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Entries in stewardship (41)

Sunday
Jul302017

Please, Pick Up That Line!

Pippa found some fishing line this morning. It was spread across about 10 yards of shoreline. As it tangled her feet, she wasn't happy about her discovery. If left there, the line could have been far more harmful or even fatal to a turtle, bird, or small mammal.

A special "thanks" and a one-finger salute to those who left it there.

Such thoughtless jerks aren't going to change. It's up to the rest of us to pick up after them because we are better human beings than they are. Please join me in doing so whenever you are on or near the water.


 

Wednesday
Jul052017

Plastics Problem Re-Energizes Conservation Spirit in Anglers

 

Back in 2011, Joe Ford told me about a bass that he caught in Texas' Lake Amistad and what he found inside it. The articles that I wrote about his discovery for B.A.S.S. Times and Activist Angler awakened anglers to an environmental problem that had largely been ignored.


Through good stewardship and angler awareness programs such Pitch It, we are minimizing this problem, but the effort must be ongoing. Here's a reminder from one of early articles:

Angler Joe Ford’s chance discovery has re-energized the conservation spirit in bass anglers across the country.

B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott first tapped into that extraordinary force 40 years ago, when he introduced catch-and-release to bass tournaments. Conservation-minded anglers quickly incorporated the practice into recreational fishing, and, with a few years, it was standard procedure for fishermen worldwide, pursuing a multitude of species.

Will what Ford found in the stomach of a 10-pound largemouth spawn the second great stewardship campaign for which bass anglers become the standard bearers? That remains to be seen.

For the moment, though, it has motivated many to deal with a problem that has been too long ignored:

The bottoms of our lakes are smothered with discarded plastic baits, and fish are eating them.

Ford hadn’t intended to keep the big bass that he caught while fishing Texas’ Lake Amistad. But because it was deep hooked, he put it in the livewell to see if it would survive. It did not.

As he was dressing it out, he noted a large plastic mass in its stomach. Closer examination revealed the blob to be a dozen plastic baits.


“It was amazing to see all of those worms in there,” he told me. “I don’t know how it was going to pass them.”

Possibly it wouldn’t have. A long bait, like a worm or lizard, can work its way into the intestine and stay there.

And, because it is unable to feed, it then could starve to death.

In my September Conservation column, I revealed Ford’s experience and explained the tragic scenario likely occurring below the surface of our fisheries.  Response was instant.

Carl Wengenroth, owner of The Angler’s Lodge on  Amistad, said that he has seen plenty of skinny, sickly fish as he assists Texas Parks and Wildlife with fizzing and delayed mortality studies.

“We would see fish that look like a street roller ran over them,” he said. “Often, they’d die at the weigh-in. When we’d clean them, we’d find plastics in their stomachs.

“Then we started looking around and saw worms at fish cleaning stations.”

But there was good news too, as anglers immediately stepped up to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

In Arkansas, Randy Joe Heavin took his boater partner in a Central Open tournament to task for throwing baits overboard.

“I told him about the article in B.A.S.S. Times,” said Heavin, owner of Patriot Records. “And he said that he’d never really thought about it.”

The Oklahoma angler also recalled pulling up a mass of plastic worms from the bottom of DeGray Lake while jigging. “Other guys said that they were catching them too,” he recalled. “That’s when I realized that there must be a ton of them down there.”

Heavin added that he’s never thrown his used baits into the water. “But some guys get in the zone and don’t think about it.”

Not thinking about it is going to be tougher and tougher, thanks to B.A.S.S. Nation state conservation directors.

Before a  tournament on Lake Toho, Florida’s Eamon Bolten talked to 128 participants about problems caused by discarded soft plastics and asked them to deposit their used baits in a collection box.

“Many anglers mentioned how they will now start putting their used baits in the collection box at the tournaments and stop throwing them away in trash cans or in the water,” the Florida conservation director said.

“At least five told me they used to throw their baits in the water and thought nothing of it until hearing me speak about the problems it can create for our bass.”

Up in South Dakota, Jeff Brown heard about Bolten’s program and decided to do the same in his state. “Our guys are extremely receptive to the idea,” he said.

At Amistad, Wengenroth not only collects used baits but remolds them into new ones. “We call the color ‘trash,’ and it seems to catch more fish,” he said.

“Doing something like that could be a great money maker for clubs,” he added. “And the big companies could get onboard and put a message on their packages to not discard baits.”

Now that the issue has been raised at a national level, lots more ideas are being floated around in the angling community on how to deal with it. But whether enough fishermen will participate to effect fundamental change, as they did with catch-and-release, remains to be seen.

Wednesday
Mar152017

Pick Up Fishing Line That Others Leave Behind

Fellow anglers: Please, as spring approaches, remember to pick up discarded fishing line that you see in the water, on the land, and, when possible, in trees. Left behind, it can kill fish and wildlife, especially birds. The people who toss it  aren't going to read this or don't care. Probably both.

It's up to the responsible majority to counter the actions of the irresponsible few. And you'll feel better for doing it. If you belong to a fishing club, make line and trash pickup a regular part of your organizaiton's activities. Also, consider installing recycled line bins at piers and ramps.

Here's a note recently sent to Activist Angler about this issue:

"I read your article here http://www.activistangler.com/journal/tag/fishing-line while searching to know what to do about my issue. We love birds. We do not fish. We do not buy fishing line.

"We have tall trees and live in northern Utah. We have big windstorms. Last year, a big windstorm blew a whole bunch of fishing line into our trees. We got rid of what was low enough. However, these trees are tall. One fishing line which is clear, not white, goes from the branch of one tree to the branch of another tree.

"I know birds get injured by this. We took one injured bird into the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Birds sometimes make 'danger' sounds in large groups near there. I am glad they are figuring it out. I do not know how to get this line out of our trees because it is up so high. Do you have any ideas?"

My response:

I’m so sorry to hear about your situation and wish that I could offer a solution. Sadly, I don’t know of any options other than to climb the trees (if possible) and cut out the line or hire a tree-trimming business to do it for you.

The kind of fishing line that you describe probably is monofilament, and it will deteriorate over time with exposure to sun. But that likely will take years. Meanwhile, it could kill birds. I’ve seen it happen. I took that photo you saw on my website of a great blue heron hanging from a dead tree.

Anglers break lines from time to time and can’t always retrieve all of it because it’s hung on something they can’t reach, either in the water or, worse, in a tree. But that line is attached is something and doesn’t blow all over the place.

What you describe is the result of thoughtless and irresponsible people who discarded that line on the ground or in the water, with no regard for the harm it could do, instead of disposing of it properly. 

I live in an area with several small lakes, and, especially in spring and summer, I often pick up discarded line along the shorelines as I walk with my dog. And every time I do, I have some not-so-nice words for the people who tossed it there.

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.)