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Entries in trash (12)

Tuesday
May052015

Pitch Those Plastic Baits Properly

I never tossed used plastic baits into the water. It just didn’t make sense to me. They are no more food for fish than the wrapper from peanut butter crackers or a soda can.

But I saw other people do it, including friends and even some professional anglers. If those discarded baits were in reach before they sank, I’d nonchalantly pick them up and stow them to throw away later on shore. Yet I never said anything to them for a number of reasons, including the fact that often I was fishing out of their boats.

Others, I suspect, have had similar experiences with their fishing buddies.

Why do people who wouldn’t otherwise litter think that it’s okay to pitch used baits into our lakes and rivers? I don’t think that they do. I believe that they just don’t think about it at all. It’s part of the age old problem that we have with using our public waters for trash receptacles--- out of sight, out of mind.

But those discarded baits show up eventually. They’re washed ashore. They’re exposed on the lake bottom during low water. Or, less commonly, they’re found in the stomachs of fish.

When people who don’t fish see this plastic litter, they shake their heads in disgust and view all of us as thoughtless slobs, even though in reality, only a few are responsible.

Still, this is an anglers only problem. We are the only ones who use those baits, and, consequently, we are the only ones who discard them.

And if we don’t take care of the problem on our own, non-anglers will, with possibly catastrophic consequences for those of us who love to fish. Foreshadowing of what could lie ahead nationally occurred in Maine last year, with an attempt to ban soft plastic baits.

Here and there, a few conscientious anglers have addressed the problem in recent years. Up in Minnesota, Mickey Goetting of the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation melts and molds used baits into new ones. Carl Wengenroth at Lake Amistad does the same with River Slung Lures.  And in Florida, state conservation director Eamon Bolten has founded ReBaits, a recycling program that he hopes to expand.

But we’ve needed more, and now we have it, thanks to Keep America Fishing (KAF), the grassroots angler advocacy arm of the recreational fishing industry. The new national campaign is labeled, appropriately enough, “Pitch It,” and it has no less than Kevin VanDam as a spokesman.

“There’s no excuse for throwing anything in the water that isn’t going to break down immediately,” said VanDam. “A crusty sandwich is one thing, but old plastics, fishing line, or any tackle should be carried to shore at the end of the day.

“We have to lead by example.”

Industry leaders at the American Sportfishing Association recognized the need for a national effort because of what happened in Maine, according to Liz Ogilvie, KAF director.

“However, we would like to extend the campaign beyond soft plastic baits to address trash of any type littering our nation’s waterways.

“Our industry has stepped up to take the initiative to tackle this problem head-on and demonstrate that recreational anglers are --- as always--- the best stewards of our nation’s waterways.”

Anglers also buy more than $490 million worth of soft plastic baits a year, nearly double the amount of the next most widely sold lure type, according to Southwick Associates. Additionally, more than 57 percent of those who bought lures in 2014, included soft plastics in their purchases. In other words, plastic baits are indispensable for both fishermen and industry.

On the negative side, University of Wisconsin students in 2009 calculated that 25 million pounds of baits end up in lakes, rivers, and streams annually, while Maine Inland Fisheries put the amount at 20 million pounds.

Both the positive and the negative stats underscore the importance of anglers supporting the Pitch It campaign. Please, go to www.pledgetopitchit.org and pledge to dispose of your used baits in a recycling canister or the trash, instead of the water.

And if you see someone throwing baits in the water or on the ground, speak up. We’ve been silent about this long enough.

(This column appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.) 

Friday
Apr032015

Join the Pitch It Campaign to Keep Plastics Out of Our Waters

 

Please pledge to “pitch it” in Keep America Fishing’s (KAF) new campaign to prevent used plastic baits and other trash from littering our waters and  shorelines.

KAF says this:

“What happens when soft baits get torn or worn out? Too often, they are ending up as litter at the bottoms of ponds, lakes and rivers and that’s causing problems. Recently in Maine, a bill was introduced that would have banned the sale and use of soft plastic lures.

“That’s why Keep America Fishing created the Pitch It campaign to talk to fishermen about the proper disposal of worn out soft baits. By standing up against litter, we can protect our precious natural resources while taking away a powerful argument from those who want to regulate the contents of our tackle boxes. That’s a win-win!”

Go here to take the pledge and hear a short video by Kevin VanDam in support of the effort.

By the way, I started warning about the problems caused by discarded plastic baits back in 2011, first in B.A.S.S. Times and then at Activist Angler. Angler Joe Ford, who caught a large bass with a stomach full of discarded baits, and Carl Wengenroth at The Angler's Lodge on Lake Amistad first brought this issue to my attention. Here are a couple of those early articles:

Discarded Baits Could Be a Killer; Put Them in the Trash

We Have a Problem

Monday
Apr292013

Angler Involvement Critical if We Want to Keep Fishing

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. 

Tuesday
Apr022013

Activist Anglers Needed to Help Combat 'Sinking Your Empties'

Photos of Clackamas cleanup by Dave Eng.

As you fish our rivers, lakes and coastal waters, this season, please also help care for them. And I’m not talking about just properly disposing of your own trash; I’m talking about helping counter a nationwide epidemic of shameful behavior.

As the photo above reveals, our fisheries are being buried in empty cans and bottles by slob recreationists. When they take to the water, their main concerns are drinking to excess and then discarding the evidence so that they won’t be ticketed and/or arrested for driving a boat while under the influence or some other charge related to possession of alcohol.

Rudy Socha at Wounded Nature --- Working Veterans recently alerted me to this problem. On many waters, he says, the perpetrators even have a term for this strategy: “Sinking your empties.”

He also told me, “It seems to be the skeleton in the closet that everyone knows is there and yet no one has wanted to discuss it.”

It’s going to be discussed at Activist Angler. And one of the first things I want to emphasize is that I do not believe that fishermen are a major contributor to this problem, especially those who belong to such conservation organizations as B.A.S.S., Trout Unlimited, Recycled Fish, Coastal Conservation Association, and National Wildlife Federation.

I won’t point fingers at those whom I suspect. I’ll leave that to anglers and their specific waters. They know them better than I.

Dave Eng knows the Clackamas River in Oregon, and here is what he says:

“The Clackamas is widely used in summer, as it is near Portland and allows people to float on anything from tubes to pool toys. We will have several thousand users on a hot day.”

They leave behind their cans and bottles, he adds, “as it is against the law to have alcohol in the county parks and a large bunch of users are under-age as well.”

 And the second thing that I want to emphasize is that we, as anglers, are stewards for these waters. We were the first conservationists and we remain the most important.

What can you do about this problem? Well, plenty of anglers, through various clubs and chapters, already are picking up trash along shorelines and around launch ramps. Extend that cleanup into the water, as Eng and his friend Joe do on the Clackamas. Depending on the water, you might want to coordinate the effort with your state wildlife agency or local government.

Also, if you see people trashing our fisheries with cans and bottles, report them. Thanks to cell phones, you can immediately contact authorities.

Finally, talk about the problem. Shameful behavior can be difficult to continue when exposed to public scrutiny and criticism.

Let’s not keep this skeleton in the closer any longer. 

Friday
Mar292013

Boaters Are Trashing Our Waters to Avoid DUIs

 

Empty cans and bottles belong in trash cans and recycle bins, not our fisheries.Do you know the term “sinking your empties”?

I didn’t until Rudy Socha of Wounded Nature --- Working Veterans told me about it. And what he said sickened me.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve seen cans and bottles at the bottom of the lakes that I fish and rivers that I float.  I didn’t like it, but I attributed it to thoughtless behavior by a few slobs who aren’t going to change, no matter what anyone says or does to try to change their minds.

Now, it appears, many outdoor recreationists --- including fishermen --- are tossing their beer cans and bottles overboard, knowing that it’s wrong, but doing so anyway. They are more concerned about not getting charged with driving-under-the-influence should marine patrol officers search their boats and find empties aboard.

It’s not they are actually intoxicated, the feeble excuse goes. It’s just that they don’t want to give the “mistaken” appearance that they are with a boat full of bottles and cans.

So let’s see if I have this right: They’re driving boats and they’re drinking alcohol, but they really don’t pose a risk to others, so they must trash our waters to avoid being wrongly accused.

Socha contacted Activist Angler, as well as other web sites and publications, in hopes of finding a solution to this growing problem. He learned about this trashing of our fisheries through the work that his organization does, cleaning up rural beaches and islands via houseboats and employing veterans.

 I asked him to provide evidence that “sinking your empties” is an actual strategy employed by anglers and others. He did, which I’ll write about in future posts.

He also said this, “Start asking people at marinas how many of their boater friends never bring back empties because of fear of a DUI check at the docks.

“It’s funny because, when you phrase the question like that, most boats will start talking and some will actually start naming other boats.

“I have asked a lot of boaters, from Florida to New York. Now in defense of boaters and fishermen, some do not even drink or bring beer with them and others would never litter. But start asking on your own and I think you will be surprised.”

Please, help stop this practice that trashes our waters for a reason that is beyond stupid in its deranged logic.

Also, share with Activist Angler and/or Wounded Nature any examples that you can provide about “sinking your empties.” Ideas for solutions to the problem would be appreciated as well.