Commentary: A Look in the Mirror
By Paul Crawford
As we look at the present state of fishing,
we must conclude our sport is in a bit of a decline. Recent
state reports show the number of fishing licences down by 20%
over the last 5 years. Although some manufacturers are growing,
others are passing into memory. The question of "Why?"
has many answers, but as fishermen, we must look to ourselves for
an uncomfortable number of reasons.
We do not seem to hand down our love of fishing as our fathers
did to us. Our club has had an enviable record of father/son
teams, but it's the exception rather than the rule. When is the
last time you took your kid, even if he's now 35, fishing? How
about those nieces and nephews, did you give them a rod and reel
for Chirstmas as my uncle did for me? When's the last time you
took a neighbor kid fishing just because he wanted to go? You get
I'm sure you talk about fishing with people at work, I sure do.
Do you lead them to believe you have to have a $20,000 boat to
enjoy the sport? Do you find yourself ever turning up your nose
at that Zebco 33 rig the guy next door uses to go cat fishing?
Ever offered a pack of the latest worms you are using to those
kids fishing from the dock? There are a lot of ways to get people
interested in fishing, and a lot of ways to get them turned off
Fishermen have a well deserved image problem. We are the ones who
throw trash and line in the lake. We are the ones that curse at
the top of our voices when we miss a fish. We are the ones that
relieve ourselves 50 yards away from the dock with little regard
of who's watching. Fishermen are looked at as the definition of
"Bubba", and all the negative things that go along with
it, a crude, rude, bigot with little respect for anything,
including himself. Unfair? Sure, but with just enough truth in it
Tournament anglers have a special problem with perception. We
have forgotten the simple joy of an afternoon on the bank, when
the fish don't bother you a bit. We are viewed as elitists who
tie up the ramps, leave dead fish "wasted" after a
tournament in the water, and look down their noses at anyone
wanting some fresh table fare. We are jealous of "our"
water, and quickly turn on anyone encroaching on it, expecially
if you don't happen to be in a tournament. Can you think of
anything you've ever done to deserve that kind of view?
Hard words for hard times. Sometimes we get so caught up in the
chase, we forget why we love to fish to start with. Fishing,
expecially for Bass, is as pleasent and rewarding activity as I
have ever found. I would love to pass on this joy to everyone,
most of all the kids. But until we take the time to see ourselves
as other people see us, and take steps to correct the view, we
will never be a crediable source of any opinions. We have an
image problem. We, as individuals, may not have created it, but
we do have to live with it. We can either watch our sport
dwindle, watch the public money dry up for our lakes and ramps,
and be the final generation of fishermen, or we can do something
What to do? Simple! Get others involved with fishing. Use your
knowledge of fishing to make it as simple and cheap to start as
possible. Be courteous to those around you, on the water and off.
Keep the water as clean as if you owned it, in a way you do. And
share your love of your sport, along with your favorite fishing
hole, with anyone who cares enough to share it with you. Fishing
can be contagious, if you let anyone get close enough to catch
it. The more people we can infect with the love of fishing, the
more clout we will have to keep the waters clean, to give us good
ramps, to manage the resource to keep the fish populations up,
all of the good things we hope for in the future. The current
trend is the other way, but each of us can have a part in
changing it. Just try a little to change alot.
To paraphase Pogo, "We has met the enemy, and they is us."