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Entries in ReBaits (7)

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.

Monday
Apr232012

ReBaits Gains Momentum as Anglers Show Stewardship

More and more, bass anglers are doing their best to keep used plastic baits out of our waters. Next to catch-and-release, this is the best and easiest individual action that anglers can take to show their concern for our fisheries.

This photo comes from Chuck Lang, conservation director of the Oregon B.A.S.S. Federation Nation (BFN). He said this:

“The first Oregon BFN qualifier was held over the weekend at Tenmile Lakes on the coast. Only 22 boats. However, they each had a ReBait bag and turned in their baits at the end of the second day.

“I collected the bags and handed out the raffle tickets as they brought their fish up. Our president got donations for the program from Dick’s Sporting Goods.”

Eamon Bolten, Florida conservation director, started ReBaits earlier this year. Clubs throughout the nation now are collecting used baits at B.A.S.S. Open tournaments, as well as BFN events.

“We are really making a difference and people are starting to take notice,” Bolten said.

“Over the weekend, I was handed a bag of used baits that was so full the weight would not register on a 50-pound scale. The baits were collected by one club here in Florida.”

Bolten hopes to eventually set up a network so that the baits can be collected and recycled into new baits.

Activist Angler was the first to call on anglers to help reduce the plastic waste in our waters. Search “plastic baits” to learn more.

Wednesday
Mar282012

Wacky Bass Joins ReBaits in Campaign to Keep Discarded Plastic Out of Fisheries

Florida Trails Bassmasters collect used baits during their meetings and at the ramp during tournaments.

Prompted by my coverage about the problems with discarded plastic baits (Search “plastic baits” to see previous posts), Florida’s Eamon Bolten launched ReBaits during the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open.

In the Midwest, meanwhile, WackyBass has launched a recycling initiative as well. Not much to report yet. But here is what the site says:

“The WackyBass.com Recycling Initiative has commenced.

“Headquartered in Northern Illinois on the SE Wisconsin border, Drop off centers will be established that allow people to discard soft plastics and fishing line in an environmentally safe manner.

“With the support of ReBaits®BoatUS Foundation, Triangle Sports & Marine and Hewkin's Custom Baits, the goal is to Regurgitate the baits and give them to participating clubs that can use them for kids’ events and fundraising efforts. Please feel free to see my Facebook page Wacky Bass or email me with any questions or concerns at wackybass@yahoo.com.”

 And, please, don’t throw used baits into the water or onto the land. If you can’t give them to ReBaits, Wacky Bass, or some other worthwhile program, dispose of them properly.

Too often, bass and other game fish eat discarded baits. In doing so, some suffer blockages in their digestive systems and, as a consequence, slowly starve to death.