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Entries in trash (11)


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


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 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,” 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. 


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. 


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. 


Ethical Behavior Important on the Water

(Author's note: This article was written awhile back for young anglers. But the same advice also is applicable to adult fishermen.)

You and your partner are having little luck and time is running out in the bass tournament. But as you pass a point at the mouth of a cove, you notice anglers in another boat are catching fish.

There seems to be plenty of room, and they are fishing public water. You have as much right to be there as they do. Why not join them?

You know why. It wouldn’t be ethical.

“All of us who fish competitively have had experience with ethics on the water,” says a long-time bass pro from Arkansas. “And the first rule is the Golden Rule. You don’t move onto another person’s water.”

The second ethics rule among tournament anglers, she adds, is a variation of the first. “You don’t go to that spot the next day either, if the tournament is still going on. That is someone else’s water. Find your own fish.”

Sometimes you can do that, she continues, simply by noting what makes this honey hole special and then looking for similar places that are not occupied.

An angler who wants to claim a hole, meanwhile, should practice good angling etiquette. He can do that by moving back and forth to signal that this is his water. Otherwise, some might mistakenly believe that he is fishing down a bank, instead of working a specific area.

In general, angling etiquette is a code of courtesy that shows consideration for others and, in doing so, encourages ethical behavior. Angling etiquette is visible, such as yielding to the boat on the right or to a smaller, slower craft cutting across your bow.

But what, exactly, is ethical behavior, aside from not crowding into another’s fishing spot?

 “Your ethics are the rules or values you use to help choose behavior that is fair to others and to yourself,” says Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “We practice ethical behavior when we ‘do the right thing’ even when we think we won’t be caught or punished for our behavior.”

When trying to decide whether your behavior will be ethical, says TPWD, consider these questions: Is it legal? Would it be good if everybody did it? Would it make you proud?

Also, don’t allow someone’s questionable behavior to influence your judgment. In other words, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Sometimes, too, what you perceive as “wrong” isn’t seen that way by others.

“Especially in tournaments, we (bass anglers) are so intent, so focused,” says the pro. “Others, like water skiers and jet skiers, don’t understand that. And it’s not their mission to pay attention to things like the fact that they’re going between us and the shore. We have to understand that.

“And we shouldn’t get mad if we decide to fish a good spot where there’s going to be a lot of traffic. We have to accept the fact that people are going to go by.”

As a fisherman, however, you do know that motoring between an angler and a nearby shoreline is not good etiquette and possibly even unethical if it harms his fishing.

Here are some other actions that reflect good etiquette and ethical behavior by anglers: 

  • Honor another’s trust. If someone shares with you his “secret spot,” don’t tell anyone about it, no matter how tempted you may be.
  • Whether in a boat or on shore, don’t cast your line across another’s or into “his water.” Doing so not only is unethical but could result in a tangled mess that keeps both of you from fishing.
  • Understand and follow fishing and boating regulations. Obeying the law is not only ethical; it also keeps you from paying fines and possibly even going to jail and/or having your fishing privileges revoked.
  • Handle fish gently. Don’t suspend them out of the water with fishing line. Don’t touch the gills. After you net or lip them, don’t allow them to flop around on shore or in the bottom of the boat. If a fish “swallows” the hook, cut off the line at the eye and leave it in.
  • Never keep fish just to “show off.” You should be prepared to clean and eat any that you take home.
  • Have your boat ready to go before you back it down the ramp. When you take it out, move it quickly out of the way so that others can use the launch area.
  • Help with loading, unloading, and cleaning the boat.
  • Take live bait home with you or dispose of it well away from the water instead of dumping it into the lake. Be certain that your boat and trailer don’t carry any uninvited hitchhikers, such as nuisance plants or zebra mussels.
  • Don’t move fish of any kind from one water body to another. In addition to being unethical and illegal, it could do irreversible damage to a fishery that you were trying to improve.
  • Always ask permission before crossing private property or fishing a pond or stream on private property.
  • If you are wading, try to avoid trampling aquatic vegetation. Enter and leave the water at places where the banks are low or at gravel bars, so you will do less damage to the shorelines.
  • If you are fishing on private land and keeping fish, offer to share your catch with the landowner.
  • Leave an area just as clean as you found it. And especially never discard line or soft plastic baits. Even better, pick up the trash left behind by others. Littering, of course, is against the law. Picking it up shows respect for the resource.
  • Avoid spills and never dump pollutants, such as gas and oil, into the water.
  • Share your knowledge and enjoyment of the sport by taking others fishing.
  • Through your own behavior, promote angling ethics and etiquette.

 Sometimes when you are on the water, you will run into situations that do not fit into any of the above and you will be forced to make decisions with little time to think. In such cases, listen to your conscience, make the ethical choice, and you never will go wrong.