By Nick Simonson
With spring on hold, there’s plenty of time to think about what comes when the snow melts. Of course, the fishing will be fast and furious, but after the solid spring bite and those big fish will come a season of making a difference. In order to preserve these great opportunities for everyone, it is necessary for sportsmen to undertake the efforts needed to recruit and retain the next generation and preserve and improve the resources for the future. This handful of ideas is just the start in making angling better for everyone in our area.
1. Conduct a Clean-Up. Whether it’s a river, a lake, a fishing pier area or another favorite place frequented by you or other anglers, taking time in early spring to remove trash and debris deposited over the winter is a great way to give back to the resource and allow others to enjoy it. Even clean-up of non-riparian areas, such as a WMA or a roadside can help downstream interests by removing litter which is easily blown into ditches and drains and carried to a river. Recruit some friends or join forces with local wildlife and conservation groups to make a boots-on-the-ground impact for better fishing and nicer aesthetics. Plus, if you’re out there early when the spring grasses haven’t sprung up, litter is easier to spot and collect, and the wood ticks aren’t as abundant as they will be in a few weeks.
2. The Purge. Every angler has a collection of old rods and reels they’ve outgrown for one reason or another. Maybe it’s something simple like a spincast combo from many years ago. Perhaps it’s an older fly reel that just needs some TLC. There are a variety of groups that take those donations and restore and repurpose them to get new anglers involved. Perhaps its your local wildlife or conservation group or a state agency that will take those donations and direct them to young anglers looking to get into the outdoors. Find the fishing gear you no longer need this spring and a suitable outlet for such a donation to get other anglers equipped – whether for a day or a lifetime – on the water. If there aren’t any such outlets, perhaps consider giving a “new” old rod to a youngster in the neighborhood.
3. Buffer It. For those landowners with creeks, streams, and other flowing water that drains into area lakes and rivers, now is the time to consider buffering options which will prevent and filter out unwanted siltation into downstream waters. Through various state and federal programs, grasses and other conservation plantings put in place this spring will help preserve water quality in years to come. Now, before the snow melts and planting season is in full swing, is the time to reach out to groups like Pheasants Forever or a local Soil and Water Conservation District to get those plans in place for the coming weeks to preserve downstream flows and the fisheries that exist within them.
4. Share What You Know. If only I’d known then what I’d know now. We all have that decade, or two, or six on the water that would help other anglers become better and more involved in the world around them. Sharing tips, tricks, tactics and more help new anglers become better, more involved anglers passes on your information to help others up the learning curve. Whether it’s posting a daily or weekly update on Facebook for friends to see and share, or organizing a fishing program for area youth, sharing what you know about fishing with the people in your community will help continue the fishing tradition in our region by making them more successful, and as a result, more involved with the resource, and more closely tied to it.
5. Take Someone Fishing. Perhaps the easiest way to improve angling is to introduce a person to the pastime, or re-introduce someone who hasn’t gone in a while. Connecting new anglers creates excitement for the sport and another link between a person and the natural resource, and it isn’t hard. It doesn’t require a $50,000 boat; maybe just a couple rods, some basic tackle, a bucket of bait and a couple hours of your time. I can recall the instant while fishing that my life changed and my passion for the outdoors and conservation came to be. For everything this region has given me as a result of that trip, and likely through similar experiences, you as well, it’s only fitting that through these means and the inclusion of others, we give back…to our outdoors.
(Featured Photo: A spring fishing event for kids helps introduce a number of new anglers to the pastime. Partner with a local group or even just a few fishing buddies to make it happen this spring. Simonson Photo)