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Entries in Trout Unlimited (17)


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.

Green Decoys Exposes 'Radical Environmentalists' in Outdoors Camouflage

For awhile, I’ve been concerned that the interests of anglers and hunters are being weakened and compromised, as groups that supposedly represent them embrace friendship and funding from preservationist and left-wing organizations and financiers.

In fact, I wrote about this awhile back, when I discovered that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had been named to the board of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP). (You can read my post about that here.)  I also was concerned about its acceptance of grants from left-leaning trusts.

Others in the fishing and hunting community share my concerns, it seems, as the launch of a new website, Green Decoys, demonstrates. Founded by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), its intent is to “expose radical environmentalists camouflaged under outdoor-sounding names whose real objective is to serve the interests of their wealthy backers.”

Its targets: TRCP, Izaak Walton League of America, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance.

“These self-anointed sportsmen’s groups posture as advocates for the hunting and fishing communities, but their funding tells the real story,” said CCF Senior Research Analyst Will Coggin. “Given the millions they collectively take from radical activists, it’s clear they serve an environmentalist master, not America’s sportsmen.”

My biggest regret regarding this campaign is that it clearly is based on the assumption that real anglers and hunters can be only on the right-side of the political spectrum. Traditionally, I don’t think that’s true.

But the sad reality today is that the leftist ideology in general is anti-fishing and anti-hunting, as its direction is shaped by environmental preservationists who want to force us off the water and out of the woods.

I write about the difference between being an environmentalist and a conservationist in my new book, Why We Fish.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay “I’m Not an Environmentalist”:

“We don’t want to be called 'environmentalists' because we associate that description with agenda-driven campaigns for preservation policies that often are not backed by scientific evidence.

“For anglers, 'conservationist' is the term of choice. Conservationists believe in both protection and sustainable use of our lands, waters, and other natural resources. They follow an ethical code of behavior and embrace a stewardship philosophy.

“So we have two factions, conservationists and environmentalists, sharing many of the same values, but more often viewing each other as enemies than allies.”


The B.A.S.S. Factor

Photo by Robert Montgomery

(The following is the introduction to one of my essays in Why We Fish. You can buy the book from Amazon and other booksellers. To buy from Amazon, just click the link on the right side of the page.)

If you fish, you probably know the name “Ray Scott.” And maybe you know that he popularized catch-and-release.

But I doubt that you know how profoundly he and his organization have influenced both why and how we fish.

In 1967, Scott staged his first event, the All-American Bass Fishing Tournament at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. A year later, he founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), which today has more than 500,000 members and is recognized worldwide for its fisheries conservation efforts, as well as its high-profile bass tournaments.

“If we didn’t have B.A.S.S., we would need to create it. It’s a tremendous organization,” Paul Brouha, former executive director of the American Fisheries Society, told me back in 1998, when B.A.S.S. was celebrating its 30th anniversary.

And Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited, added, “B.A.S.S. clearly represents Middle America in all of the positive senses.

“Because of it, Congress and politicians know that they cannot do harmful things to environmental laws that Middle America cares about and expect to be successful.”

On a more personal level, George Cochran, a two-time Bassmaster Classic winner, told me, “I say my little prayers at night. Not many people can say that they do exactly what they want for a living. B.A.S.S. has made that possible for me.”

Comments like these reflect the legacy of B.A.S.S. and Scott. They help us see the importance of the organization, both directly and indirectly, for bass fishing in particular and sportfishing in general. As they and the following overview of its contributions attest, if not for B.A.S.S., we would have fewer quality fisheries, fewer anglers, poorer resource agencies, and a sportfishing industry worth far less than its estimated $115 billion annually.


Anglers Forsake Angling to Support N.H. Lead Ban

In New Hampshire, passage of a bill to ban lead jigs and sinkers of one ounce or less is disappointing, but not surprising. The loonies did a bang up job of making lead synonymous with “toxic” and loons synonymous with “threatened.” Facts and common sense were irrelevant to the debate, as was opposition to the bill by New Hampshire Fish and Game.

The legislation is largely toothless, meaning anglers will just buy more of their jigs and sinkers online and most violators will not be ticketed.

Still, this triumph of emotion over science in the management of fish and wildlife is an ominous sign for anglers and hunters. It’s one more victory for the feel-good, animal rights, preservationist crowd. And one more defeat for conservation and the North American model of fish and wildlife management based on science, which has served us so well.

Even more troubling, though, is the fact that an angler organization--- New Hampshire Trout Unlimited--- supported the ban. The decision did not sit well with Brian Emerson, a licensed guide in the state. In a blistering letter to the organization he said, among other things:

I am ashamed, as a trout fisherman, to think that anglers placed their trust in you to oversee their interests only to be sold down the river. I will do everything in my power to let as many sportsmen as possible know what you have done and urge them to no longer support your organization.”

And B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Noreen Clough noted a disturbing parallel. “Clearly all of the angling ‘elitists’ are no longer in the Pacific Northwest, but demonstrated that they are alive and well and willing to split freshwater anglers into factions in New Hampshire,” she said.

“They do so at their own peril.”

In the Northwest, preservationists and native-species advocates have waged war against non-native bass for decades, blaming the popular sport fish for the demise of salmon and trout. Of course, the reality is that dams damaged native species, while creating prime conditions for bass. Likewise, lakeshore development in New England has caused the most harm to loon populations, not lead fishing tackle.

But anglers are easy targets. While loonies and other preservationists organize, raise funds, and storm state capitals, we’ve shown a remarkable resistance to uniting on behalf of the sport we profess to love. Instead, we make excuses for not getting involved, and, even worse, fragment, making it even easier for anti-fishing zealots to roll over us.

For example, trout anglers in New Hampshire now have alienated bass anglers. What’s going to happen when the loonies decide that they also want to ban lead-weighted flies, flies with lead eyes and lead-core line? Who will stand with the trout fishermen?

The need for angler unity and activism is not just in the Northwest and New England either. In Minnesota, fisheries managers decided to sacrifice the Mille Lacs smallmouth fishery through liberal harvest as a way to rebuild the walleye population. In doing so, they largely ignored investigation into how netting by Native Tribes is impacting the latter.

Writing for the Star-Tribune newspaper, Dennis Anderson said, “When the bizarre becomes routine, people accept it as normal. Which might explain the quiet acquiescence among Mille Lacs anglers since the Department of Natural Resources recently announced its two-fish walleye limits for the lake beginning May 11.”

And he closed with this: “Fundamentally, what bedevils the lake and its walleyes hides in plain sight every spring, and will reveal itself again soon--- routine now as ice-out, but nonetheless bizarre.  It’s the nets.”

But the 500-pound gorilla in the room for anglers everywhere is the threat to access. Right now, the focus mainly is on salt water, as typified by the National Park Service’s recent proposal to set up non-combustion zones in 1/3 of Florida Bay, a part of Everglades National Park. In effect, many popular fishing areas would become virtually inaccessible.

Previously, the NPS went far beyond what was necessary to protect threatened bird species, denying access to massive areas of shoreline for surf anglers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

And the National Ocean Council will prove to be just as fervently anti-fishing, as it “zones” how our waters will be used. Yes, it will start with blue water and coastal areas. But it won’t stop there.

“It’s only a matter of time before they restrict access to fishing in freshwater,” said Clough.

It doesn’t have to happen. But if freshwater anglers follow the example of trout fishermen in New Hampshire, it surely will.

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


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.