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Entries in ReBaits (9)

Thursday
Jul232015

Put Used Baits and Lines Where They Belong--- In the Trash

Great blue heron hanging by monofilament line. Photo by Robert Montgomery

In general, anglers are good stewards. Because they enjoy the outdoors, they understand that it makes good sense to take care of it. This is especially true with fish care and handling.

As a group, however, we've been a little slow to address the need to properly dispose of used plastic baits and monofilament line. Fortunately, that's changing.

B.A.S.S. first started emphasizing proper disposal of baits a few years ago, and Eamon Bolten followed with the founding of a ReBaits program to recycle those baits. Today, we have  Keep America Fishing's national Pitch It campaign, which encourages anglers to pitch their worn-out baits into trash cans or recycling containers.

Additionally, more states, organizations, and companies are providing recycling bins for discarded monofilament line, both in stores and at boat ramps. Florida is one of the leaders, with its Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program and more than 40 counties providing recycling bins.

"Every day, improperly discarded monofilament fishing line causes devastating problems for marine life and the environment," says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

 "Marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and birds become injured from entanglements, or might ingest the line, often dying as a result.  Human divers and swimmers are also at risk from entanglements and the line can also damage boat propellers.

Dolphn crippled by fishing line. FWC photo

"The Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program is a statewide effort to educate the public on the problems caused by monofilament line left in the environment, to encourage recycling through a network of line recycling bins and drop-off locations, and to conduct volunteer monofilament line cleanup events."

FWC researchers note that clumps of monofilament line are the most common foreign objects found during manatee necropsies. They also point out that birds frequenting piers and other fishing hotspots  often are hooked accidentally when trying to grab bait off an angler’s line. Additionally, discarded monofilament line hanging from trees, piers, and other structures can ensnare birds. Once entangled, birds can have a difficult to impossible time flying and feeding.

“It is not uncommon to find dead pelicans entangled with fishing line and hooks,” said FWC biologist Ricardo Zambrano.

Please, properly dispose of both used baits and fishing line, and encourage others to do so as well. It's the right thing to do for fish and wildlife and the future of the sport that we love so much.

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.) 

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
Oct012012

B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Leads in Keeping Plastic Baits Out of Our Waters

Cody Bigford of Lakeland, Fla., collected more than 6,000 used baits. Photo courtesy of Eamon Bolten

This column is intended as a thank-you to the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation state conservation directors out there who have recognized the need for us to be better stewards of our fisheries and are doing something about it.

These guys and gals are volunteers with families, jobs, and other responsibilities, but they are taking the time to make a difference.

I’m speaking specifically of their dedication to educate and involve anglers in properly disposing of used plastic baits, or, even better, recycling them.

Ray Scott did a great thing when he extolled the virtues of catch-and-release decades ago. Millions of anglers bought into the idea, and, as a result, both the face and the nature of sport fishing were changed for the better.

But we’ve ridden that tailwind long enough. It’s time to do more for conservation, especially in light of growing anti-fishing sentiment in our increasingly urban society. When we don’t take responsibility for maintaining a positive public image, we allow others control of our destiny --- and that’s not good.

Why target used plastic baits? Here’s why:

At Florida’s recent Junior State Championship on Lake Okeechobee, Cody Bigford of the Lakeland Junior Bassmasters turned in 130 pounds of baits that he had collected from various events in his area. That’s one person, in one town, accumulating more than 6,000 used baits.

Now, think nationally and you easily can see the massive quantity of used baits that millions of anglers discard annually.

Too many of those are being tossed into lakes and rivers or discarded along shorelines. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some bass eat those baits and, as a result, suffer intestinal blockages, which leads to death by starvation.

The real problem with trashing our waters with used baits, though, is that it’s irresponsible, plain and simple. Leaving trash of any kind behind is wrong --- even if it is at the bottom of a lake.

But Cody and others are spreading awareness and building a new ethic worthy of the Ray Scott legacy. Of course, in the early going, incentives help.

In Illinois, Allen Severance staged a plastic baits weigh-in at the end of a tournament. The challenge, he said, “was finding a way to convince anglers to participate.”

He did that by convincing Bass Pro Shops to donate gift cards for the winning clubs.

Michigan’s Jarrod Sherwood tried something similar for his state’s championship tournament. He spread the word as early as possible that prizes would be given to the clubs that turned in the most baits. “I am sure the clubs have been ‘cheating’ and collecting baits throughout the year,” he said.

“Our course, that was the point of letting them know ahead of time.”

Wisconsin’s Ken Snow said, “Our guys really like the idea (of turning in used plastic baits). Our youth director, Jessie Heineke, took the baits to melt down and recycle into some hand-poured baits.”

South Dakota’s Jeff Brown added, “Our anglers are pitching in and getting the hang of keeping their plastics that they typically discard. We hand out plastic bags for lure collection prior to the tournament and have a receptacle at the weigh-in for used baits.

Brown also said that he has “worked out a deal” with Minnesota’s Mickey Goetting, who is also the owner of MG Lures. “He specializes in hand-poured lures and has agreed to re-manufacture the baits into something our youth program can sell.”

Adopting the name “ReBaits,” Florida’s Eamon Bolten was the first to envision a program in which used baits could be turned into new baits. Ideally, he would like to see it go national as a coordinated project, with conservation directors collecting and sending in used baits. Proceeds from sales of new baits would go to conservation.

But logistics of such a large-scale undertaking have yet to be worked out. Right now, he has contracted with one company, Reel-Feel Baits, to melt old baits into new. He then gives those baits to those who turned in used plastics.

“Maybe eventually we will sell them,” he said.

Meanwhile, he is encouraged by what he sees happening nationally, not only with other conservation directors but with anglers in general.

“People are starting programs all over the country,” he said. “Some are even using the ReBaits name.

“We’re getting the message across and keeping baits out of landfills and fisheries.”

(Reprinted from B.A.S.S. Times.)

Wednesday
Aug152012

Way to Go, Cody!

 

 

Cody Bigford of the Lakeland Junior Bassmasters recently turned in 130 pounds of used plastic baits at the Florida B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Junior State Championship on Lake Okeechobee. That translates into more than 6,000 baits that won't be discarded in and around our fisheries.

I'll have an update on the the growing ReBaits program, started by Florida's Eamon Bolten, in an future issue of B.A.S.S. Times. After it is published there, I'll post a version of it here.