklist on your sun visor.

Don't be the launch ramp hog: Tying up your boat at the launch dock right next to the ramp, and then going to park the tow vehicle means the next person in line can't launch until you get back. Save everyone time by immediately moving your boat to the far end of the dock so there's room for the next person to launch or retrieve.

Delay-of-launch penalty: Not launching the boat immediately when it's off the trailer and, instead, waiting for the crew to return from the bathrooms again adds delays and simmers tempers. This is true at the gas dock, too. Tie up at the dock, refuel the boat, and leave as quickly and safely as possible. Don't keep others waiting to refuel because your crew has walked to a nearby restaurant - that earns you a serious "delay-of-launch" penalty.

Lend a hand: We all need help from time to time. Be kind to your boating neighbor. 

Go here to learn about the benefits of being a BoatU.S. member.


EDF Wants More Punishment for Recreational Anglers, Says RFA

The Gulf of Mexico is ground zero for the assault on recreational angling. That’s because commercial fishermen are colluding with the anti-fishing Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to further restrict the red snapper fishery for sport fishermen.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) asserts that a lawsuit “argues how recreational fishermen aren’t being punished enough by our federal government.”

It also says this:

The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance is a group of commercial fishermen in the Gulf, specifically owners of individual fishing quota (IFQ) and red snapper ‘catch shares’ – who are themselves supported financially by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). 

“The lawsuit through K&L Gates would force more restrictive accountability measures on recreational anglers in the Gulf of Mexico.

“An ‘accountability measure’ is punishment for catching too many fish; one such punishment is an in-season closure, another is a harvest payback of any overage.  The final ‘accountability measure’ which would forever change the way we fish is the IFQ or ‘catch share’ for the recreational sector.

Catch Shares is a scheme pushed insistently by this administration to manage fisheries by turning a public resource into a private commodity. Mostly it is directed at commercial fisheries, as individuals are allotted shares of the overall allowed harvest. But if used with a mixed fishery, it could have catastrophic consequences for recreational angling, as an infinite number of anglers are restricted to a limited collective share.

The reality, meanwhile, is that recreational anglers harvest only about 2 percent of marine species. Commercials take the rest. Yet recreational fishing, with minimal harvest, is more beneficial to the economy.

RFA is soliciting help to combat this attack. Go here to learn more.



Let It Grow, Let It Grow, Let It Grow . . . 

Photos by Robert Montgomery

Too many lakefront property owners want to make their land as sterile as the carpeting in their living rooms. They say things like, "I have cut the grass to keep the snakes away."

You know what else happens when you cut the grass right down to the shore? Fertilizers, pesticides, and dirt wash in when it rains, harming both the lake and its aquatic inhabitants.

Yeah, eliminating buffer zones along the water will keep snakes away. It also will discourage dragonflies, turtles, birds, and other animals from visiting, and it will deter fish from moving into the shallows.

Photos with this post show the life along my lakeshore, where I allow grass, wildflowers, cattails, and other plants to grow, providing a buffer against runoff pollution, as well as beneficial habitat for fish and wildlife.

The buffer has been enhanced a couple of times by nature, as high winds tore out the tops of oaks and they fell into the shallows. I left them, and, as you can see, fish and wildlife like them. Don’t overlook the pileated woodpecker with the turtles. 

Also, allowing a buffer doesn't mean that you'll be assaulted by chiggers, ticks, and other insects if you try to enjoy your lakefront. I maintain a walking path between the buffer and the uphill woods, and I keep several breaks in the buffer that allow me to fish. And I have fish to catch because my natural shoreline attracts them.

It's a win, win, win situation, for the lake, for the wildlife, and for me.

And, you know what? I’ve yet to see a snake along my lakeshore--- not that I would mind, if I did.


Catching Fish IS Important

The fishing trips we take as adults often take us back in time to the angling adventures we had as children. Photo by Robert Montgomery

When you take a child angling for the first time, catching fish is the top priority. They don’t have to be big fish, but they should be cooperative and plentiful enough to amaze and delight the beginner.

Gear and technique aren’t important. Nor is teaching the youngster to bait his or her own hook and take the fish off the hook. The catch is the thing.

You bait the hook, you take off the fish and, as you do, you revel in the child’s delight as you remember how it was for you when you were that age.

Some of us never outgrow that intense desire to catch fish. The rest of us never forget. That’s why all of us who fish can identify with Chicago angler Johnny Wilkins, who tried in vain recently to set the world record for most fish caught in 24 hours.

Though he failed, Wilkins still caught a staggering 2,011 fish, most of them bluegills, on a cane pole.

“I’m all pruney-handed and carved up from catching fish,” he said. “Two thousand fish is kind of a lot for one day.”

I’ll say. Most of us don’t catch that many fish in a year.

But I do remember when a buddy and I caught more than 150 bass in one day (we stopped counting at 150). Our thumbs were raw and bleeding by the time we headed in, and that was a day we’ll never forget.

Just as our children and grandchildren will never forget those special days of catching fish with us.

When you’re young, catching fish is why you fish. As you age, you begin to recognize other pleasures to be derived from wetting a line. In my new book, Why We Fish, I explore those reasons, as do others, including Bill Dance, Dave Precht, Kathy Magers, Ken Cook, Steve Chaconas, Ben Leal, TChad Montgomery, Bruce Condello, and Teeg Stouffer.

You can check out the book, along with reviews about it, at Amazon. Just click on the button at the right side of the page.