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Entries in conservation (175)

Wednesday
Mar302016

I Am a Steward

I  love to fish. I live to fish. And I want to ensure future generations have many opportunities to spend quality time on the water. That’s why I’m a steward.

Here’s how I live my life: ƒƒ

  • I recycle everything I possibly can recycle—newspaper, junk mail, plastic, glass, and cardboard.
  • I accumulate one small bag (Walmart size) of trash about every month or so. ƒƒ
  • I compost. Fruit and vegetable wastes go onto my land to enrich the soil. ƒ
  • I don’t use fertilizer or pesticides on my lawn. In fact, “lawn” might not be the proper word for my yard. A portion of it gets mowed every couple of weeks, but the rest remains natural. ƒƒ
  • Along my lakeshore, I maintain a buffer zone to prevent erosion. ƒƒ
  • When branches occasionally break off the big oak trees on my property, I place them on brush piles I have scattered around as refuges for birds and small animals. If they fall into the water, I leave them there as habitat for fish and turtles.ƒƒ
  • I conserve energy by turning off lights, closing doors, etc. ƒƒ
  • I fix dripping faucets promptly, and I don’t leave the water running as I brush my teeth.
  • I drive a car that gets 36 miles per gallon. ƒƒ
  • I pick up other people’s trash. ƒƒ
  • I report polluters. ƒƒ
  • I am a member of Recycled Fish, a conservation organization devoted to living a life of stewardship because we all live downstream.

From Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen.

Thursday
Jan212016

Not All Hunters, Anglers Are Conservationists. Are You?

As anglers and hunters, we like to pat ourselves on our collective back about what great conservationists we are. We do that  because state fish and wildlife management is funded primarily by license fees and the excise taxes that we pay on the fishing and hunting equipment we buy. Those hundreds of millions of dollars annually benefit all species, not just those we like to catch and hunt.

But contributing to conservation is not the same as being a conservationist.

That realization came to me recently when I saw a post from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) on its Facebook page, thanking those whose comments "led to a vote to oppose the release of wolves in Colorado."

I also saw other comments that leave no doubt that many hunters want the elk for themselves.  Here's just one: "I hate wolves and I hate the people who love them, too."

Additionally, I saw  the above poster, explaining "why hunting is conservation."

No it's not. Hunters and anglers contribute to conservation. And, yes, some of them are conservationists, including me. I write about my conservation lifestyle in "I Am a Steward," an essay in Why We Fish.

Also, elk, bison, whitetail, and turkey all are thriving once again because of financial contributions made by hunters, through license fees, excise taxes, and great organizations like RMEF and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

But many hunters are not conservationists. They are hunters. Period. And, like selfish children, they don't want to share.

That's what prompted me to leave this comment on the RMEF Facebook page:

"RMEF has done great things to bring back the elk, and I am grateful for that. But I do wonder how large the elk population was long before 1907, before greedy commercial hunters nearly wiped them out, along with bison and wolves.

"And I am troubled by the anti-wolf rhetoric here. Those who want the elk back but not the wolves are not conservationists. Rather, they are not a whole lot different than those commercial hunters who didn't want to share either. They wanted all the elk for themselves.

"Wolves are just as much a part of the wilderness as elk and to deny them that place is not conservation. It's game management for the benefit of hunters, who, like other predator species, do not want competition.

"With proper management, we can have both species and a wilderness that once again is truly wild."

I don't want to leave anglers out of this sermon either.  Yes, many practice catch-and-release, and, most times, that's good conservation. But for some, it also leads to an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. In other words, the logic goes, "If the fish swims away, then I've done my part."

Never mind that far too many fish die of delayed mortality because of mistreatment prior to release.

And whether you hunt or fish, you should leave the places you frequent better than how you found them if you call yourself a conservationist. Pack out not just your own trash, but that left behind by others.

Respect the land and water, as well as all of the fish and animals that live there, recognizing that each is a integral part of the natural system. Asian carp, Burmese pythons, and other harmful exotic species are notable exceptions. Introduced into  systems with no natural limits on their numbers, they destroy the balance, just as commercial hunters did more than a century ago.

Tuesday
Jan052016

Fishing Helps Families Strengthen Bonds

What's more rewarding than spending a day on the water with your son or daughter? You share something you love with someone. You strengthen family ties as you help reinforce the foundation and future of recreational fishing.

But what if you're a kid whose mother or father doesn't fish?  Or what if you're that mother or father who just can't seem to connect with your child and don't know what to do about it?

As an angler, Shane Wilson appreciated the value of various state and organizational programs that introduce kids to fishing. As an educator dealing with good kids who made bad decisions, he recognized that something besides fishing was missing from their lives.

And with the creation of Fishing's Future in 2007, he seized an opportunity to not only increase participation in sport fishing but help better the lives of families.

"I founded Fishing's Future to save the family by creating an avenue for parents to engage their children via an educational angling experience," said the Texas man who traded his administrator's job for a first-grade classroom so that he would have more time to devote to his passion.

"If we do this well, and we do," he continued, "families will go fishing again together and that leads to increased sales of fishing licenses and fishing equipment, as well as an increase in health and wellness. And we will do a better job of saving the sport and caring for the environment."

How does Fishing's Future do it well? Mostly by conducting one-day Family Fish Camps via its 55 chapters in 15 states. The events are free and all equipment is provided, courtesy of sponsors. Following instruction, the families go fishing from shore, but the kids aren't competing for the first, biggest, or most fish. Focus is on the parents helping their children  and sharing the joy when they hoist ashore a wiggling bluegill or catfish.

The families also pick up trash as part of their instruction on conservation and stewardship. Last year, 103,000 kids and their parents collected 18,000 pounds. "Thirty families can pick up 300 to 500 pounds or more pretty easily," Wilson said. "It adds up quickly when you have events going on in multiple communities across several states."

At the end of the camp, Fishing's Future instructors encourage the kids to hug their parents and say that they love them. Because they have spent the day together having fun, the effect is profound. Sometimes, though, it's not the first embrace of the day.

"Your program today has caused me to re-evaluate my priorities," one parent wrote Wilson. "Being a single parent and working full time is hard and sometimes I just cannot relate to my 11-year-old son.

"When my son caught his first fish today, I saw something in his eyes that I have never seen before. He was so excited, he even hugged me in public."

Another offered, "I thought that all he (son) liked to do was skateboard and play on the computer . . . I am very deeply moved in my awakening and want to thank you again for a remarkable program."

These "remarkable programs," as well as other educational and family-related fishing events, are conducted by the master angler(s) in each chapter. Volunteers achieve that status by taking the angling instructor certification course offered by their states. In exchange for a fee that helps finance the national non-profit program, Fishing's Future provides additional information and guidance, as well as liability insurance and equipment.

Bass clubs, schools, and even municipal governments have formed chapters, but just two or three dedicated individuals can do so as well.

The ultimate goal, Wilson said, is to re-establish fishing as the No. 1 family-oriented outdoor sport in America. If you're someone who already takes your child fishing, you might be thinking "re-establish?"

But an outdoors website doesn't even include fishing with camping, hiking, walking, biking, canoeing, photography, and even "BBQing" as a popular family activity.

"Collaboration with other organizations and industry leaders, along with legislative changes, must occur, but teaching a family how to fish together independently is the first necessary step," Wilson said. "America will return to fishing and spending time outdoors together if their first experience is positive, educational, and memorable.

"Fishing's Future is fishing's future."

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

Tuesday
Jan052016

30 Years as a Conservation Writer

Steve Chaconas has written a kind and generous article about my 30 years as a conservation writer and Senior Writer for B.A.S.S. If it weren't for longtime Bassmaster editor Dave Precht, who took a chance on me, I wouldn't have had the opportunity. I can't say enough about how lucky I feel to be associated with B.A.S.S. and the many great people who work there.

Check out Steve's article here. And if you want a guide to fish the Potomac River, Capt. Steve Chaconas is your man.

 

Wednesday
Dec302015

Our Right to Fish Is at Risk

At the bank the other day, the teller told me that I had shortchanged myself a thousand dollars on my deposit slip.

I know why it happened. Each of the checks that I was depositing included a fraction of a dollar. I was so concerned about getting the pennies correct that I neglected to devote sufficient attention to the dollars.

In other words, I focused too much on minor details and completely missed the big picture.

That’s an easy thing to do. Most of us have done it at one time or another, and, fortunately, consequences usually aren’t catastrophic. We have spouses, friends, and friendly tellers to set us straight.

But too many of us are missing the big picture right now regarding the future of recreational fishing, and consequences could be catastrophic.

As the administration leads the country in a direction that the majority of Americans oppose, those who dislike recreational fishing or, at best, are indifferent to it, are using their White House alliances to push for massive federal control of public waters. And here’s the dangerous part:

As conservationists, anglers believe in sustainable use of fisheries, while protecting habitat, opposing pollution, and preserving the resource for future generations to enjoy.         

By contrast those pushing an anti-fishing agenda are preservationists who believe in “look but don’t touch.” They assert that humans exist apart from nature, rather than as a part of it. They think that we act immorally when we manage or alter it in any way.

Consequently, the big picture is that a concerted effort is underway to deny us access to a public resource, and, in so doing, to deny and destroy a significant portion of our history, culture, and economy --- not to mention our right to enjoy a day on the water with friends and family. Granted, the movement is only now gaining momentum. Chances are, if you live inland, you might not see any closures in your life time. But the snowball has begun to roll downhill.

Arguably, it began when environmentalists convinced President George W. Bush to designate two remote areas in the Pacific as marine reserves. It has strengthened with President Obama's National Ocean Council, which has been given authority to zone uses of our oceans, coastal waters, and Great Lakes, as well as the option to move inland to rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Also, it’s taking shape via a “catch shares” management strategy in which recreational participation would be capped.

And as preservationists seek to “protect” oceans from anglers, lake associations want to do the same on inland waters. Knowing a good excuse when they see one, they insist that closures of public access areas are needed to prevent spread of invasive species.

Inland access might seem unrelated to the ocean management. But they are two fronts of the same battle.

You need only look to California to see what is coming our way. Fisheries are falling one after the other, like dominoes, as emotion trumps science-based fisheries management. Mostly the closures are coming under the auspices of the state Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). But they’re also occurring through local regulations. In 2010, four out of five members of the Laguna Beach City Council supported a five-year moratorium on recreational fishing along its seven miles of coast.

“There’s no such thing as a five-year moratorium,” said dissenter Kelly Boyd. “You turn something over to the state and you’ll never get it back.”

Dave Connell, an angry angler, added, “We’re fighting a fad, an environmental extremist wacko fad about closing the ocean. I do not know what their agenda is, but it is not to save the fish. It is not to keep the ocean clean.”

Starting to see the big picture yet?