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Entries in plastic baits (32)

Tuesday
May052015

Pitch Those Plastic Baits Properly

I never tossed used plastic baits into the water. It just didn’t make sense to me. They are no more food for fish than the wrapper from peanut butter crackers or a soda can.

But I saw other people do it, including friends and even some professional anglers. If those discarded baits were in reach before they sank, I’d nonchalantly pick them up and stow them to throw away later on shore. Yet I never said anything to them for a number of reasons, including the fact that often I was fishing out of their boats.

Others, I suspect, have had similar experiences with their fishing buddies.

Why do people who wouldn’t otherwise litter think that it’s okay to pitch used baits into our lakes and rivers? I don’t think that they do. I believe that they just don’t think about it at all. It’s part of the age old problem that we have with using our public waters for trash receptacles--- out of sight, out of mind.

But those discarded baits show up eventually. They’re washed ashore. They’re exposed on the lake bottom during low water. Or, less commonly, they’re found in the stomachs of fish.

When people who don’t fish see this plastic litter, they shake their heads in disgust and view all of us as thoughtless slobs, even though in reality, only a few are responsible.

Still, this is an anglers only problem. We are the only ones who use those baits, and, consequently, we are the only ones who discard them.

And if we don’t take care of the problem on our own, non-anglers will, with possibly catastrophic consequences for those of us who love to fish. Foreshadowing of what could lie ahead nationally occurred in Maine last year, with an attempt to ban soft plastic baits.

Here and there, a few conscientious anglers have addressed the problem in recent years. Up in Minnesota, Mickey Goetting of the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation melts and molds used baits into new ones. Carl Wengenroth at Lake Amistad does the same with River Slung Lures.  And in Florida, state conservation director Eamon Bolten has founded ReBaits, a recycling program that he hopes to expand.

But we’ve needed more, and now we have it, thanks to Keep America Fishing (KAF), the grassroots angler advocacy arm of the recreational fishing industry. The new national campaign is labeled, appropriately enough, “Pitch It,” and it has no less than Kevin VanDam as a spokesman.

“There’s no excuse for throwing anything in the water that isn’t going to break down immediately,” said VanDam. “A crusty sandwich is one thing, but old plastics, fishing line, or any tackle should be carried to shore at the end of the day.

“We have to lead by example.”

Industry leaders at the American Sportfishing Association recognized the need for a national effort because of what happened in Maine, according to Liz Ogilvie, KAF director.

“However, we would like to extend the campaign beyond soft plastic baits to address trash of any type littering our nation’s waterways.

“Our industry has stepped up to take the initiative to tackle this problem head-on and demonstrate that recreational anglers are --- as always--- the best stewards of our nation’s waterways.”

Anglers also buy more than $490 million worth of soft plastic baits a year, nearly double the amount of the next most widely sold lure type, according to Southwick Associates. Additionally, more than 57 percent of those who bought lures in 2014, included soft plastics in their purchases. In other words, plastic baits are indispensable for both fishermen and industry.

On the negative side, University of Wisconsin students in 2009 calculated that 25 million pounds of baits end up in lakes, rivers, and streams annually, while Maine Inland Fisheries put the amount at 20 million pounds.

Both the positive and the negative stats underscore the importance of anglers supporting the Pitch It campaign. Please, go to www.pledgetopitchit.org and pledge to dispose of your used baits in a recycling canister or the trash, instead of the water.

And if you see someone throwing baits in the water or on the ground, speak up. We’ve been silent about this long enough.

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

Friday
Apr032015

Join the Pitch It Campaign to Keep Plastics Out of Our Waters

 

Please pledge to “pitch it” in Keep America Fishing’s (KAF) new campaign to prevent used plastic baits and other trash from littering our waters and  shorelines.

KAF says this:

“What happens when soft baits get torn or worn out? Too often, they are ending up as litter at the bottoms of ponds, lakes and rivers and that’s causing problems. Recently in Maine, a bill was introduced that would have banned the sale and use of soft plastic lures.

“That’s why Keep America Fishing created the Pitch It campaign to talk to fishermen about the proper disposal of worn out soft baits. By standing up against litter, we can protect our precious natural resources while taking away a powerful argument from those who want to regulate the contents of our tackle boxes. That’s a win-win!”

Go here to take the pledge and hear a short video by Kevin VanDam in support of the effort.

By the way, I started warning about the problems caused by discarded plastic baits back in 2011, first in B.A.S.S. Times and then at Activist Angler. Angler Joe Ford, who caught a large bass with a stomach full of discarded baits, and Carl Wengenroth at The Angler's Lodge on Lake Amistad first brought this issue to my attention. Here are a couple of those early articles:

Discarded Baits Could Be a Killer; Put Them in the Trash

We Have a Problem

Sunday
Mar232014

Maine Fisheries Opposes Plastics Ban, But Anglers Need to Be Better Stewards

Eamon Bolten started the ReBaits program in Florida.

In deciding not to recommend a ban on soft plastic baits to the state legislature, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) followed the science. Biologist Dana DeGraaf, who is the trout and landlocked salmon specialist, especially deserves recognition for his diligence in compiling data, researching composition of plastic and biodegradable baits, and donning SCUBA gear to get a first-hand look at discarded baits in Maine fisheries.

It remains to be seen, though, whether those in the legislature who pushed for the ban in 2013 will accept the recommendation and alternative actions suggested by IFW. As in the Pacific Northwest, prejudice is strong against bass, an introduced species in many Maine waters. Coldwater anglers argue that if the bass weren’t there, neither would the discarded plastics.

One study cited by those who want the ban involved hatchery brook trout in a laboratory, with 63 percent of the 38 fish eating plastics. But that shouldn’t be at all surprising since the baits were mixed in with pelletized food.

As with bass, only anecdotal evidence exists that wild trout and salmon eat the discards. For example, in nearby Vermont, biologist Shawn Good said that he has received reports of trout with baits in their stomachs, and he’s also seen some abnormally skinny bass.

“I’ve killed a number of them over the years just to open them up and try to see what’s wrong with them,” he said. “A lot of these fish had two or three soft plastics in their stomachs. So we know they can affect individual fish.”

But, as in Maine, no research supports the notion that entire fisheries are being harmed by the discards. “I don’t think banning them is necessarily the right move,” Good explained. “But it’s something we should keep an eye on and let anglers know about, so they can try to reduce the amount that ends up in lakes.”

Which is exactly what DeGraaf and IFW recommended to the Maine legislature. “It’s mostly a littering problem,” the biologist said.

Sad to say, of that there was ample evidence, both from visual checks at launch sites and from underwater observations.

“Many discarded SPLs were readily observed visually from the boat prior to the diver survey,” the report said. “Hundreds of additional discarded SPLs were observed at Tricky Pond but were uncounted outside the initial survey area due to time limitations.

“In addition, multiple piles of discarded SPLs were observed at the toe of the Tricky Pond public boat ramp. This was indicative of anglers purposely dumping used SPLs after fishing and prior to trailering their boat(s) out of the water.”

Some soft plastics unavoidably will be lost while fishing. But, as the IFW discovered, some anglers continue to improperly dispose of their used plastics. In doing so, they needlessly contribute to the litter problem and provide ammunition to those will continue to push for a ban, not only in Maine but in other states as well.

Consequently, IFW’s recommendation of a public education campaign is a good one and something that other states should initiate as well.

“The Department could establish a process for public education and outreach regarding the effects of discarded SPLs and the process by which anglers should discard or recycle used SPLs,” the agency said in the report now posted on its website.

It proposed signs and collections boxes for baits at ramps, as well as media advertisements and printed material in the fishing regulations book. And it recommended that anglers “participate in SPL recycling programs such as the B.A.S.S. ReBaits SPL recycling program. This could include providing collection bags with each purchase of a Maine fishing license and/or advertising the Re-Baits program in print on the Maine fishing license.” (This is my B.A.S.S. Times column about Eamon Bolten starting the ReBaits program in Florida.)

A final reason that IFW does not recommend a ban on soft plastic baits should be of special interest to bass anglers nationwide. It said that a viable biodegradable option doesn’t exist, despite advertising claims to the contrary. “After one week, one month, and eight months post-treatment, the biodegradable SPL showed no signs of degradation,” the report said, adding that no national or international standard exists for “ what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic’ and SPLs specifically.”

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

Monday
Mar102014

Anti-Fishing, Anti-Hunting Movement Spread by 'Transplants'

Up in Maine, one outdoorsman is angry that “transplants” are attacking his state’s rich hunting and fishing heritage.

 “In Maine, Secretary of State Mathew Dunlap certified more than 63,500 petition signatures, more than enough to qualify a ballot measure for the fall election that will ask voters if they favor prohibiting hunting black bears over bait, with hounds or using traps,” he said.

“In 2004, Mainers rejected an identical ballot measure by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent. I can guarantee you that most of the signatures are from transplants who have moved here from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York.

Maine also is the state where some want to ban plastic baits, although no scientific evidence suggests that fisheries are being harmed by their use.

Of course, evidence is irrelevant. These types of measures are being pushed by a well-funded animal-rights movement that is adamantly anti-fishing and anti-hunting, and it has found a supportive base among urban populations whose only knowledge of nature is what they see on television.

Unfortunately for those of us who fish and hunt, these people also are moving out of the cities to improve their “quality of life.” In the process, they threaten ours as they attempt to impose their values on us.

Fishing and hunting is under siege as never before, and it’s only going to get worse.

Go here to read what else the Maine outdoorsman has to say.

Wednesday
Jan292014

Maine Biologists Say 'No' to Proposed Ban of Soft Plastic Baits

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will not recommend that use of soft plastic baits be banned in the state’s waters. That doesn't mean the legislature can't ignore the agency and go ahead with the ban, but the agency's stance is encouraging.

In a report presented yesterday to the state’s legislators, the agency said the following:

“Requiring the sale and use of only biodegradable SPLs (soft plastic baits) is currently not a solution. There is currently no standard national or international definition for what constitutes ‘biodegradable plastic” and SPLs specifically. Based on the information presented in this report, the Department does not recommend any legislation at this time.”

Instead, it appears that emphasis will be on education, encouraging anglers to properly dispose of used baits to minimize impacts to fish and fisheries.

That’s the right course of action, and I applaud Inland Fisheries for its efforts on this issue. (The entire report eventually will be posted on its website.)

No question that anglers should do a better job of cleaning up after themselves, but a ban of plastic baits, as proposed last year in the Maine legislature, was not the proper response. It would have been impossible to enforce and likely would have hurt the state’s economy because of reduced tourism. Additionally, while some individual fish do eat discarded baits, no evidence exists that populations are being harmed as a consequence.

A particularly interesting finding by the agency was that baits advertised as 100 percent biodegradable show no signs of degradation after one week, one month, or even eight months. “The SPL retained the same observable physical characteristics and elasticity of a new, identical SPL,” the report said.

Learn more here.

Here is the originally proposed bill.

And here is an earlier post at Activist Angler.