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Entries in stewardship (38)

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.

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.)

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
Jul012014

Loss of Access Threatens Future of Fishing

Anglers are losing access to their favorite fisheries.

Sometimes, it’s because of development or budget cuts. Other times it’s because government bodies or even private groups have shut down public launch areas.

The latter is happening with increasing frequency because of a fear that invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil will be accidentally introduced via contaminated boats and trailers. Sometimes the concern is legitimate. Other times, it’s simply an excuse to keep out the public.

This threat has grown so severe that one in five anglers surveyed by AnglerSurvey.com reported having to cancel or quit fishing a particular location in 2011 because they lost access to it. Most were able to shift their fishing to another location, but a third of affected anglers said that the loss caused them to quite fishing altogether.

“While access issues can often be overcome by fishing somewhere else, we are still losing some anglers each year due to problems with fishing access,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which conducts the surveys at AnglerSurvey.com.

“When we add up the anglers lost year after year, whether as a result of marine fishery closures or dilapidated boat ramps, access remains a major long-term problem for sportfishing and fisheries conservation.”

You can help slow down this loss of access and possibly even reverse the trend.

First, be a responsible angler by making certain that you do not allow invasive species to hitchhike on your boat and/or trailer, and encourage others to do the same. When fishermen set good examples, those in power have less reason to try to deny access. Additionally, if you belong to a fishing club, encourage it to work cooperatively with lake associations and government bodies on plans to keep out invasive species.

Also, familiarize yourself with access issues, both locally and nationally. Attend public meetings when access issues are on the agenda. Write letters, send e-mails, and make phone calls to officials, emphasizing that quality access is important.

Solution: Make sure you leave every area better than you found it, be committed and vocal about preventing the spread of invasive species, and get involved locally so that angler interests are represented when decisions on access are made.

Check out five more threats facing fishing at Recycled Fish.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Birds, Bears, and Balance

Cormorant photos by Robert Montgomery

Early this spring, hunters killed 11,653 double-crested cormorants on Lakes Marion and Moultrie (Santee Cooper) in South Carolina. Such an event would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. That’s because cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

But in recent years both federal and state resource managers recognized that these fishing-eating birds are causing problems for our fisheries, as their populations explode. Vocal, angry anglers played no small part in that recognition.

More recently, Florida Fish and Wildlife killed five black bears after a woman was attacked at her home in central Florida.

What do these two incidents have in common? They highlight who we are as a species and what we must do if we are to share land and water with other species.

We are beings who alter our environment to meet our needs. We clear the land to farm and to build cities, homes, and highways. We erect dams to control floods, irrigate formerly arid lands, and generate hydropower.

And when we do those things, we take away the habitat of other species, such as black bears in Florida.

Many think that we manage only domestic animals. In truth, if we are to have healthy populations of most wildlife species, we must manage them as well.

And that means sometimes that we must kill some of them because their numbers are too great to be sustained in their remaining habitat and/or they pose a threat to us.

As they were relentlessly hunted and their habitat destroyed, buffalo, deer, and turkey nearly disappeared. But enlightened management has brought them back, and now regular hunts keep their numbers at sustainable levels for their available habitat.

The cormorant is an interesting exception to the rule. That’s because it habitat has not been diminished by us, but rather greatly expanded by the reservoirs behind all of those dams that we’ve built. That’s why it has become such a nuisance species. Many no longer migrate, but instead stay year-around, feasting on fish and expanding their numbers.

Of course, many of those who call themselves animal lovers do not want to hear such rational arguments. They did not like the killing of so many cormorants in South Carolina, and I’ve no doubt that Florida Fish and Wildlife will endure sharp criticism for killing so many bears.

These people want us to either ignore the problem or attempt to solve it in an impractical way.

For example, the Missouri Department of Conservation decided to do something about the overpopulation of deer in suburban St. Louis awhile back. Its first choice was to have a managed hunt. But bowing to pressures from animal lovers, it went with the much more expensive option of trapping and moving the deer.

The agency later discovered that most of those transplanted deer starved to death because their new habitat contained little to none of the types of plants that they were accustomed to eating in the suburbs.

Moving bears won’t solve the problem in Florida either. Suitable bear habitat in the state already is at peak population. Otherwise the animals wouldn’t have moved in so close to humans in the first place.

Additionally, those that have ventured into civilization now grow fat as they scavenge garbage around homes or are intentionally fed by these same animal lovers who have exacerbated the problem with their compassion. In other words, the bears now associate humans with food and if trapped and moved, they’ll just head for the nearest subdivision.

The reality is that we must live with the consequences of our actions as a species that alters its environment, and one of those consequences is that we must manage the other species that share the land and water.