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Entries in stewardship (36)


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.


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 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

“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.


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.


Ensuring Fishing for the Future

Photo by Robert Montgomery

Most who fish just want to be left alone to do so.

Others desire that too, but are not content to leave it at that. They want to ensure quality fishing for future generations. State conservation directors in B.A.S.S. Nation are among those, as are volunteers with Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation.

 My friend Teeg Stouffer is one of those, which is why he founded Recycled Fish, reminding anglers that we all live downstream.

I am one of those as well, which is why I founded the Activist Angler website with the goal of “promoting and protecting recreational fishing.” That’s why I’ve volunteered to be a fishing instructor for the Missouri Department of Conservation this spring.

And it’s why I wrote my new book, Why We Fish, in the way that I did. Most of it celebrates why we keep going back to the water and the benefits that we derive from doing so. But a small portion is devoted to stewardship and the threats confronting recreational fishing.

When I’m on the water, I’m not thinking about such things, and I’m not asking you to either. But when you’re not fishing, I’ll hope that you think about stewardship and the importance of passing on healthy fisheries to future generations.

And I’ll hope that you’ll take the Recycled Fish Stewardship Pledge:

  • I pledge to live a lifestyle of stewardship on and off the water. Living as a steward means making choices throughout my daily life that benefit lakes, streams and seas - and the fish that swim in them - because my Lifestyle Runs Downstream.
  • I will learn the fish and game laws where I hunt or fish and always abide by them.
  • I will practice catch and release and selective harvest faithfully and responsibly.
  • I will "police my resource" by turning in poachers and reporting polluters.
  • I will make up for "the other guy" by cleaning up litter wherever my adventures take me.
  • I will boat safely and responsibly, never trespass, and treat other enthusiasts respectfully.
  • I will inspect, clean and dry my boat, boots and waders when moving between waters to prevent the spread of invasive species.
  • I will provide my time, money, or other resources to support stewardship efforts.
  • I will take steps to see that my home, lawn, vehicle, workplace and everyday lifestyle are as fish-friendly as I can make them by reducing my water, energy, material and chemical footprint.
  • I will encourage others to take on this ethic and will connect others with the outdoors to grow the stewardship community.
  • I choose to serve as a role model in protecting what remains and recovering what’s been lost of our wild and natural places.
  • I am a steward.

Bass Brigade Doing It Right for Texas Youth

Texas is doing it right in terms of educating young anglers about aquatic ecosystems and natural resource management. Most notably, it is doing it through the Bass Brigade, one of several Texas Brigades youth camps. If you live in Texas, you should check out the program, both to see about opportunties for your children and to contribute.

I received the following from Steve Perry, regarding the 2013 Bass Brigade:

"Thank you, Robert, for donating three autographed copies of Why We Fish to this year's Bass Brigade camp!

"During camp, each cadet is required to design a table top, tri-fold display on topics such as aquatic habits, fish species, conservation, fly fishing, fish sampling etc. We awarded your books as prizes for the top tri-folds.

"Thanks for supporting Bass Brigade and our mission of educating teenagers with leadership skills and knowledge in fisheries, and land stewardship to become conservation ambassadors for a sustained natural resource legacy."