By nature, anglers don't want to get involved. They just want to go fishing.
I am angler, so I know.
But we must get involved if we are to maintain access to many of our waters.
The latest report from AnglerSurvey.com on public access is not good. Overall, the number of anglers who cancelled a fishing trip or stopped fishing because of lost access didn’t decline from 2011. But it didn’t improve much either.
What that means is that 15 to 20 percent of anglers have reported losing access during the past two years. Because more anglers fish freshwater than salt, most of that loss is inland. “Seventy-one percent of reported access problems involved freshwater anglers and 24 percent involved saltwater in 2012,” AnglerSurvey.com said.
“Despite these challenges, 22 percent of affected anglers said they actually fished more last year than the previous year, just in different locations, and at least 32 percent reported fishing at least as much. Still 39 percent reported fishing less frequently due to their lost access and 7 percent didn’t fish at all.”
While I’m pleased than more than half of anglers reporting said that they fish just as much if not more, there’s a downside to that as well. Combine that statistic with fewer places to fish, and you have more pressure on remaining waters. At some point, that’s likely to discourage even more from going fishing. And more lines in the water also can mean that some fisheries must be more intensively managed, with more restrictions, if they are to be maintained.
Why are we losing access?
Some closures are occurring because property owners associations around lakes are shutting down ramps and/or restricting them to specific hours because of concerns about invasive species. As anglers (and preferably as angling clubs) we must work with these associations, instead of standing back and doing nothing, or even worse, railing against them.
Also, we have to better police our own. Most fishermen don't litter. But those who do give us all a bad name.
Lots of recreational boaters, including some anglers, practice something called "sinking your empties." Instead of taking their empty beer cans and bottles back with them, they throw them into the water. Their excuse is that they don't want to get cited for DUI if they are stopped by law enforcement because they might "give the appearance" of being drunk because of all the empties in the bottoms of their boats. (Check out this link and this one to see what I mean.)
Finally, we must reach out more to state wildlife agencies, offering our assistance for research, cleanup, habitat, and access projects. As we become valuable resources for them, they will become invaluable allies for us.
Some closures are justified; many are not. But the overall trend certainly is in the wrong direction and angler activism is the only way to slow it down. Sadly, that is not happening nearly enough these days. We certainly have the numbers to change things. But strength lies in numbers only if that strength is recognized and acted upon.