By Nick Simonson
Amidst all the discussion of global warming, climate change, and pollution on a level so great that a second landmass made of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean can be seen from outer space, it’s the smaller areas where I encounter garbage that stick with me each spring. After a winter under ice, and snow-covered shorelines opening up to spring anglers, the water is where our impact – hopefully not so much as fishermen, as I like to think we have a special connection with the water, but as society in general – can be seen.
Sure, there’s the occasional tangle of twisted monofilament tucked into the shoreline rocks along with a worm container or maybe a couple of pop cans from someone in our sporting ranks who obviously doesn’t know better. But in the branches of trees and along the water’s edge, it’s becoming more and more common to find plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, plastic bottles and other everyday items that make their way from where they belong and instead into our waterways. For the former population of those entering the outdoors and utilizing its resources, it rests with us as sportsmen to make sure that those we take to explore the many fishing opportunities in our area know better than to leave anything behind other than their footprints. For the latter, it comes down to society as a whole, including outdoorspeople, doing their part to protect the resources that lay downwind and downstream.
I’ve seen more than my fair share of animals wrapped in the trappings of our modern-day conveniences. From fishing line around the leg of a springtime robin to a six-pack holder stuck on the neck of a Canada goose. While the image of a pronghorn or a mule deer with its horns or antlers wrapped in baling twine might provide a funny photo posted on Facebook, it is akin to the non-humorous sights of sea turtles choking on plastic in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or the impeded blow hole of a dolphin hundreds of miles downstream from where we are. Before the great debate on how we turn the tide against the rise in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures by a degree or two comes the basic discussion to be had by all anglers in making a difference in our immediate area and in those places downstream which our actions affect.
The answer is simple. Pick up after yourself and others. Bring home your garbage and two other pieces of trash along with your fish. Take the time – just fifteen minutes or so – to walk the shoreline of your favorite fishing hole and collect cans, bottles, bags and other garbage which there or somewhere else would pose a threat to wildlife and impact the aesthetics of our world. Share the idea of being a steward of those spaces we are so lucky to have access to; as in many other countries, their waters are kept cleaner because so many people are kept out of them by law which limits public access. With that great and special privilege we enjoy each spring comes the greater responsibility of protecting it.
Make this season, whether chasing trout on a stocked stream, stalking smallmouth in the rocky bend of a river, or casting for pre-spawn crappies in the shallows of a local lake, the one where you not only convey these ideas for anglers around you to pick up a couple extra items of garbage, but where you set the example by doing so. While scientists address the complex chemistry behind the changes in our world, we as sportsmen can be the catalyst for cleaner environments through the simple acts of picking up after ourselves and others, be they fellow anglers or the general public. This time of year allows us a look at the items that impact our shorelines, our waters and our wildlife, but more importantly provides us an opportunity to intervene and keep it clean…in our outdoors.